I’ve been committed to laddering in SC2 since it was released. From 1st place in Diamond, to entering Masters at its release, I have paid close attention to increasing my APM, micro, macro, and multitasking. I believe that if a person chooses to peruse this game and continually try their best, he or she will see positive results in their life outside this game. Here are my experiences and my ideas regarding SC2 and how it makes a person better.
Better your mind
At this level of play - Masters -, I can’t just relax and cue up for a 1v1 ladder game and hope to win. I have to be ready and committed to play my best if I want to win. If I relax even a little, I could be outplayed by my opponent.
Studies show that SC2 can increase your cognitive abilities. Yes, the micro/macro/multitasking aspect of the game is a huge asset to this study. However, I believe that there is another element that might be overlooked – the race to win.
Each player knows their BOs and strategies. We also know the very specific timings in which they should be carried out in order to be most successful. Therefore, we are racing each other to win. If upgrades are slow or if you’re slow to build production buildings, you could miss your offensive or defensive timing and lose the game. There is a level of stress or anxiety that comes to playing this game (I suppose some call it ladder anxiety) and I believe this adds to it. Yes, ladder anxiety also comes from lack of knowledge, scouting, general skill etc. But this race to win will always exist. When the Terran army moves out of your opponents base with medivacs flying overhead and your colossus is nowhere near completed, you’re guna stress out! This healthy stress forces our minds to work faster. It forces us to make hard decisions and deal with a “real” threat.
I believe that SC2 has equipped me to make quick, accurate and healthy choices when I’m under stress. I hold a managerial position in the company that I work for and I believe one of my strongest skills is making quick and decisive decisions when issues come up or delegation needs to be made. So far my track record has been very good. I believe that a lot of this is due to playing SC2. Like the game of chess, one must think a few moves ahead in every game. By training our minds to act this way, we also start to incorporate this into our everyday lives. Many times at work, a decision isn’t just a one-time action; it will eventually influence a future decision as well. One decision could branch off into 2 or more future choices, and I believe that SC2 has equipped me to make insightful choices.
Better your body
One morning, while I was barely awake in the washroom brushing my teeth, I was fumbling around with my free hand rummaging through the mirror cabinet. In my sleepy state I knocked a jar and it started to fall to the floor. Without realizing it, I let go of my toothbrush (letting it hang in my mouth) and grabbed the jar as it free-fell to the ground.
Has this ever happened to you? Since playing SC2, have you noticed this happening a lot more? It happens to me all the time now. Not that I’ve become clumsier and start knocking stuff over, but when I do, the speed in which my body reacts is much quicker.
Due to high APM and multitasking, I believe my body has simply been trained to act and react quicker. As SC2 players, our hands and our eyes are flying across the keyboard and computer screen at a rate much faster than when we’re browsing the internet, writing an essay for school, or completing a task at work – unless you’re in a very high stress, quick moving job. I believe, over time, our hands and minds start to quicken by playing SC2.
When I was in college, I learned from one of the phycology text books that a special thing happens to people who play piano. Apparently, because our hands and eyes are moving cohesively yet independent it triggers the brain in a very specific way. (Sorry I don’t have a reference to place here) Apparently, because of the brain being triggered this way, as long as the mind is being stressed with learning a person’s skill on piano will not decrease or erode. If you stop playing piano but keep learning about some subject or skill you could go back to the piano and pick up exactly where you left off because your mind was always active.
Do you remember when Stephano was in his prime and he would say things like, “I don’t practice very much” and he would still win huge tourneys?! I believe this is because watching a computer screen and playing with a mouse and keyboard has the same effect on the brain that piano playing does. Think about it, your brain, eyes, left hand and right hand are doing things all differently – the same way when you play piano. I’ve taken a break for up to a month and jumped right back on SC2 to find that my skills have barely decreased. Yeah, my hands will need some warming up and my BOs might not be supper crisp. But my mind and my skill have not decreased as I thought they might – and after a game or two I’m right back up to speed again. Let me know if you’ve experienced similar outcomes from playing SC2 as this theory I’m working on isn’t perfect but seems to have some actuality.
The moral of the story: couple SC2 with continual learning and you will keep your mind sharp.
Concluding thoughts – Video games for kids – good or bad?
When I was growing up, I started to love competitive games. When I was in the 7th grade, I started playing Myth 2: Soulblighter. I joined a clan and played a shit load of games a day and started taking it very competitively. A year later, I started playing Brood War too when it came out. When I was young, I felt like the game excited me and made a way for me to use my mind not only creatively but to increase learning – the same feeling would erupt in my mind when I’d orchestrate an army on the screen as when I learned a new concept from a text book. I started playing SC2 when I was 25 and I’m almost 30 now. If an “old” guy like me can still play this game at a competitive level and better himself mentally and physically, I don’t see why a child couldn’t do the same – and even have a greater effect!
I know this is a huge topic all of its own and should have its own separate blog, but I think that gaming – at a competitive level – for kids is a good thing. I think the child must have certain goals and levels to achieve – as opposed to just leisure playing while eating Cheetos and getting fat (however there is a time and a place for this as well). My daughter is 4 months old and I think I’ll let her play video games when she gets older – if she wants too – furthermore, I’ll encourage her too! I think with the right mentality, gaming can be a very healthy pastime for adults and children.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Feel free to share your thoughts.