Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy) | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: House GOP leader fantasizes about science grants

The statement

"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 Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

The ruling

World of Warcraft, also known as WoW, is a popular fantasy game in which players create virtual characters and enter an online world to battle orcs, kobolds, giant spiders, roving packs of wolves and other adversaries. Gamers pay a monthly fee to join other players to fight monsters and win treasure.

A September article in Wired said it has 9.1 million users.

Were some of those gamers senior citizens that Washington paid to play?

We asked Cantor's office where he got his information. Megan Whittemore, a deputy press secretary, sent us information about a $1.2 million grant by the National Science Foundation in mid 2009. The money was awarded to North Carolina State University and Georgia Tech to study whether computer games can slow the mental decline in elderly people and, if so, to develop "brain games" to achieve that goal.

The first part of the research involves seniors frequently playing Boomblox — a spatial puzzle game on Wii in which players knock down blocks. About 200 participants undergo cognitive testing before they are introduced to the game and then again at a later date to see if playing has produced any changes.

The North Carolina State researchers hope to identify the elements of Boomblox that led to mental improvements. That information will be shared with experts at Georgia Tech, who hope to incorporate data to develop games that will help the elderly retain or improve cognitive skills.

You may have noticed that our explanation of the research has yet to mention the World of Warcraft, the game Cantor says U.S. taxpayers paid seniors $1.2 million to play. There's a good reason: The National Science Foundation's abstract on the grant makes no mention of WoW.

Is any part of the grant being used to pay seniors to play World of Warcraft?

"The answer is an unequivocal no," said Anne McLaughlin, principal researcher on the project and co-director of Gains through Gaming Lab at North Carolina State.

The information sent to us by Cantor's office — media reports, research publications and grant abstracts — do not undercut McLaughlin's answer.

Cantor's facts are all messed up. We rate his claim Pants on Fire.

SEAN GORMAN, PolitiFact Virginia

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at

PolitiFact: House GOP leader fantasizes about science grants 02/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2013 8:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]