Playing Starcraft 2 Might Make You Smarter

This won’t come as a surprise if you’re familiar with the game’s genre, but playing Starcraft 2 might make you smarter. Starcraft 2 is a so-called “real-time strategy game,” a form of video game that involves resource management and military planning in parallel, while restricting the amount of information that each player has.

The result is a gaming experience that involves planning, strategic thinking on the fly, and rapid mental and physical coordination (this is why I’m terrible at Starcraft, if you were curious). According to a study published in August, brought to our attention by Red Bull’s gaming arm, “cognitive flexibility is a trainable skill.”

That conclusion was reached after running study participants through a controlled gaming environment, or Starcraft 1 and 2. Some participants played The Sims, while others played the Starcraft titles, racking up 40 hours of gameplay over a period of one-and-a-half to two months. All individuals that took part in the study were female, due to a “small number of non-gaming males” that might have been eligible. Those who played Starcraft instead of The Sims showed measurable improvements in certain mental functions following the period of gaming.

Playing Starcraft, according to the study, “stresses rapid and simultaneous maintenance, assessment, and coordination between multiple information and action sources was sufficient to affect change.” The result of playing real-time strategy games such as Starcraft is “an underlying dimension of cognitive flexibility” across several laboratory tests.

So, playing Starcraft 2 with its mental rigor helps keep your brain fit, and perhaps tunes it up a bit. Again, this is not a surprising conclusion, but is a fun data point all the same.

There has long been an interesting connection between Starcraft 2 and startups, something that I first wrote about in 2010. Since then, there have been startup Starcraft series, an entire league built to allow large tech companies to field their own teams, and discussion across the Internet about why tech workers seem to love the game.

It’s not surprising that digital types that stick to monitors and fast typing enjoy Starcraft, but it’s also possible that there is a bit of skill or interest overlap between working in a quickly growing tech company and playing the game.

And since Starcraft might help keep your mind fit, it doesn’t hurt to play a few games to stay sharp. At least that’s what you can tell your boss the next time you’re caught getting bunker-rushed before the end of the workday.

Top Image Credit: Blizzard