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Study Results – Does Reaction Time Matter for being Good at Gaming?

Content of the article: "Study Results – Does Reaction Time Matter for being Good at Gaming?"

A month ago I posted a survey across different subreddits (and Twitter) to find out how much certain cognitive abilities mattered for being good at gaming as part of my MSc Psychology Thesis. The post I made here did so well with so many people interested so I am making a follow-up post on the results!

Firstly I wanted to say thank you so much for everyone who took part, a total of 1,957 participants took part in the survey!! (Although it should be noted after data exclusion, including removing participants who did not have a competitive game rank, outliers, individuals who had issues completing the task, and some others, a total of 777 participants were left in the sample, this sample was still very large!)

Overview of Experiment

The aim of the experiment was to understand whether 3 cognitive abilities, simple reaction time, inhibitory control and spatial working memory could predict competitive video game rank. (For example, does having a reaction time of 200ms mean a CSGO player is a higher rank than someone with a reaction time of 300ms) We choose to investigate reaction time as of course most competitive video games are of a fast-paced nature making reaction time an important skill. We also investigated inhibition as within some games it's important to withhold some responses (e.g. avoid shooting a teammate in CSGO) and spatial working memory as it is important to remember where all the enemy players are.

Specifically, we looked at game ranks from 6 competitive games, 4 FPS games (CSGO, Overwatch, Valorant, Siege) and 2 MOBAs (League of Legends and DOTA2). We tested participants cognitive abilities using an online cognitive task. We also hoped to compare the differences in cognitive test performance across game genre FPS/MOBA.

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We split the participants into 6 groups (one group for each game). Multiple linear regression was calculated using dependent variables age, reaction time, inhibition and spatial working memory. Only 1 full model came back as significant for the Overwatch model meaning that age and scores on the cognitive tasks can predict Overwatch rank.

Looking more closely at the data, significant findings were found between Overwatch rank and simple reaction time of -.126, meaning that with each ms increase in reaction time, Overwatch rank drops by 0.13% OR for approximately each 10ms decrease in reaction time, rank percentile increases by 1%. Similar findings were discovered for simple reaction time and CSGO rank also at a 0.14% rank drop for each ms increase in reaction time. It should be noted that non-significant findings were discovered for simple reaction time and predicting the other two FPS games rank Siege and Valorant. (BUT these were extremely close to the 5% level of significance of not being due to chance at 5.3% for Valorant and 6.5% for Siege suggesting the there was extra noise in these samples with other factors coming into play with predicting rank)

For the inhibition and the working memory cognitive task, no significant findings were discovered between the results and rank as reliability analysis revealed extremely low reliability for these tasks meaning that any findings or non-findings could not be concluded. The two tasks did not measure what they aimed to measure (although it should be noted that significant findings for League of Legends rank and the spatial working memory task was found but we cant conclude this being the case due to low task reliability).

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Overall, it's pretty impressive that at least one of the regression models came back as being significant in the sample, considering we did not control for other potential factors such as time spent gaming. If we had controlled other factors such as time spent, we might expect more significant findings. Specifically, it was interesting to see that reaction time is a significant predictor of both CSGO and Overwacth rank, with Valorant and Siege following closely behind. Looking more closely at the data, ignoring the levels of significance, findings suggest that reaction time is vastly more important for the FPS games than MOBA (as one might expect due to the faster-paced nature). This is displayed nicely on the bar chart below. From this, we can conclude that reaction time is in fact a very important skill for gaming performance and holding a higher competitive in-game rank!

Reaction Time and Game Graph:

This study, of course, had its downfalls, particularly the lack of control in variables, and with the experiment being an online cognitive task. I'm happy to discuss the downfalls and future improvements in more detail if anyone interested. We definitely learned a lot from conducting online research too (due to COVID we were unable to conduct a more controlled in real-life study) so I am happy to share our learnings from that too, feel free to drop a message if you're interested!

Thanks for reading and taking part!


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