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Researcher Connects Playing Shooters With Better Aim

| 2 May 2012 00:00
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Playing games with gun-shaped controllers apparently makes you a better real-life killer.

Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State University is fairly well-known among gamers for his staunchly anti-game research, which has determined with remarkable consistency that violent videogames will be the end of us all and that anyone who suggests otherwise is probably either lying or incompetent. His latest bit of science follows in pretty much the same track, declaring that gamers who spend as little as 20 minutes playing first-person shooters with controllers shaped like guns display significantly better real-life aim than those who don't.

Bushman had 151 college students fill out a survey to determine their level of aggression, attitude toward and knowledge of guns, and how often they played videogames. They then spent 20 minutes playing either Resident Evil 4, which rewards players for making headshots on "realistic human targets," the target shooting game in Wii Play or Super Mario Galaxy. Then they all went out to the range [or wherever] and busted some caps.

The conclusion? Players who used a gun controller in a shooting game with human targets scored 99 percent more headshots on mannequin targets using a real gun than those who played the other games, and also had 33 percent more shots hit other parts of the mannequin, most of which probably landed in the poor dummy's junk. [That's not actually part of the research results, just a guess.] The study also found that people who regularly play violent shooting games are more accurate and get more headshots than those who do not.

Dr. Bushman, according to his website, has a Ph.D. in social psychology, whereas I'm more of what you'd call a high-school flunkout, so I certainly wouldn't presume to challenge the academic validity of his study. But I'm not entirely sure what the breakthrough here really is. Assuming his results are accurate, which is impossible to even guess at without knowing his methodology, giving people practice in a simulated environment in order to make them better in the real world is hardly a new idea. Should we really be surprised that 20 minutes with a light gun gives one a steadier hand and better eye on the firing range?

On the other hand, the suggestion that people who play shooters in general are better marksmen is absolute nonsense. It makes about as much sense as claiming that jumping up and down on a box of Band-Aids can make someone a better doctor.

As GamePolitics points out, the release of Bushman's results coincides with testimony from Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who claimed that he trained his shooting skills with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Probably coincidental, but more than a little fortuitous, too.

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