Real-Time Strategy Games like StarCraft May Boost Cognitive Flexibility

When video games hit the mainstream news, it’s usually just more fuel for the tired “Do games increase violence?” debate. But a new study focuses on games from an entirely different angle: how action games affect “cognitive flexibility.” The finding suggest that certain action games – like Blizzard's StarCraft – might actually help players improve their cognitive capabilities in the real world. If you haven’t printed out this article yet so you can show your spouse, get on it.

Games like StarCraft 2 might make you smarter.
StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm. Image credit: Blizzard

Researchers Brian D. Glass, W. Todd Maddox, and Bradley C. Love published their findings in an article on the online research journal PLOS ONE. The researchers used test participants from the University of Texas at Austin. The participants were female, as the researchers were looking for non-gamers, and had trouble digging up non-gaming males at the university. Participants played StarCraft 1 & 2, as well as The Sims.

The games were modified a bit to force the participants to rely more on memory (minimap alerts were pulled from SC, for example). According to the report, the researchers found that playing the games resulted in increased cognitive flexibility. Why does that matter? “Theoretically,” says the report, “the results suggest that the distributed brain networks supporting cognitive flexibility can be tuned by engrossing video game experience that stresses maintenance and rapid manipulation of multiple information sources. Practically, these results suggest avenues for increasing cognitive function.” See? You should be spending more time gaming, not less - it's for your health. And your spouse should get started on StarCraft, too.