So when will your leet video gaming skills start to deteriorate? If you’re reading this instead of screwing around on Instagram, they probably already have, along with your response times in general. Sorry, but it’s all downhill from here.
Joseph J. Thompson, Mark R. Blair, and Andrew J. Henrey from Simon Fraser University recently studied the response times of people from adolescence to middle age using, obviously, StarCraft II, and found that the peak age for mental reaction times is a lot earlier than most people think. Or, in the blunt terms of their findings: “cognitive decline begins around 24.”
The scientist recruited more than 3,000 StarCraft II players of varying skill levels between 16 and 44 and studied logs of their games. StarCraft II, they found, was the right fit for their experiment because mastering the intense real-time strategy game requires both quick thinking and quick physical reaction times.
The results were not pretty for older gamers. The researchers measured what they described as looking-doing latency, the time from when a player orients the screen onto a new part of the the StarCraft II battlefield to the time they take an action, and found that older gamers took longer to act. For example a 39-year-old player might, over the course of a 15-minute game, be 30 seconds slower overall than a 24-year-old player.
On the bright side, they also found older gamers were more likely to have developed measures to compensate for their doddering slowness, such as increased use of hot keys. We’ll keep those whippersnappers off our lawns by any means necessary.
These results were published in a paper sensitively titled Over the Hill at 24: Persistent Age-Related Cognitive-Motor Decline in Reaction Times in an Ecologically Valid Video Game Task Begins in Early Adulthood, which you can find here.
So there it is, in detail, why you can’t beat those damn kids on Xbox Live, and why you’d probably be at a disadvantage in real-life tasks, like avoiding getting hit by a bus, too. A little light reading for when you see some crow’s feet, a gray hair, or have a birthday coming up.