Brain volume can predict RTS game aptitude - Study

Rise of Nations used in research that finds a person's speed at learning a complex game could be tied to size of certain regions of the brain.

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Having a bigger brain might help real-time strategy gamers get a grip on their favorite titles faster, according to an article in press for the journal Brain and Cognition. In an experiment that had 20 participants each playing nearly 24 hours' worth of the 2003 RTS game Rise of Nations, Dr. Chandramallika Basak of Rice University found that those with larger specific regions of the brain were better able to master the complex game.

Learning curve varies by brain volume?

Dr. Basak's study involved 20 adults between the ages of 65 and 75 who had no familiarity with strategy games. Before participants started playing the game, the researchers took high-resolution MRI images of their brains. Over a month and a half, Dr. Basak had the participants rack up 23.5 hours of Rise of Nations playtime split into 90-minute sessions. All games were played on the easiest difficulty, and the participants' ability was judged based on how quickly they were able to win each game.

Rise of Nations was chosen because the game's complexity insists on a diverse skill set from players. Specifically, Dr. Basak noted that it requires players "to continually assess his or her available resources, plan and expend those resources, monitor expanding territories and multiple cities, and introduce methods to generate revenues and improve technology." And because the game is played in real time, it also calls upon players to exhibit fine motor control to execute on their strategies.

"We found that grey matter volumes of five regions were correlated with complex skill acquisition, as measured by improvements in time spent to successfully play the video game," Dr. Basak concluded in the paper. The relevant areas are typically associated with a number of functions, including motor control, detecting errors, self regulation, planning, and dual tasking.

This is not the first time Dr. Basak has drawn insights from research using Rise of Nations. In 2008, Psychology and Aging published a paper of hers that determined older adults who played the Big Huge Games RTS title improved in a variety of cognitive abilities, including working memory, visual short-term memory, and reasoning.

For more on Rise of Nations, check out GameSpot's review.

Discussion

63 comments
endocrine
endocrine

@EggVillain I have no doubts people will follow up on testing, but that is the general premise of preliminary work (which is something I would classify this research as). The problem is that editorial writing is generally used to sell a story, scientific journal writing is used to sell a method, and the science can get a little fuzzy. Brain volume is still unknown in predicting RTS aptitude (despite what gamespot says), and they did not find a correlatiob between complex skill aquisition and brain regions (despite what the scientisist say). At this point and time, the only thing that can really be said is that while playing Rise of Nations, specific regions of the tests subjects' brains tend to light up. Further analysis needs to be done to determine if these regions light up for other strategy games (or anything else involving strategy), and a in a wider array of patients. Of course, this is not as glamorous.

Mkherkzen
Mkherkzen

@ Scarletsspider Well, nobody said you'll get smarter. You're not an older person, are you? For you, such kind of brain stimulation is nothing out of common, but for older people such brain activity helps in fighting its aging process.

Scarlesspider
Scarlesspider

well I've been playing RTS for years. can't say I've gotten smarter! but if you say so...

Phoenix6359
Phoenix6359

Ha, I knew gaming wasn't a waste of time. RoN is one the best RTS ever made so it's good to know those hundreds of hours spent playing helped with something :P

the_hitman_guy
the_hitman_guy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

the_hitman_guy
the_hitman_guy

@Witchsight Yeah, make these old people play Serious Sam in 90 minute sessions. I'd like to do that for my thesis.

JOKER677
JOKER677

Ah no wonder I don't like these games anymore. Red Alert 2 is still the best.

phayde1212
phayde1212

"games are for enjoying not thinking for whole life.... i would rather play call of duty or assassin's creed" epic fail... and call of duty players are always wondering why everyone is making derogatory remarks about them.

Yuusha09
Yuusha09

Righto, looks like GameSpot wants a sequel to RoN as much as I do considering they pulled this story out of nowhere. Bring us RoN 2 and not RoL, seriously.

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

@Shtiv1987 They did'nt say smarter people they said people with certain areas of the brain being larger. Its also researched that people with smaller brains tend to be smarter, a rather contradicting 2 studies going on in the scientific field.... but I also suppose you could have a smaller total brain and still have certain areas be bigger then other people.

nurnberg
nurnberg

Lol, I myself have quite a big head, and I don't think Im good at Starcraft 2. Actually I kind of suck. Also, I don't see how intelligence is required to play this game, as nearly all players just learn builds from strategy sites and just do that over and over.

super_rider
super_rider

games are for enjoying not thinking for whole life.... i would rather play call of duty or assassin's creed

Shtiv1987
Shtiv1987

Smarter people are better at strategy games?! FOR REAL?! I am shocked.

sandyqbg
sandyqbg

They should have done the study with Hearts of Iron :P

duderdave
duderdave

@ Witchsight Better have the cart and paddles nearby... Most RTS games involve some kind of very long-term planning of some sort and regular, slower game play, so they are not likely to give older players heart attacks. :P Many FPS games involve a lot of knee-jerk reactions along with massive injections of adrenaline to the body, often in addition to a large consumption of external energy drinks and snacks - perhaps not a good game setting choice for testing uninitiated players in the 65-75 age range. ;)

ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

Ok, that makes sense. I thought this was going to say a bigger brain makes you better at RTS. Now THAT would have been interesting. This? This just says you're good at what you're good at. Just because these people haven't played RTS games doesn't mean they aren't good at strategy.

mbashour
mbashour

let me guess: cerebellum, cingulate, insula..(shows up on basically every MRI study lol). but doesn't this just mean an ability to learn faster?

Witchsight
Witchsight

Now do the same study with a FPS...

Agent3sephiroth
Agent3sephiroth

I guess, IQ tests weren't enough to make people feel bad about themselves.lol.

snes_vs_ps1
snes_vs_ps1

I'm slow when playing RTS games & i'm fast when playing platformers.Fact.

satanarock
satanarock

Apparenty, most of you didn't really read the article. It doesn't say „bigger brain = more intelligence”, it only points out that the volume of grey matter in certain regions enhances your complex squill aquisition speed. And intellingence doesn's mean just: motor control, detecting errors, self regulation, planning, and dual tasking.

j0abell
j0abell

i dont know, when my brain is quiet, i do a lot better at complimicated games. its when its loud that i have problems with all the stratergizing and stuff.

Sirbobislost
Sirbobislost

@Gelugon_baat My thoughts exactly "requires a diverse skill set from players" I call shenanigans!

DoomSky
DoomSky

Great, now I've been reminded how much I want RON 2.

staticks
staticks

BREAKING NEWS: Bigger brain = More intelligence. We needed a scientific study to establish this fact.

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

Another expensive case of over analising useless info. The world already knows some people are smarter then others.

EggVillain
EggVillain

@Pawfalcon I'll assume certain areas of the pre frontal cortex (PFC) But a link to this particular article would be really interesting to see... Could not find it on a database search :(

LOLChris360
LOLChris360

"Having more brain mass makes you better at things that require thought and the smarter you are the better?" Very poorly written sentence, you're probably bad at Rise of Nations.

Pawfalcon
Pawfalcon

....and they couldn't mention which regions? Seems like an important bit.

brian_13un
brian_13un

@Paul2004 Me too, I also want to Unleashed Total war like Spamming Enemies with Avatar War Mechs :)

PeterDuck
PeterDuck

I remember playing Rise of Nations for about a year. Pretty good game.

stevo367
stevo367

I wish they would make an updated RON. That was a great game. Also my head could swell again.

toothofymir
toothofymir

Rise of Nations on the Easiest setting? My 7-year old cousin can do that. They should've had them play Supreme Commander. On Hard. Against a full squad of bots.

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I should find a good RTS game to play. Although I'd rather Destroy the world than create one.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

Having more brain mass makes you better at things that require thought and the smarter you are the better? I am shocked.

Paul2004
Paul2004

I spend more than a hour on C&C matches, more than 4 for RoN :P

Paul2004
Paul2004

they ranked it based on how fast they won ?, lol guess i would be the worst even tho i know how to win (I just like to prolong my Strat games :), get the best and unleash total war XD)

Sam39150
Sam39150

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the test should be longer so it more accurately determine long term effects and not just short term ( at least a year)

Sam39150
Sam39150

As much as I'd say this research is stupid,it does have a bit of credibility since they picked a pretty complex strategy game. However, Rise of Nations becomes very instinctive after you really learn to play because the game play is similar despite which race you pick, so I think overall, it may improve cognitive abilities only in the short run. This would actually more interesting if the test was done on a bigger sample and picked people from various age groups, not just simply older people.

EggVillain
EggVillain

@endocrine I don't know the ins and outs of medical testing. But the scientific method is the scientific method... The study in question is just what it is. You can't generalise the results to the wider population at all. But the way these studies work is that other professionals will read them and perhaps get ideas on how to test the variables differently. Or even directly replicate the study it self in order to try and replicate the results. So in essence the more studies like these that could be carried out in the future that produce similar results will only give strength to the theories be proposed. I can't say I am read up on this particular research area but the implications are certainly interesting.

Ronnie_Rim
Ronnie_Rim

This article makes me want to play rise of nations again!

TheBlackEclipse
TheBlackEclipse

People with more developed brains better at learning complex games? Surely you jest! That's just crazy talk!

HT89488
HT89488

look at all the knows it all posting..none of you are doctors...if you are then your probably came across this site while on here looking on google for a diagnosis procedure, cause we know doctors are a dime a dozen and your knowledge is based off if you can use a search engine. lol. Anyone can be a doctor.

Decrate
Decrate

20 people is too few i agree statistically you need at least 30 samples before you can draw any firm conclusion

endocrine
endocrine

@EggVillain 20 subjects is a joke. Would you take a medication that was only tested on 20 people? Of course not. In fact, one of the recent complaints in pharmaceuticals is the effectiveness of medications on people in America. As medical testing is now being offshored, less and less studies are being done on North Americans. So good tests in Asian countries, mean very little to the effectiveness on people in Canada. It would take thousands of people across various ages and ethnicities to get any real results from. As you know, people in different countries and backgrounds learn slightly differently, as such, will their brains responds the same as these 20 people from the same place and probably a similar background? If you knew anything about medical testing (that doesnt involve bribing the FDA), the best you can say from a small test group is that this may or may not warrent a larger test group.