Mental Gymnastics in StarCraft 2
Mark Blair is doing something really cool: he’s looking into why some people are better at StarCraft than others. He’s started an academic analysis (with a lot of other people) of what’s going on in the brains of StarCraft 2 players in a project aptly called SkillCraft.
The future seems bright for StarCraft players as they may well be ready-trained for helping emergency services. From SkillCraft’s information website:
It appeared to us that RTS games provide a unique opportunity to better understand the cognitive processing involved in dynamic real-time resource management scenarios. Current interfaces for emergency management information systems (including both those in use and those under development) are not that different from the StarCraft 2 GUI.
Why StarCraft you ask? Well it’s one complicated game that requires so much knowledge of how the game works on every level from units to production rates. Toss in the fact that there are multiple species and you can basically control everything with hotkeys and you have a game so complex that RTS players of yore would be like a deer in headlights.
In this Scientific American article about how games are changing psychological analysis, Blair explains:
“I can’t think of a cognitive process that’s not involved in StarCraft,” says Mark Blair, a cognitive scientist at Simon Fraser University. “It’s working memory. It’s decision making. It involves very precise motor skills. Everything is important and everything needs to work together.”
The article goes on to mention that the notion that gamers are only good at a game and don’t (or can’t) apply that skill set elsewhere is incorrect.
Early results suggest that gamers may have faster visual reaction times, enhanced visuomotor coordination, and heightened ability to visualize spatial arrangements. They may also be better at rotating an object in their minds and may distinguish more deftly between the trajectories of moving objects. Players might also have an edge when paying attention to several objects at once.
The world of using games as a tool to improve our understanding of our brains works is growing as is our ability to understand what gaming means to the brain. At the very least we may get even better, faster, stronger(?), StarCraft players.