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Games Science

Your StarCraft II Potential Peaked At Age 24 103

An anonymous reader writes "StarCraft II is popular among competitive gamers for having the depth necessary to reward differences in skill. A new study has found that your ability keep up with the game's frantic pace starts to decline at age 24. This is relevant to more than just StarCraft II players: 'While many high-performance athletes start to show age-related declines at a young age, those are often attributed to physical as opposed to brain aging. ... While previous lab tests have shown faster reaction times for simple individual tasks, it was never clear how much relevance those had to complex, real-world tasks such as driving. Thompson noted that Starcraft is complex and quite similar to real-life tasks such as managing 911 calls at an emergency dispatch centre, so the findings may be directly relevant. However, game performance was much easier to analyze than many real-life situations because the game generates detailed logs of every move. In a way, Thompson said, the study is a good demonstration of what kinds of insights can be gleaned from the "cool data sets" generated by our digital lives.'"
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Your StarCraft II Potential Peaked At Age 24

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  • by rs1n ( 1867908 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @12:15AM (#46764047)
    A better study would be to analyze how the SC2 pros perform as they age. There is a big difference between the amount of free time a college student has to devote to playing a game and improving his skill vs. someone with a family and job to maintain. The article suggests that age is the factor in the decline of skill, when what it really shows is that most folks are likely to have less time to devote to a game once they leave college and take on real jobs and have kids.
    • by mfh ( 56 )

      My feeling is that a lot of older computer users suffer from ergonomic injuries as a result of repetitive stress. Eventually this won't be a problem for us as we move computers into the mind-space but for now when we have to physically interact with computers it's one of those injuries that can really lower the quality of life, let alone the scoreboard.

      • I'm 55, I played my first video game of arcade Pong in 1970 and still play video games regularly today. It's not injury that reduces performance, it's age. My 25yr old self had less fat, more muscle, faster reflexes, a steadier hand, sharper eyesight, better hearing, etc, etc. Consequently my younger me was faster (but not nesissarily better) at just about everything. Age related injury is responsible for things like the fact I'm no longer able to kneel on a hard floor.
        • OTOH any game whose ability peaks at 24 is insufficiently complex compared to a real job or a real life.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          In chess, the better players don't typically analyze more moves. It's been studied extensively. They typically look about two moves ahead, except perhaps in the opening moves, where they have the most common openings analyzed to a depth of about 12.

          Newer players, who are not as good typically look about two moves ahead too. Of course there's the true beginners, but let's gloss over them for now.

          What makes the older players better than the newer ones is not the number of moves they analyze, but the qualit

          • by Mikawo ( 1897602 )

            Many studies suggest that the better players don't typically "see" the bad moves. If you ask a good player who's analyzed a position for a few minutes about a bad move, they will require more time to answer questions about the bad move.

            This happens everywhere. Not just games. If you get so used to doing things in a certain way, thinking outside that box becomes more difficult.

            • This is the part that confuses me. As I get older I am noticing that I have lost my twitch reaction speeds, so I can no longer play Quake, or Team Fortress very well. However, what I have lost in speed reaction, I have gained in cleverness. Having played a lot of games and seen how mechanics work, I am able to more quickly come up with solutions to problems via "Out of the box thinking".

              Now I am curious if anyone else is the same way, I suppose that now that I am forced to move more slowly, my brain is c

              • by hawkfish ( 8978 )

                As I get older I am noticing that I have lost my twitch reaction speeds, so I can no longer play Quake, or Team Fortress very well. However, what I have lost in speed reaction, I have gained in cleverness.

                Well, there is the old saw that "age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill." Does that count?

            • I have a friend who is one of the top players at the local chess club, he says he sometimes finds it harder to play against beginners since they don't actually play with any sort of strategy. It confirms what you are saying -- he doesn't even consider bad moves, so when he is trying to see 2 or 3 moves ahead he never factors in that the beginner would make such a stupid move that it throws off his game completely. He will still whoop the new players ass, but he finds mentally it's a harder game then someone

        • At 41, it might be beyond my ability now to master twitch games. I have however become better at exploiting and cheating.
      • My feeling is that a lot of older computer users suffer from no longer giving a fuck, after years of mismanagement and youthful exuberance, many older users have finally realised that having a life and not thinking computing is the be-all and end-all of everything is important.

    • They did they played people of similar skill. I still think you're right on the premise that the study could be flawed. What they measured apparently was APM if I'm reading this correctly. How else would they measure number of actions over time in Starcraft? I'm of the school of not wasting my clicks and I have low APM like 100-200, but my buddies are of the school of warming up clicking and excess clicking.

      If they measured the APM, what appears to be less clicking might be actions that get more acc
    • Exactly, if you tracked the shooting percentages of high school varsity basketball players you might conclude that freshman year of college is the peak potential for a basketball player. 99% of those high school players won't play starter positions in college and those that even make it on the team might pursue other goals instead of basketball if they don't think they can make it professionally. After college a majority of the successful college players still won't make it professionally. If you followe
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... that these measure brain decline since RTS is a game with the worst interface. i.e. it measures your ability to keep up with a poor interface.

    I still play RTS regularly and place in the top spots and I'm much older than 24. Same goes for any high reflex game, I'm well within the top 100 in many global scoreboards for many high reflex games. Many games come down to things more complex than the brain, like the aging of the nervous system itself. Not to mention mad dedication and practice.

    • that these measure brain decline since RTS is a game with the worst interface. i.e. it measures your ability to keep up with a poor interface.

      How would you improve the interface? I'm not sure there's any way of handling 60 different units easily....

      • There is - but its very boring.

        You generally look at the map from a distance, grouping your units into manageable armies. Then your entire interface looks more like a few points on a map and a spreadsheet as the relevant army stats are displayed in a grid.

        This is the way real life Command and control interfaces are designed. A police 911 dispatcher will manage individual units rather than armies, but they will still need access to their stats (eg what equipment and training the unit has), their location and

        • If you want to manage sc2 like that, you can.... you can press the button to select your entire army then click the attack button and where on the map you want them to attack, but your engagements won't be very good because your army formations will be poorly organized.
          • by Specter ( 11099 )

            A problem that Rise of Nations solved. Why that didn't make into SC2 is a mystery.

            • Rise of nations has a few default formations. If you think that's good enough, you completely fail to understand army positioning.
        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          Even so, Starcraft also rewards those who micromanage units - like a Terran floating a building as bait to distract unmicromanaged enemy troops while the Terran troops destroy the enemy. All while
          micromanaging other stuff and building.

          The real life command and control interfaces you mention assume the units won't need to be micromanaged.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @12:44AM (#46764175) Homepage Journal
    Maybe someone can explain what they actually tested here(besides reaction time), the paper and the summary both state that they matched players of similar skill level but found the younger players were better....well then if that is really the case you didn't match players of similar skill levels did you? If they are at the same skill level then how is the younger player any "better"? They seem to be quantifying it by measuring reaction time, but is a faster reaction time always better, especially if the results are the same? Maybe the older players are taking slightly longer to consider their options rather than just clicking like mad.... I'm not sure what they are trying to say here.
    • Look at the graph [plosone.org]. Data often clarifies things.
    • Yeah, you make a good point, this study didn't even claim find any correlation between age and skill-level; the headline is wrong. They claim to have found a correlation between click speed (reaction after the screen changes) and age, but even that claim is tenuous.
      • by umghhh ( 965931 )
        This makes me wonder how old were these 'researchers' then and how much of their brain mass decayed already because of old age?

        In general any non physics or math study these days is soft science to me - too much shit and too much statistics that the 'researchers' do not understand themselves. But maybe there is truth in it. Maybe not. Maybe even there are people that are inclined to play silly games because of their click speed characteristic - faster than everybody else before 25 and dying of Parkinson a

  • Oh yeah? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @12:46AM (#46764183) Journal

    I score high on the Get Off My Lawn game.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I played Brood War semi-professionally when I was younger and had a go at StarCraft II as well. Although I was a competent player consistently in the top 20 on the EU and US ladders with some minor secondary accomplishments, I never felt like I could adapt or react quickly enough to really be a force. Building on my experiences playing Brood War at the highest level in my teens, I had an advantage going into StarCraft II in my late twenties. I was quickly overtaken (within a year of the game being released)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's a reason I barely play online multiplayer games (either strategy or FPS) anymore. I can't keep up with the kids who have the time to sink into becoming basically perfect while morons like us with jobs and families are brutally taken to task. All I want to do is casually play for an hour or so like I used to, but it seems there's no room for online multiplayer anymore unless you're really skilled and practice a shitload every day. I've gone beyond wanting to invest that level of passion into a comput

    • by nemasu ( 1766860 )
      I look forward to the time when the now-just-working generation retires. Gonna be an explosion of 65+ pro gamers! It's going to be awesome! xD
  • I mean isn't there a saying in the physics world "if you haven't made a big discovery by the age of 30 you never will." I think there's been a lot of research that basically says people peak in their mid to late 20's on most things.
  • here's the data (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @01:03AM (#46764239) Journal
    They calculated the mean time between switching to a new screen and then clicking on something on that screen.

    Here is the data they collected [plosone.org]. Look at it and see if you can figure out where it peaks. What are the things that strike you most about that data? The primary correlation is between skill-level and mean time, if age matters at all it is a far weaker variable.

    Looking at the actual data, I would say they've found the age when people stop playing Starcraft; it's a fairly sharp drop-off. And the change in mean-switching-time is not a real effect, merely an artifact of the suddenly smaller data they have around that age. This paper is probably relevant (suggesting scientists often need to improve their statistics) [nature.com].

    Furthermore, if you read the actual paper, you have this quote: "A second analysis of dual-task performance finds no evidence of a corresponding age-related decline." So I'm going to say there's not a story here.
    • by umghhh ( 965931 )

      I think there is a lot to say about statistics and the understanding of that - I was shocked the first time I calculated myself the probabilities of false positive for of prostate cancer checks, Ever since I started to look at the data and question the truth in it.

      There are few books that the soft scientists could do to improve but they are apparently too old to be bothered....

      • 'Publish or perish' is a very real thing. Sometimes scientists know their results aren't amazing, but are desperate to publish something because they've just spent a year's worth of grant money on it.
    • Right! And just to prove your point (and purely out of my love "ah sweet luve" for science) I'm going to lock myself up with SCII until I'm at the "master" level.
      Damn the wife and kids!

      See you there (or at my funeral)!

    • The problem with SC2 is that it is actually a sport: if you don't practice regularly, your performance drops a lot. You can have a great strategy, but if you get supply blocked in the first 5 minutes because of an execution flaw or you neglect your base when you're attacking the opponent mid-game, the strategy may not matter. I play the game from time to time, but in bursts of a few weeks of playing several times a week followed by months of not playing at all.

      Another factor that makes the game less attract

  • It's called "Logan's Run"

  • by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @01:35AM (#46764323) Journal

    I love gaming and gamers. Platform, console, CPU, mobile app, web based, javascript, retro, LCD one-color sports games...all of it...played it, usually loved it. I even love ridiculous vaporware like Duke Nuke 'em 3D or w/e it was...b/c LOL...right?

    I just stopped gaming after I finished college.

    I think this study needs to take into account that high-level gaming can taper dramatically due to age/interest.

    I'd like to see people who have a financial stake at being good at games over 5+ years compared.

    I have mini-renaissances...I taught my dad how to play the Tiger Woods golf on xbox & he became better at it than me, with a whole bunch of online friends...I still pwn at Mario Kart no matter what anytime anywhere and can pretty much hang with Tetris grand masters on the game boy version...

    see...i used to be a gamer...but now I just don't really give a shit...

    • I'd like to see people who have a financial stake at being good at games over 5+ years compared.

      Even then it's hard. For example, one pro-gamer [teamliquid.net] hasn't been winning as much as his prime, but he's said he hasn't been practicing as hard (his teammate just won the championship in Korea, and he definitely practiced hard).

      Of course, we can't necessarily trust his self-assessment, but it shows that even people who have a financial interest can get burned out and lose interest in the game.

  • Superior pilots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Wednesday April 16, 2014 @01:39AM (#46764331) Homepage

    I'm minded though of a saying: "The superior pilot uses his superior piloting judgement to avoid needing to demonstrate his superior piloting skill.". The study tends to bear that out too, as they comment that the decline disappears when you look only at the end results (the score). And in the end, if you're better at juggling dozens of things at once and react faster than your opponent and consistently lose to him, you're consistently losing to him.

    • Jumping genres for a moment...

      A decade ago, in my early/mid 20s (while I was a post-grad student), I was a fairly high level Counter-Strike player. Not one of the greats, but certainly good enough to pull my weight in a team which managed to take home the occasional bit of prize money in tournaments. However, three things happened which meant that I moved on from that phase.

      First, I finished studying and got a job. While the hours I was working were probably only slightly longer than the hours I'd been stud

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        Check your monitor, mouse and keyboard latency. A decade earlier you might have been using a CRT with lower latency than a slow LCD monitor.

        In my experience add them all up and it can make the difference between having a < 200ms response time and a > 250ms response time.

        Try digging out an old CRT if you have one and see if it makes a difference in your reaction times on those reaction time websites.
  • Orrrrrrrrrr, perhaps the investment needed to maintain gaming skills is no longer maintained due to, you know, growing up and having many more responsibilities?
  • I love Starcraft; both the original, and StarCraft II. I'm not all that GOOD at it, and now we know why; I'm on the high side of 60. I can still beat the computer, most of the time; I just can't beat the other players! :-)

  • Starcraft may be popular for strategy game players, but give me a FPS any day. I cut my teeth on Doom, Quake, Unreal, etc. In my opinion, if you want to measure reflexes, spacial awareness, and situational awareness, these are the games to study and would be closer to sports situations where muscle memory and learned strategy kicks in. Starcraft would be closer to what coaches have to do (i.e. football, making play decisions, etc.) than the athletes.

    In any case, no matter what game I play, I do play diff

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Pro level StarCraft uses just as much reflexes, spacial awareness, and situational awareness as FPS games take. Perhaps more. Jump onto YouTube or Twitch and watch some of those guys play. Not the commentated ones, but where they are streaming what they see. They hotkey all over the place and are simultaneously implementing an overall strategy and economy (Macro) as well as field commanding an army even down to specific unit actions (Micro). There is more action there than in any FPS I have seen to dat

  • I've never enjoyed competitive gaming much, except some rounds at a multiplayer FPS every now and then.

    When I play a RTS like StarCraft I like to calmly build up my bases and defenses, create an army, secure chokepoints... take my time and enjoy the game. The twitchy online experience is not for me. I'm playing to have fun and relax, not to experience stress.

    I suppose this is why I mostly enjoy single player RPG's in which I can enjoy the game at my own pace.

  • Lindberg flew 50 combat missions at age 42 in the pacific-- in both the corsair and the lightning.

    The preferred age for pilots then was also very young (19-22) due to reaction speed.

    But he not only held his own, but his experience allowed him to change the entire war by recognizing how to improve the mileage of the planes by 300 miles. He also shot down a japanese pilot who had managed to run several younger pilots completely out of ammunition because they were able to fire quickly but lacked the judgement

  • In my experience, 24 is the peak & it's downhill from there. However, for the talented, it's a very slow decline. Back in my Quake, then Quake 2 gaming days doing league play & setting up matches, it seemed to me that the 20-22 year old players ruled. I was 38 at the time. I could compete with them until we got into the top 10 teams. Then I just set up the matches & coached haha. Quake 3 was the end of it for me really, but then I got sucked into MMOs by my wife & lost what little
  • I used to be one of the best players, by sheer coincidence when I was exactly 23, but now I can't stand the game. Here's my summary of SC2. You're super intelligent and have the best strategy. The only thing getting in the way of you doing it is how quickly you can click the mouse and scroll and issue keyboard combinations. That's SO ANNOYING! The game might as well just be called "click the button" and see who can click the button faster. I prefer Realtime Strategy games that focus on strategy in rea
    • And this is why I like Supreme Commander better than Starcraft. Since you can queue every action, you don't need to babysit to make sure your factories didn't forget to keep pumping units out. Thus freeing you up to actually manage your units.
  • If you are 25, earn a decent wage (+60k $ a year) and are able to save 20% of your income, which you invest in stocks that pay dividends of 3% on average, which you reinvest, and assuming that you get a moderate wage increases of 3% a year, being a millionaire at 65 is doable.

    At least that's what my financial planning Excel sheet says.

  • Alas, youth is wasted on the young.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato