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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

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RE: Flawed Research
By Schrag4 on 5/22/2012 8:28:12 PM , Rating: 2
I don't get to go nearly as often as I'd like. I usually shoot the SR9c but sometimes I shoot the Gen3 Glock 22. It's funny - if I'm firing slowly at a paper target, the added recoil of the .40 throws me off a bit but when doing IDPA it doesn't seem to make any difference. Personally, I feel it has something to do with my focus on moving, taking cover, and reloading, and forgetting about recoil, but I don't know if that's true.

I don't really compete. I've only ever gone to local matches, and they've gotten so busy in the last 6 months that I haven't been in a while. The only IDPA practice I get nowadays is with my brothers or friends at a private range, but that's not all that often. I'm hoping that the hot weather that's coming will drive people away from the local matches (the range isn't air conditioned). I just can't bring myself to spend almost 4 hours at a match if I know I'll only shoot 3 stages. I'd much rather set up on a private range for half a day and shoot as much as I want.

Anyway, what do you shoot? Do you follow the spirit of the sport and shoot what you carry? Or are you one of those competitors that shoots a huge pistol like a Glock 34 or 17L? :-p

RE: Flawed Research
By Reclaimer77 on 5/22/2012 9:01:09 PM , Rating: 2
Oh I follow the spirit alright. I use my carry gun, a Springfield XD .40 SC, 3" barrel model. Everyone else seems to be using full sized or even 5" "tactical" models! Knowing damn well that's not a carry gun lol. But it's a competition, so oh well, people will always look for that edge.

1911's are really popular too. Another good "carry gun" apparently :)

I looked on the IDPA website and Glock is just massively over-represented. I know a lot of people worship at the Church of Glock, but the Springfield fits my hand better. And you know, palm feel is a third of what makes a good shooter.

Funny you mention .40 recoil. When I first got this piece I was used to 9mm and the high snap of the .40 was really foreign to me. Even at the range it requires me to focus a lot more on grip, squeeze, and stance fundamentals. With a 9mm you can get away with being sloppy a bit. But like you said, when I started this IDPA thing and you're racing against the clock, I barely even notice it. I think adrenalin and muscle memory take over when the pressure is on, I don't know.

Pretty cool you have a place you can shoot outdoors! The local range has no A/C and it gets pretty hot here in the Carolina's. Our IDPA course is outdoors though, and man, before long I'm sweating buckets.

"The whole principle [of censorship] is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak." -- Robert Heinlein

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