The Cognitive Science Lab is currently conducting a variety of experiments, primarily focused on learning, attention, and decision-making. Below is an introduction to our analysis of video game telemetry data used in our recent publication, ‘Over The Hill at 24’.


A pervasive intuition is that aging only begins to impact everyday life in the 40s or even later. Evidence suggesting earlier decline is typically restricted to basic laboratory tasks or relatively gross measures of professional athletic performance. What is needed are detailed data on the effects of age on actual human performance outside of the lab.

The real-time strategy game StarCraft 2 is an ideal task domain for such an inquiry. RTS games, in which players develop game pieces called units with the ultimate goal to destroy their opponent’s headquarters, have two relevant differences from strategy games such as chess.

First, the game board, called a map, is much larger than what that player can see at any one time. The resulting uncertainty about the game state leads to a variety of information gathering strategies, and requires vigilance and highly developed attentional processes. Because the game records where players are looking throughout the game, we have access to this attentional data.

Second, players in RTS games do not have to wait for their opponent to play their turn. Players can play as fast as they are able. Players that can execute strategic goals more efficiently have an enormous advantage. Consequently, motor skills that allow for efficient keyboard and mouse use are an integral component of the game.

In contrast to the research on early cognitive decline that use relatively simple laboratory-style tasks aimed at basic cognitive processes, we measure Perception Action Cycle (PAC) Action Latency, the lag between shifting one’s in-game view-screen and performing an action. See here for a video description. The measure is an ecologically valid indicator of the cognitive system’s capacity to navigate the real world.

For more information, view our telemetric video game publications below and feel free to contact us with questions.