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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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gun games have taken over
By Venkman2012 on 6/20/2012 8:46:07 AM , Rating: 2
Gun games are just training us all up for the next world war, lol. There are so many gun games that the shock (ever since DOOM) seems to have waned alot, especially over the last few years. Personally Im bored of the genre, so many games are generic, but its obvious with the genre sells more than any other. So we dont want an 18 rating or the equivalent, right? It just wouldnt be good for sales. A new gun game set in a 'real life iraq' with your character as a US or UK soldier during a fairly recent war might help increase that likely age rating in that genre though. It may be too soon to release now, but you just know that it will be one day. After 2001 we have had non stop terrorism and army related news on our channels, its almost as if the majority of gamers now want to have their own mini-role and take part via first person shooting games.

As for mature games being far more unacceptable in games, thats laughable. So anything of a sexual nature or past mild nudity in games is far worse. What happened to the age rating? You know the reason as to why though. Although the audience that first played Sonic the hedgehog and Mario are far older now, and despite many still playing, games are still considered to be mainly JUST FOR KIDS. In the gaming market, so many kids do play, so games with this kind of content would be considered outrageous, but dont kids also watch DVDs? Im sure there are plenty of DVDs that kids shouldnt watch, again, thats where the good old age rating should come in.

As for anything of a sexual nature in general, in the uk at least (unlike 10 yrs ago) we have now all switched over to free digital tv or satellite. Many children well under the age of 10 have televisions in their bedrooms than ever before. I wonder how many of these kids have played shooting games on console or pc, but people also forget that they can switch that tv on anytime if they cant sleep, and flick through it without their parents knowing-only to find multiple free adult channels they can watch. Not all set top 'freeview' boxes or tvs with digital channels built-in can block or delete them. Not all parents know how to, even if they can. Ill assume its the same as in america and elsewhere. There are multiple petitions online to ban these channels, but I dont see that likely to happen, as those channels are there for a reason-as with the gambling and bingo (whether on tv,net or phone) they all make money, and fast, and its something they are VERY good at. With the difference and opinions between violence and anything of a sexual nature, in games or otherwise, the current certificates suggest that anything of a sexual nature would do far more harm than violence to anyone. I would certainly not want my kids viewing either, but I would think very young kids would likely be more confused with the latter, unlike seeing someones head getting blown off in any shooter-and games of today can look far more realistic than ever before.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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