The next time you need to get a creative boost, try playing a video game. Not all day, that is the road to unemployment, but taking a break to play an open-ended building game, like Minecraft, has been found to increase creativity. Especially if you just do whatever you'd like.

An experimental study compared the effect of playing Minecraft to watching a TV show or playing a race car video game. Those given the freedom to play Minecraft without instruction were most creative. If you are not familiar with it, Minecraft was originally created in 2009 as a brilliantly fast generating world, almost like Lego toys. It first caught the computer programming world by storm, then kids embraced it, and eventually it got a huge buyout from Microsoft. 

When the first version was posted by the creator, Markus Persson (Notch), who said he wanted to make a JAVA type Dwarf Fortress, it was 8 minutes before things started to take off.

Study participants randomly assigned to play Minecraft were split into two groups. The one receiving instruction was told to play as creatively as possible. After 40 minutes of play or watching TV, the 352 participants completed several creativity tasks. To measure creative production, they were asked to draw a creature from a world much different than Earth. More human-like creatures scored low for creativity and those less human-like scored high. Surprisingly, those instructed to be creative while playing Minecraft were the least creative.

No one wants to be told to be creative

Douglas Gentile, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University, concedes there's no explanation for this finding, other than choosing how to play mattered even more than choosing to play at all. 

Why not other games? Other papers, including by Gentile, argue that violent video games can change prosocial behavior. All video games require creativity, unlike television which is inherently passive. 

They posit it may not be just what you practice, but how you practice, that fosters creativity. 

They naturally want to virtue signal about how their experiment could lead to engaging and adaptive educational opportunities, etc., but forget the culturespeak. If you are stuck, pull out your tablet and forget for half an hour. Just set a timer. It can be pretty engrossing.