Real-time strategy games and task switching.
Numerous authors have examined the effects of video games on executive functions. This research focuses on the effects of video games on task switching, one aspect of executive functions. Switching between different tasks is a regular occurrence today and is an important skill to possess as people juggle between performing different tasks simultaneously in everyday life. The effects of video game training on task switching has been continuously discussed and examined over time. This study aims to contribute to this debate by utilizing a Real-time Strategy (RTS) video game called StarCraft and measure its effect on the task switching performance of a population of video game players who do not play RTS video games, an area that the literature has not addressed. The results of this study depicted that training in the RTS video game StarCraft had no effect on participants’ task switching performance. Possible factors and particular aspects of the sample population were explored to explain this finding. The factors that were identified included the configuration of StarCraft, the duration of the training schedule that participants undertook and possible interference from other video gaming activity. The problem of task-specific learning was also confirmed when using identical task switching test measures before and after video game training. One aspect of the sample population identified was that the majority of participants may have reached their task switching performance potential through the numerous years of video game exposure. It was also hypothesized that RTS video game training has no impact on subjects’ task switching performance who self-report being Indian. Three video game genres were identified that could explain the superior task switching performance of subjects who self-reported being Coloured that participated in this study. Finally, the analysis revealed that the improvement in task switching performance exhibited by female StarCraft players were superior to the improvement demonstrated by male StarCraft players which suggests that RTS video games are better suited for improving females’ task switching performance than males.