Why you should play Starcraft 2 if you're a programmer

Posted by thmyrk on March 17, 2019

First of all, it’s an awesome game and it’s free!

Bad effects of video games?

Fortunately, fewer and fewer people think bad of video games thanks to awesome studies being done, like the one that shows no correlation between crime and playing violent video games [1]. In the last years, the evidence for positive effects of playing video game stacks up. Turns out healthy video games playing (without becoming addicted of course which is possible) is very good for you.

Cognitive benefits

Video games need to set a task that’s difficult to complete, so that the player can learn and master it, thus giving him a sense of pride and accomplishment. This mechanism motivates the player to get better at the game overcoming harder and harder challenges it presents until the game is fully beaten.

There is an awesome number of positive effects of playing video games. Here is the list with sources:

  • Improved visual contrast sensitivity (the ability to distinguish subtle differences in shades of grey) [2]
  • Successful treatment of amblyopia (lazy eye) [3]
  • Improved spatial attention - that is improved performance on the ability to locate a target stimulus in a field of distractors - a test which has been found to be a good predictor of the ability to drive. [4]
  • Improved ability to track moving objects in a field of distractors - keeping track of a set of moving objects that were visually identical to other moving objects in the visual field [5]
  • Reduced impulsiveness [6]
  • Overcoming dyslexia [7]
  • Improved ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously [8]
  • Increased mental flexibility - abilities to switch rapidly and without error between tasks that have conflicting demands [4] [9] [10]
  • Reversing mental decline that accompanies ageing [11]

Video games improve job performance, especially for jobs that require good eye-hand coordination, attention, excellent working memory, and quick decision-making:

  • Video gamers were better than non-gamers in the ability to fly and land aerial drones and were essentially as good as trained pilots on this skill [12]
  • Young, inexperienced surgeons who were also video gamers outperformed the most experienced surgeons in their field [13]
  • Novice surgeons who were provided with experience with video games improved their performance in laparoscopic surgery compared with a control group of surgeons who did not have that experience [14]

Why Starcraft 2?

Starcraft 2 is a complex Real-Time Strategy game which forces the player to master many game mechanics in order to successfully overwhelm his opponent. These include base building, resource gathering, army production and management, scouting and using unit’s special abilities. Thorough knowledge of the game is required to utilize all of its mechanics. The player who wins is the one who develops a better economy, does more APM (actions per minute), uses better strategy and composes an army with such units that can successfully counter the opposing one. Starcraft 2 is a very fast-paced game, where an average play between 2 players takes around 15 minutes. The first attack usually happens at around 5-7 minutes mark.

Due to all of this a player needs to focus to the maximum of his abilities through all the time of the game. He’s constantly multitasking, managing his base and his army at the same time, planning and making decisions about which units to produce and how to expand his base. Extreme agility when using a mouse is required - pro players make more than 200 APM and a misclick can decide on the outcome of a battle.

By playing Starcraft 2 for just a couple of weeks I can see that these skills easily translate to programming. This also agrees with the studies listed above. I learned to be focused and perform at 100% of my abilities for extended periods of time. I can switch attention between tasks in a more flawless manner. Increased mouse agility and ability to use key shortcuts raised my productiveness and decreased procrastination. Switching tabs is easier, writing is faster, also I see an increased need to solve the problem right now.

Try it out!

I started playing Starcraft 2 for fun, it was by accident that I found I became a better programmer. If you found out that it’s not the case with you, then in this worst scenario at least you had some fun ;) Not to mention video games are a great way to relieve stress after a full day of work :)

Let me know what are the games you’re playing and whether you feel any benefits!

Thanks for reading!


Useful links:


  1. C.Ferguson, C. San Miguel, A. Garza, J. Jerabeck (In press). “A longitudinal test of video game violence influences on dating and aggression: A 3-year longitudinal study of adolescents.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, to be published in 2012.
  2. Li, Renjie, Uri Polat, Walter Makous, and Daphne Bavelier. 2009. “Enhancing the Con- trast Sensitivity Function through Action Video Game Training.” Nature Neuro- science 12:549–51.
  3. Li, Roger W., Charlie Ngo, Jennie Nguyen, and Dennis M. Levi. 2011. “Video-Game Play Induces Plasticity in the Visual System of Adults with Amblyopia.” PLoS Biology 9.
  4. Green, C. Shawn, and Daphne Bavelier.. 2012. “Learning, Attentional Control, and Action Video Games. Current Biology 22:R197–R206.
  5. Trick, Lana M., Fern Jaspers-Fayer, and Naina Sethi. 2005. “Multiple-Object Tracking in Children: The ‘Catch the Spies’ Task.” Cognitive Development 20:373–87.
  6. Dye, Matthew W. G., C. Shawn Green, and Daphne Bavelier. 2009. “Increasing Speed of Processing with Action Video Games.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 18:321–26.
  7. Franceschini, Sandro, Simone Gori, Milena Ruffino, Simona Viola, Massimo Molteni, and Andrea Facoetti. 2013. “Action Video Games Make Dyslexic Children Read Better.” Current Biology 23:462–66.
  8. Chiappe, Dan, Mark Conger, Janet Liao, J. Lynn Caldwell, and Kim-Phoung L. Vu (2013). “Improving Multi-Tasking Ability through Action Videogames.” Applied Ergonomics 44:278–84.
  9. Anderson, Ashley F., Daphne Bavelier, and C. Shawn Green. 2010. “Speed-Accuracy Tradeoffs in Cognitive Tasks in Action Game Players.” Journal of Vision 10: 748.
  10. Colzato,LorenzoS.,WeryP.M.vandenWildenberg,andBernhardHommel.2014.“Cognitive Control and the COMT Val (158) Met Polymorphism: Genetic Modulation of Videogame Training and Transfer to Task-Switching Efficiency.” Psychological Research 78:670–78.
  11. Torres, Ana Carla Seabra. 2011. “Cognitive Effects of Video Games on Old People.” International Journal on Disability and Human Development 10:55–58.
  12. McKinley, R. Andy, Lindsey K. McIntire, and Margaret A. Funke. 2011. “Operator Selec- tion for Unmanned Aerial Systems: Comparing Video Game Players and Pilots.” Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine 82:635–42.
  13. Rosser, James C. Jr., Paul J. Lynch, Laurie Cuddihy, Dougls A. Gentile, Jonathan Klonsky, and Ronald Merrell. 2007. “The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century.” Archives of Surgery 142:181–86.
  14. Schlickum, Marcus K., Leif Hedman, Lars Enochsson, Ann Kjellin, and Li Fellander-Tsai. 2009.“Systematic Video Game Training in Surgical Novices Improves Performance in Virtual Reality Endoscopic Surgical Simulators: A Prospective Randomized Study.” World Journal of Surgery 33:2360–67.