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. 2017 Nov 15;12(11):e0186621.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186621. eCollection 2017.

Exploring the Relationship Between Video Game Expertise and Fluid Intelligence

Free PMC article

Exploring the Relationship Between Video Game Expertise and Fluid Intelligence

Athanasios V Kokkinakis et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article


Hundreds of millions of people play intellectually-demanding video games every day. What does individual performance on these games tell us about cognition? Here, we describe two studies that examine the potential link between intelligence and performance in one of the most popular video games genres in the world (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas: MOBAs). In the first study, we show that performance in the popular MOBA League of Legends' correlates with fluid intelligence as measured under controlled laboratory conditions. In the second study, we also show that the age profile of performance in the two most widely-played MOBAs (League of Legends and DOTA II) matches that of raw fluid intelligence. We discuss and extend previous videogame literature on intelligence and videogames and suggest that commercial video games can be useful as 'proxy' tests of cognitive performance at a global population level.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Fig 1
Fig 1. Cross correlations between variables of interest.
The leading diagonal shows the distribution of the data. Numbers above the diagonal show the non-parametric cross correlation coefficient. Scattergrams of the data with best fit lines and error limits are shown below the leading diagonal. There is a moderately-sized and highly significant correlation between WASI-II Matrices and Rank (rs = .44, p = .001) and a weak but significant correlation between Rank and Rotation Span score with rs = .26, p < .05. The correlations between Rank and OSPAN and MITE task scores were not significantly correlated with with rs = 0.3, p = .43 and rs = -.01, p = .242 respectively.
Fig 2
Fig 2. Age profiles of MMR in four different games.
Three age groups for each game are plotted: (1) 13–21, (2) 22–27 and (3) 28 years an over. In two popular ‘First Person Shooter’ games (Battlefield 3 and Destiny), performance decreases monotonically with age following a ‘high, high, low’ profile. In comparison, two of the most popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games exhibit a ‘low, high, low’ profile suggesting that performance peaks in the mid-20s. Distributions whose boxplot notches do not overlap are different at p < .05.

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Grant support

This work was supported by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council,, EP/L015846/1 to PC. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.