When do you start thinking a little slower? Forty? Thirty-five? Thirty? Try twenty-four.
Here’s the handy thing about Starcraft 2, from a cognitive science point of view. One, the game records everything. Ever action, decision, and click goes into the game logs, so researchers can pull that stuff and put together very thorough data sets. Two, the game happens in real time, so speed matters. You can do as much as you want, provided you’re moving quickly—and Starcraft players are notorious for moving quickly. Three, the game is complex, which allows scientists to get a more realistic measure of reaction time.
So, researchers recruited 3,305 people aged sixteen to forty-four to give their ages and play each other in one on one matches. Players were matched against other players of comparative skill. Once matches were played, data crunch, and age taken into consideration, researchers found that cognitive decline starts at twenty-four.
Fortunately, most of us don’t notice said decline, nor did it mean that people older than twenty-four were especially disadvantaged while playing. Even though people are thinking a bit more slowly after twenty-four, they tend to have more knowledge and experience to draw on, giving them an advantage.
Really, the only reason to worry is if you’ve managed to hit your late twenties without learning anything. Then you’re screwed.