StarCraft II Cognitive Skills Drop Considerably at 24, Says Study

StarCraft II Cognitive Skills Drop Considerably at 24, Says Study

starcraft 2 screen

The study of over 3,000 StarCraft II players shows a measurable drop in cognitive performance at age 24.

How old are you? If you're younger than 24 and you've ever considered a career as a professional StarCraft II player, you might want to get on that as soon as possible. A study by Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, has analysed 3,305 StarCraft II players and discovered that once you get past 24, well, there's no keeping up with the young-uns anymore.

The study, which included gamers as young as 16 all the way up to 44, showed a measurable drop in cognitive performance at age 24, a decline that continues over time, even at the highest skill levels of StarCraft II's ranking system.

But, there is a hope for us "older" games. "Older players, though slower, seem to compensate by employing simpler strategies and using the game's interface more efficiently than younger players, enabling them to retain their skill," says SFU's Joe Thompson, the author of the study.

"Older players in our sample exhibited more impressive hotkey performance, even when skill was controlled for, suggesting that our participants may be indirectly compensating for declines by offloading demands to the game interface."

"One possible concern is that our finding of age-related decline in StarCraft II could be due to a speed accuracy trade-off: older players become slower in virtue of focusing on accurate movements or strategic planning," hypothesized Thompson.

The study shows that the median age of players decreases as they raise through the ranks of StarCraft II's leagues. In bronze league, for example, the median age is 22, while in Master's league, the highest tier in the game, it drops down to 20.

So, while we may be getting slower in our "old age," we are also getting wiser.

Source: PLOS via Internode

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This trend is well known in studies concerning adult aging. It's not surprising then to see such a decline in something as fast paced as starcraft and usual associated compensation. However I will say that this decline does seem to occur significantly sooner than with other mental faculties that have been studied; by almost a decade in fact.

That said I take issue with the last bit of the study. I imagine that as people grow older they take less interest in starcraft, resulting in the more frequent, and younger, players occupying the higher ranks. Let's not forget that most professional gamers, at least the very famous ones like Fatal1ty back in the day, usually give up their gaming habits for gambling habits further supporting my idea that most pro's just lose interest eventually.

Bke:
This trend is well known in studies concerning adult aging. It's not surprising then to see such a decline in something as fast paced as starcraft and usual associated compensation. However I will say that this decline does seem to occur significantly sooner than with other mental faculties that have been studied; by almost a decade in fact.

That said I take issue with the last bit of the study. I imagine that as people grow older they take less interest in starcraft, resulting in the more frequent, and younger, players occupying the higher ranks. Let's not forget that most professional gamers, at least the very famous ones like Fatal1ty back in the day, usually give up their gaming habits for gambling habits further supporting my idea that most pro's just lose interest eventually.

Yes, what you said. I mean, cognitive faculties can drop with age, but it's scientifically proven that constant exercise keeps them afloat. So, I think this research doesn't really take into account social and cultural factors when analyzing their data.

Bke:
This trend is well known in studies concerning adult aging. It's not surprising then to see such a decline in something as fast paced as starcraft and usual associated compensation. However I will say that this decline does seem to occur significantly sooner than with other mental faculties that have been studied; by almost a decade in fact.

That said I take issue with the last bit of the study. I imagine that as people grow older they take less interest in starcraft, resulting in the more frequent, and younger, players occupying the higher ranks. Let's not forget that most professional gamers, at least the very famous ones like Fatal1ty back in the day, usually give up their gaming habits for gambling habits further supporting my idea that most pro's just lose interest eventually.

This is exactly the opinion I hold as well. Without constant (and I mean constant) practice and time commitment, it's harder to retain stuff like this. Of course a person going through the life of 20-30 isn't going to function as well as the kid who spends 70+ hours a week playing SC2 day in day out. Priorities shift, interests shift, wants shift. How many 25+ pros are there in the world of competitive gaming? Does that mean that everyone past the age of 25 is somehow a mentally deficient person all of a sudden?

I mean, maybe in the eyes of someone younger, although that's mostly because it paints them the better as a result.

Either way, not entirely convinced by this study, at least not with its correlation of age and cognitive ability on such short notice.

I find it slightly strange that they seem to have collected this data from players of all ranks. SC2 is a game with a high learning curve, which requires a great deal of work to develop an intricate and deep knowledge of the game, particularly if you want to get to Grand Master. Wouldn't collecting data from Bronze league players distort the accuracy of this research? Unless they divided the study up by league and then collated data based on what league players were. I don't know.

This seems to be a very generalised piece of research, not taking into account factors such as how 'serious' or 'casual' the players are about the game, their goals, their priorities in life, etc.

Hmmmm, just about the age when people start realize that it's just a game and there are more important things in life. Ok, so maybe it's not that. But, this is hardly news that as one ages, there cognitive abilities decline. This can be fought, but StarCraft 2 would not be considered a heavy cognitive load after you have played it enough. Chest masters don't see a chess board and chess pieces, they see blocks of pieces they know. So it is then easy for them to walk past a chess game and declare, "white mate in three moves". StarCraft is going to be similar to that. Once you have played a map enough times against all the various races enough times, it will become easy to find a strategy to be competitive(if not easy to win). The minutia stops mattering because the bigger picture is all the matters. I'm not saying they are better, they just handle the cognitive load differently.

I don't think I've seen the cognitive load discrepancy being described here. Maybe it happens in the competitive scene with reflex based gaming? I know in MMOs the end game raiding scene has people of all ages and there are people in their 50s who are out performing people in their 20s out there.

Good to know there's a scientific reason as to why I can never seem to rise above Silver league.

Though this isn't entirely to do with why I still suck at Starcraft II's multiplayer, it does add a little to it though.

I'm still more comfortable and better off playing my RTS games alone with AI or with the few friends that play RTS.

 

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