Study: Violent Video Games Prep Gamers for Real-Life "Headshots"
May 22, 2012 10:16 AM
Study shows conclusively that gun controllers train shooters; was Jack Thompson right?
Concerns about violent video games were recently stoked when Norwegian mass-murder Anders Behring Breivik revealed that he had used "
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
wildly popular title
published by Activision Blizzard, Inc. (
) to train for his killings. The self-proclaimed Christian [
] who sought to become a "martyr", logged many hours in the game, which in one level depicts the player in the role of covert U.S. operative-cum-terrorist, murdering helpless citizens.
I. Scientific Evidence: Gun Controllers Train You For Real-Life Headshots
Now a controversial study by
Jodi L. Whitaker
Ohio State University
graduate psychology researcher -- and
Brad J. Bushman
, Netherlands psychology professor -- has cast further fuel on the flames claiming scientific evidence that video games are indeed training killers.
In the study "Boom, Headshot!": Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy" researchers had 151 college students shoot at mannequins, as a test of aiming accuracy. Each student was ordered to shoot 16 bullets at the target, and some students were first prepped with 20 minutes of gaming in a violent video game.
Among the gamers, some were given standard controllers, while others were given gun-shaped controllers, popular for many shooting games like the "Silent Scope" and "House of the Dead" franchises.
Psychology researchers demonstrated gun controllers prepare gamers for real-life "headshots".
[Image Source: Bethesda]
Researchers found that while standard controllers did not significantly increase the students' "kills" on the life-sized mannequin, the gun controller did. Students who were prepped with the gun controller hit the target 33 percent more often, on average, and hit "headshots" 99 percent more often.
While the sample size was relatively small, researchers believe the results were large enough to rule out differences in firearms experience or statistical flukes. They argue that despite their virtual nature, firearms game controllers provide ample training for potentially deadly real-life weapons use.
In the violent shooting game, participants were rewarded for accurately aiming and firing at humanoid enemies who were instantly killed if shot in the head. Players were therefore more likely to repeat this behavior outside of the video game context... Just as a person might train how to use a sword by first practicing with a wooden replica, the pistol-shaped controller served as a more realistic implement with which to hone skills that more easily transferred to aiming and firing a gun in the real world. These results indicate the powerful potential of video games to teach or increase skills, including potentially lethal weapon use.
The study was
, a peer-reviewed journal published by SAGE.
II. Video Games and Society -- Murder? "Ok." Consensual Sex? "Bad!"
The new study offers further challenge to America's video gaming status quo, which has a strong tendency to demonize sexuality, while glorifying and condoning in-game violence.
While putting the player in the role of a terrorist murdering citizens only earns a "Mature" rating, soft-core depictions of consensual sex between adults is a ticket to an instant "Mature" in most cases. And if you depict hard-core sex, well, you are virtually guaranteed an "Adults Only" rating.
Softcore depictions of consensual, "vanilla" intercourse between adults helped earn
Mass Effect 2
a "mature" rating, the same rating given for games where the player role-plays a fantasy of being a terrorist murderer. [Image Source: Bioware]
The debate over sex and violence in video games has raged in America. Some
individuals like Jack Thompson
have sought unsuccessfully
seemingly "immoral" titles depicting violent criminal fantasies,
such as Grand Theft Auto
. Sexual depictions have been especially criticized, with some members of the media allegedly
resorting to outright lies
to villainize games with sexuality
like Mass Effect
Some claim that video games have
destructive psychological effects
, but other studies
contradict this premise
. Some studies even show that
gaming benefits reflexes
and problem solving skills.
Over 97 percent of U.S. children
play video games. Studies found males to gravitate towards more violent video games. Coincidentally males murder people in the U.S. at a rate nine times higher than females according to recent studies.
Many adults game as well, though the population of gaming adults -- particularly console gamers is thought to be smaller. A recent study by the
Centers for Disease Control
claimed that the average 35-year-old gamer
is overweight and depressed
, suggesting long-term gaming may contribute to these health problems.
"This is about the Internet. Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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