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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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By MagicSquid on 5/22/2012 9:33:02 PM , Rating: 1
Anders Behring Breivik making the statement that CoD MW2 helped him train to murder children is utter nonsense. It doesn't take any sort of training to stalk and kill unarmed children on an island that they can't escape from when the killer is holding the only firearms on the island. It only takes a really sick and twisted mind and the will to do it.

He was prone to doing this type of thing already, as evidenced in his hate speech ridden statements and online posts and numerous other examples. That he lived out his fantasy of killing people virtually before completing it in the real life just shows he was a sick and twisted person already, and is not evidence that a video game aided him in actually doing it.

If Anders Behring Breivik liked vanilla ice cream, and was eating it and thought it reminded him of someone's brains, and stabbed it with his spoon, would we ban vanilla ice cream because it invoked violent tendencies and fantasies of about hurting people? No. He was already prone to that type of thing, and random, benign things, like ice cream, or a video game can cause that type of behavior to come out. It's not the ice cream or the video game's fault; crazy people do crazy shit.

tl/dr: Crazy people are crazy and find crazy meaning in everyday things.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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