Print 93 comment(s) - last by Venkman2012.. on Jun 20 at 8:46 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", a wildly popular title published by Activision Blizzard, Inc. (ATVI) to train for his killings.  The self-proclaimed Christian [source] 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 -- an Ohio State University graduate psychology researcher -- and Brad J. Bushman -- a Vrije Universiteit, 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.

The authors write:

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 published [abstract] in Communications Research, 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.

Mass Effect 2
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 to ban 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.

Sources: Communications Research, EurekAlert

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Such BS....
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/22/2012 6:06:47 PM , Rating: 2
Well, several factors, really. First is trigger pull--I doubt any of these controllers accurately simulate trigger pull. Trigger pull is actually the number one cause for missing a target or hitting it where you aim. Bad trigger pull ruins everything. Now, it would be possible to get close to realistic pull on these controllers--but it still wouldn't be the same as the gun you were using.

Secondly, even if you could simulate the trigger pull, doing this would be useless without actually recreation of how the sights work, be it iron or holographic. Iron sights need to be lined up via the posts on both a rifle or handgun and kept that way through a consistent trigger pullthrough. The way this technology that interacts with the television screen works makes it nearly impossible to properly estimate the impact point unless they used motion sensing technology along with it--and I highly doubt any game will do this.
Oh of course, I would guess the reason for improved accuracy was more the mental side of it, e.g. lining up your target accurately visually, etc. Possibly confidence too.

Obviously "handling" (don't know the precise term) the pistol makes much more difference.

I've fired pistols before, though, I've only use I'd say 5 or 6 models. In my experience the models I fired varied substantially in amount of kick, trigger sensitivity, etc.

So yes, I would agree with you, but on the same token I would say that a simulator could help, kind of like a driving simulator doesn't really simulate the pedal feedback (in most cases) and shift "feel" of a real manual, but does give you some insight into how they worked.

Is that worth a study or potential restrictions on violent felons/potential terrorists' access? IDK, that might be kind of a stretch. But it's interesting to think about, even if -- as you aptly point out -- playing games doesn't make you a great marksman without real world experience.

RE: Such BS....
By Lord 666 on 5/22/2012 7:27:04 PM , Rating: 1
To build on Blastman's point, it is also the reason why 4 out of 5 nutjobs with little firearm experience select .22 (Reagan, Lennon, Kennedy) or 9mm (Giffords). Heck even the Muslim soldier at Ft. Hood used a FN57. While the first three were target specifc, the last two were massacres. All weapons were compact with low recoil and with the last two having high capacity magazines of 31 and 30 rounds respectively.

Had the AZ whack job had firearms experience, he would have selected a .40/.45, a 12 gauge, or used a 7.62 from a distance. Thankfully for everyone he didn't.

The only link between accuracy and type of controller is eye/hand coordination.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki