Age and in-game success
The correlation between the age of a cyber athlete and his in-game success has been the main topic of heated discussions for quite a long time. Some argue that eSports is an activity for the young, while others are sure that the age problem is rather exaggerated and not well-based. Today we’ll try to figure out who is right, and decide how age influences the skills and player’s chances to win.
About human cognitive abilities
Even though the topic of cognitive abilities has already been discussed in details in the article dedicated to the positive outcomes of gaming, we would like to remind you that it includes various different functions and skills, e.g. perception, memory, planning, logic, attention and so on. Considering that eSports is in the first place an intellectual type of competition, the importance of above-mentioned factors seems to be quite obvious. The relation between the age of cyber athlete and his performance in the game is dependent on the dynamics of cognitive development. This field of study has been tested by many different scientists and thus has lots of interesting statistical information to offer.
Impressive results of the last experiments will be mentioned a bit later. As for now let’s discuss what we know about our cognitive abilities. Firstly, their development is naturally regulated. For example, such functions as memory, logic, reaction rate and attention develop until the peak period that usually happens at the age of 20–25 years, and then start to slowly diminish. Besides, human cognitive abilities develop unevenly and have their own dynamics.
The process of aging accelerates at 25–30, since biological growth of the organism stops then. Aging is accompanied by the decline in brain functions and, as a result, fading of cognitive abilities of the person. Therefore, older people difficultly learn new things, are inattentive and usually spend long hours to solve quite easy problems, and it is not the sharpness of mind that is being lost, but the flexibility of cognitive functions. Let’s move on to the most interesting part and take a look at some of the research programs and experiments in this field.
24 years is the age of maximum reaction rate
In 2014, the scientists from Simon Fraser University in Canada published the results of their great research, during which more than three thousand 16–44 year-olds were tested to determine the connection between age and reaction rate. Considering the fact that the main tool that helped them to do that was a famous game StarСraft II, this study has an important value not only for those interested in cognitive abilities, but also for gamers.
The research showed that most 24-year-old players are a lot mightier at StarCraft II than all others. The scientists provided their readers with numerous different graphs that proved that the age of reaching the best cognitive performance is 20–25 years old. They also noted that attention and reaction rates worsen after reaching its peak. Hiwever, the leader of the research stated that even though most older players are slower than younger ones, they try to compensate their downsides with less complicated strategies and smart use of game interface.
The age of players at each StarCraft level (Source)
The scientists from Queen Mary University of London have once again proved that StarCraft II is one of the best tools to analyze human cognitive abilities. They have used it to test the flexibility of players’ mind as well as their reaction rate (more details can be found in our article about positive results of gaming). The reason for this is that StarCraft II requires the use of different cognitive abilities of its players. Apart from making decisions in rigid time frames, they need to think ahead about possible scenarios and situations, caused by steps they take.
One hundred years ago, a very famous psychologist Edouard Claparède (1873–1940) compared maturity to psychological petrification, saying that with each year the person losses cognitive flexibility. In fact, the results of the most recent studies have proved that cognitive abilities: a) not only stop developing, but also start fading away at a certain point; b) reach their peak of development not simultaneously, but at different life stages.
In 2015 a very curious experiment was conducted by the scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They have gathered data from two websites, where all interested could test their cognitive abilities, and analyzed the results they have got. The age difference between test participants helped scientists determine “the smartest” age.
The indicators of each ability level depending on the age of testee (source)
As the graph above shows, 20 is the age of peak cognitive performance. Scientists found out that the ability to perceive information develops untill the age of 19, and then starts to slow down. Short-term memory, in its turn, reaches its maximum level at 25 and remains the same untill 35.
Older people can assess the emotional state of others more accurately as well as have a richer vocabulary. However, these aspects unfortunately do not change much in professional eSports.
Eventual decline of some parameters and the improvement of others (source)
To eSports not all ages yield surrender
Considering the results of above-mentioned studies and experiments, it is obvious that not all ages yield surrender to eSports (T.N. — a modified version of the famous quotation from Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin.) It is more difficult to remain in professional eSports as the years go by, since the flexibility of human cognitive abilities diminishes as we age. Even the most prominent out of thinkers finish off their already existent ideas when they get older, rather than come up with something fresh and new.
But on the other hand, we need to keep in mind that there is one more thing that plays an extremely important role in game process. That is experience. In many cases, it can make up for the natural cognitive abilities decline and help the player perform much better. Not to mention the fact that reaction rate is not the only thing you need in order to achieve success in eSports, as there is a huge variety of factors and aspects that need to be combined. Experience, team communication, motivation and psychological state of the players are some of those that have to be taken into consideration.