SFU's Joe Thompson, a psychology doctoral student, associate professor Mark Blair, Thompson's thesis supervisor, and Andrew Henrey, a statistics and actuarial science doctoral student, analyzed the digital performance records of 3,305 StarCraft 2 players, aged 16 to 44.
Their performance records, which can be readily replayed, constitute big data because they represent thousands of hours worth of strategic real-time cognitive-based moves performed at varied skill levels.
Using complex statistical modeling, the researchers distilled meaning from this colossal compilation of information about how players responded to their opponents and more importantly, how long they took to react.
Lead author Thompson said that after around 24 years of age, players show slowing in a measure of cognitive speed that is known to be important for performance, asserting that this cognitive performance decline is present even at higher levels of skill.
He said older players, though slower, seem to compensate by employing simpler strategies and using the game's interface more efficiently than younger players, enabling them to retain their skill, despite cognitive motor-speed loss.
For example, older players more readily use short cut and sophisticated command keys to compensate for declining speed in executing real time decisions.
The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.