Strategy Video Game Training and Improved Cognitive Flexibility Interview with:

Brian D. Glass
Biological and Experimental Psychology, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London, United Kingdom

Bradley C. Love
Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London, London, United Kingdom What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: We had 72 non-gaming participants play 40 hours of video games over 6 to 8 weeks. We tested them on psychological tests before and after. The participants either played The Sims (a life simulator game), or one of two versions of StarCraft (a real-time strategy game) — one which had a higher level of complexity. We found that the StarCraft players (especially on the higher complexity version) performed better on specifically the psychological tasks which tested cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adapt to a changing environment by keeping multiple things in mind and switch between tasks effectively. This sort of ability is considered a higher level psychological ability because it requires strategic thinking and creativity. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Even though we predicted the results, it does seem surprising that something that is often considered a vice, such as playing video games, can have a positive psychological effect in certain circumstances. We were also pleasantly surprised that the players, even though having almost never played video games before, did quite well and often successfully beat the opponent computer, which was designed to be more difficult as the players improved. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: I think what this study shows is that not only is it possible to find techniques to enhance flexibility and attention, which some people, such as those with ADHD, often struggle with, but those techniques have the potential to be fun and engaging. While there is much more to be known about how video games can be used in a clinical setting, I think this study demonstrates that there is hope for future developments. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: In order to bring possibilities like clinical treatment to fruition, we need to understand exactly what aspects of these video games are responsible for psychological benefits. For that reason, I think it is important to test specific aspects of the video games. To begin to make this possible, we are making recorded behaviour from our StarCraft experiment available for download at


Brian D. Glass, W. Todd Maddox, Bradley C. Love.
Real-Time Strategy Game Training: Emergence of a Cognitive Flexibility Trait.
PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (8): e70350
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070350