Cantor mistakes $1.2 million NSF grant for ‘World of Warcraft’ study

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor criticized a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant earlier this week, and in the process, incorrectly identified the grant as going towards research on seniors playing the video game “World of Warcraft” (WoW).

Cantor said Tuesday in a tweet and on his blog that President Barack Obama wanted to spend U.S. taxpayer money on WoW.

On his blog, Cantor further specified, “The National Science Foundation spent $1.2 million paying seniors to play ‘World of Warcraft’ to study the impact it had on their brain.”

House Speaker John Boehner quickly followed behind Cantor in a Thursday Wall Street Journal op-ed by repeating the falsehood when he criticized Obama on tax policy.

“Meanwhile, no one should be talking about raising taxes when the government is still paying people to play videogames, giving folks free cellphones, and buying $47,000 cigarette-smoking machines”, said Boehner.

WoW Insider — a blog devoted to World of Warcraft — called out Cantor’s inaccuracy Wednesday, stating that the WoW study he was referring to was conducted in between 2008 and 2009 by the North Carolina State University Gains Through Gaming Lab.

That particular study, however, was funded by North Carolina State University and cost $4,500. Also, the findings of the study were published a month before a different study that cost $1.2 million began in September 2009.

“We do in fact have $1.2 million dollar grant from NSF that examines what aspects or mechanisms are responsible for improvements in cognition due to playing digital games and funds our development of a game based on these findings”, Jason Allaire, associate professor at North Carolina State University, told WoW Insider.

“This NSF grant is still ongoing”, he said, stating that the project is “huge” in scope.

Allaire acknowledged that the WoW study was used as a pilot project for the larger study funded by the NSF grant, but said it was intended to demonstrate proof of concept.

“The NSF study has nothing to do with WoW,” said Allaire.

The positive cognitive effects of video games have been a research subject for the federal government for several years, particularly by the military.

Video games have some training applications for the military, and can increase players’ perceptual abilities and short-term memory functioning.

“Research underway by the Office of Naval Research indicates that video games can help adults process information much faster and improve their fundamental abilities to reason and solve problems in novel contexts,” Armed Forces Press Service reported in 2010.

Update: Cantor’s office, in an emailed response to The Daily Caller:

“The President of the United States said he was going to have to turn criminals loose on the street. Clearly, he created a false choice between raising taxes or near-apocalyptic conditions. In reality, we need to make choices on how the federal government spends taxpayers’ hard earned dollars. While some of these programs may have some merit to some people, should they be saved before preventing the drastic scenario the President painted this week?”

This article has been corrected. Dr. Jason Allaire told TheDC that the grant he receieved from North Carolina State University for the WoW study totalled $4,500, not $5,000 as previously reported by WoW Insider.

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