Bite the bullet: videogames don't make deadly shooters

Bite the bullet: videogames don’t make deadly shooters

Is there an explicit link between playing violent videogames and becoming a deadly killer? If we are to take seriously a new study published in the journal Communication Research, there seems to be. Cue tabloid headlines of the sort: “Is the Xbox Turning Your Child Into A Deadly Shooter?” Maybe such…

The supposed link between videogames and violence is riddled with holes. Rudy Lara

Is there an explicit link between playing violent videogames and becoming a deadly killer? If we are to take seriously a new study published in the journal Communication Research, there seems to be.

Cue tabloid headlines of the sort: “Is the Xbox Turning Your Child Into A Deadly Shooter?”

Maybe such articles will also casually mention the 1999 Columbine Massacre, in which 13 people were killed by two students who just so happened to play videogames.

Or maybe they’ll feature a photo of Anders Breivik because he mentioned playing Modern Warfare 2 (after all, we took everything else he said seriously, right?).

Such articles won’t feature any critical engagement or scrutiny of the actual complexities of videogame play – just more mind-numbing nods to another simplistic study, yet again seeming to prove violent videogames make players into killers.

Actually, this isn’t what the study – conducted by Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad H. Bushman of the University of Michigan – has shown at all, but it sure does sound good in a press release.

Which is probably what prompted several smaller science news websites to copy-paste the press release as “news”. One of those was accompanied by a photo of the game Modern Warfare 2, which actually has nothing to do with what the study actually found, as we’ll see below.

Another website bothered to find a third party who noted that the methods and findings of the paper are, at best, incredulous. Sadly, this insight was followed by a random reference to, yes, the Columbine Massacre. The story also featured an image of a young boy in camouflage with a plastic gun and knife. Classy.

To be fair, the headline of the study’s press release (put together by SAGE Publications, the publisher of Communication Research) set the tone:

“Violent video games turning gamers into deadly shooters”

This is only marginally more deceptive and slanted than the actual paper, which takes the quote in the headline, “Boom, Headshot!”, from FPS Doug, a fictional character from the fictional web-series Pure Pwnage (see video below). Somewhat ironically, the authors seem oblivious to the fact that Pure Pwnage is a show that satirises the popular image of the pro-gamer with exaggerated, self-conscious stereotypes.

Such (lack of) judgement doesn’t help me shake my initial suspicions that the authors were more concerned with proving their own assumptions about videogames and gamers than they were about expanding any particular body of knowledge.

Regardless of what the paper did or didn’t find, it comes across as construed and misleading. Unfortunately this tends to be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to research on videogames.

What the study actually found is far less exciting than the flourished press release would have us believe:

1) simulations with replicated hardware can help train mechanical and physical skills

2) players who play violent videogames are more likely to aim for the head when playing a game with a gun – be it digital or otherwise – than elsewhere on the body.

The first point hardly counts as a point at all. The second is interesting, certainly, but not the causal link to violent action implied by the study and the accompanying press release.

The authors had 151 college students spend 20 minutes playing one of three videogames: Resident Evil 4 (referred to throughout the paper simply as “a violent shooting game”); the target practice mini game in Wii Play (“a nonviolent shooting game”); or Super Mario Galaxy (“a nonviolent, non-shooting game”).

Afterwards, the subjects took 16 pot shots at a mannequin at a shooting range. The mannequin was placed close enough, the writers note, that the subjects would most probably hit whichever part of the body they chose to aim for.

Most significantly, the subjects who played one of the shooting games were split into two further groups. These sub groups played the game in question with two different types of controllers. One group played with traditional controllers with joysticks and buttons, while the other played with a light-gun controller. That is, a controller shaped like a gun that the player must accurately aim at the targets on the television in order to shoot them.

The findings are hardly surprising. Players that used a “real” gun controller to shoot humanoid enemies in Resident Evil 4 were more accurate at the shooting range than those using a standard controller. Likewise, those that played Wii Play with the “real” gun controller were also more accurate than those that played with a standard controller.

What is more interesting, though, is that those subjects that played Resident Evil 4 were more likely to aim for the head than those that played any other game, regardless of controller type.

Let’s deal first with the controllers. Videogames that use light gun controllers have existed for decades, and have been popular in arcades with series such as Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, and House of the Dead. Such games continue a much older carnival tradition of shooting galleries.

Sometimes the targets are simple targets, but often the player takes the first-person role of a good guy running through corridors, gunning down bad guys. In such games the player’s character is normally pushed along a linear path with no control over movement (giving them the nickname “on-rails shooters”) and the player’s only task is shooting accurately and quickly.

Light-gun games have also appeared on home consoles, but to a far-lesser extent due to the need of specialist controllers and spacious living rooms. The Nintendo Wii, however, has been particularly well-suited for bringing the genre back as the native Wii-mote controllers already shoot infra-red lasers at the TV and only require a cheap gun-shaped plastic holder for the controller to be placed into.

These light-gun games are a perfect example of what I’ve previously labelled synecdochic controllers: the action the player performs in the actual world closely mirrors the action of the character in the fictional world – in this case, aiming and shooting a gun.

That synecdochic controllers such as light guns could train users in the use of firearms is hardly a surprise. You hold the gun the same way as a real gun. You aim and pull the trigger like a real gun. I know of no light guns that give players a realistic lesson in recoil, reloading, bullet-drop, flicking the safety switch, or other essential elements of effective firearm use, but it certainly wouldn’t be hard to design a light gun and a simulation that did teach these things.

Regardless, the current model light guns unarguably train users how to aim a firearm-shaped tool. It’s a replication and a simulation. Driving and flying schools have been doing this for decades. Attach a video simulation to the mechanical hardware you want the student to master, and you have a safe environment for them to practise.


The claim that light gun games can train players to better use firearms is hardly contentious. But I have a problem with the misleading conflation of “light-gun games” and “violent videogames”. This is a gross inaccuracy when you consider what a minor percentage of videogames actually use light guns.

In contrast to the synecdochic light gun, the vast majority of shooting games use metonymic controllers that are more metaphorical in their translation of actual-world action into the fictional world.

Guns are aimed with joysticks and buttons, or with keyboards and mice. You move the camera around until the crosshair overlaps with the targets, and then you press a button to fire. In most videogames that include shooting, the actual-world action of the player has little if any similarities with the functional use of a firearm (though this is complicated when the US Army starts designing drones with controls meant to replicate videogame controllers).

Perhaps replicated firearm usage can train more proficient firearm users, but that is hardly proof that “violent videogames” are turning players into “deadly shooters”.

Unarguably, shooting videogames that use metonymic controls can teach players theoretical things about combat and firearm usage – I wouldn’t even know what “bullet-drop” was were it not for videogames! (In case you were wondering, bullet-drop is essentially the effect of gravity on the fired bullet).

The US army uses its own custom-built game, America’s Army, to teach players how to work as a squad, how different pieces of equipment (from firearms to vehicles) actually work, and (most importantly) how to sign up and join the real army.

But beyond the theoretical or ideological, to teach a practical, physical, applicable skill with a videogame you would need a practical, applicable, synecdochic controller – a mechanical device which acts functionally similar to the real-world counterpart.

Considering that so few violent videogames use light guns (never mind the fact that not all “violent” videogames even depict shooting), it’s quite a stretch to say Whitaker and Bushman’s study proves any connection with violent videogames in general and firearm efficiency.

At worst, the accompanying press release – unlikely to have been written by the study’s authors – was a malicious attempt to grab some easy attention by hinting at a fraudulent but popular connection between violent videogames and gun crimes. At best, the study comes across as a lazy simplification of what videogames do, with little interrogation of how they actually function.

I personally suspect the latter and members of the videogames industry are deserving of at least some of the blame for such a persistently inaccurate depiction. After all, with the way videogames are depicted on television and in films, someone who does not engage with the culture could easily be forgiven for thinking that the vast majority of violent videogames put “real” guns into players hands.

Take this particularly absurd example (see video below) from the fourth season of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Id’s software’s game Rage for the Microsoft Xbox 360 is depicted multiple times throughout the season in what is almost certainly an intentional product placement campaign.

At one point, the character Jesse is shown playing the game, standing in his lounge room with a light gun, blasting mutants and having flashbacks from a real-life gun crime he committed, unable to differentiate the two.

The thing is, Rage doesn’t use a light gun. At all. There is no version of the game that does. At some point, Microsoft, Id Software, or the game’s publisher, Bethesda, must have OK-ed this scene, knowing Rage would be depicted as using a light gun even though it only ever uses a typical controller. Worse is the fact the scene would claim the player, Jesse, couldn’t differentiate between shooting mutants and actual people.

It’s obvious why the show wanted a light-gun version of Rage – Jesse sitting on his couch with a controller would be far less involving, far less emotive. The viewers want to see Jesse actually doing what he is doing in the game.

But still, when a videogame company apparently agrees to have its game misrepresented as something done with real guns by meth addicts who can’t differentiate gameplay from gun crime, who can blame the mass media or the psychological studies? The videogame industry and culture shoots itself in the foot. Or, perhaps more appropriately, the head.

Which brings us back to the one interesting (and perhaps chilling) finding the study in Communication Research does make. Not only were those subjects that used a light gun more accurate than those that used a traditional controller, those that played Resident Evil 4 (either with a light gun or with a traditional controller) were more likely to shoot at a mannequin’s head than anywhere else on the body. This seems to suggest that the game’s temperament of rewarding headshots influenced which part of the mannequin subjects subsequently aimed at.

It’s true, as the study notes, that many shooting games do reward the player for aiming at the head. Sometimes this reward is intrinsic: maybe enemies die quicker from headshots (thus allowing a player to conserve ammunition) or maybe their heads explode in a visually satisfying way.

But headshots also often result in extra in-game points or medals. The 2010 entry in the Medal of Honor series, for instance, while attempting to treat (western) soldiers with respect and sobriety (the movie opens with the sombre “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old” verse from Laurence Binyon’s “For the Fallen”), it rewards players with a medal every time they shoot an enemy in the head.

It’s a weird, jarring design choice which only seems to be there because videogames need to acknowledge headshots.

Perhaps the proliferation and glorification of headshots in videogames can be situated in a much broader media context, where films, television series, and novels have all romanticised and glorified firearm accuracy generally and headshots specifically.

Many action films, such as Bad Boys II (warning: graphic video), end with the good guys dramatically and stylishly ending the bad guy with a headshot, while the depiction of Legolas’s accuracy with his bow in Lord of the Rings is treated as nothing less than poetry. It speaks to both the majestic, superhuman aim of the shooter and the utterly conclusive death of the victim.

Whitaker and Bushman’s study certainly seems to show that players took their motivation to aim for the head from the videogame to the shooting range. Still, I am not convinced this proves what part of the body these subjects would aim at if confronted with a situation where they had to shoot at a real human. Perhaps they saw the shooting range as just another (non-digital) game with humanoid targets.

After all, if a shooting range has human-shaped targets, it’s not uncommon for those targets to have bullseyes on the forehead. It’s unfortunate the study’s authors didn’t also get subjects to practise at the shooting gallery for 20 minutes, too, to compare this with the subjects’ skill transferal from playing videogames.

My issue with the article (and even more so its accompanying press release) is its unethical presentation, its seeming eagerness to hide its actual findings beneath a rhetorical perspective that reaffirms and strengthens the inaccurate and simplistic view the mass media loves to perpetuate that videogames are evil murder simulators.

As the writers themselves admit, hidden right down the bottom of their conclusion like a murmured confession, the findings of the study do not in any way show any connection between the playing of violent videogames and a likelihood of committing gun crimes or any other violent act:

“Playing the violent shooting game facilitated the learning of shooting behavior but does not necessarily make it more likely that the player would actually fire a real gun.”

They merely show practising with a replicated gun might improve a subject’s accuracy if the situation arose where they had to fire a real gun. But this is a conclusion far removed from the flamboyant press release’s call to “deadly shooters” or the fictional gamer’s cry of “Boom, headshot!” that crowns the article’s title.

Understanding how players engage with videogames and violence that is simultaneously depicted and enacted is a crucial avenue of enquiry. But videogames are complicated things. No less than films. No less than novels. No less than any other form of media people engage with.

It’s about time researchers acknowledged this instead of seeking easy, linear and lazy cause-and-effect models that insult the multitudes of people that play videogames.

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34 Comments sorted by

  1. Callum J Hackett


    Surely the people at SAGE in charge of the press releases are aware that they're presentation of the article was a deliberate obfuscation for the sake of being inflammatory. This kind of reporting should get someone fired.

  2. Ian Donald Lowe

    Seeker of Truth

    As a long-time gamer I have played a few FPS games in my time and they do reward head shots but that is more to do with getting quick, clean kills and surviving a confrontation rather than learning to become a deadly killer. I play online on my computer sometimes and the skills involved have nothing at all to do with using a real weapon but are more related to learning how to touch-type and co-ordination of (mouse) hand eye coordination.

    Even the terms "quick, clean kill" and "deadly killer" are…

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  3. Citizen SG


    Interesting piece. I have to agree that using a light gun can foreseeably improve targeting a real handgun; however, this is quite different to actually operating the real thing. The australian army currently uses simulation with modified weapons of the same weight and recoil and operating system of the real thing (the action is powered by compressed gas not the exhaust gases of the cartridge). These certainly can improve real world shooting but only with coaching.
    I haven't extensively researched…

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  4. Anthony Nolan


    Brendan, I don't know how long your article is but it certainly is a long and vigorous attempt to defend violent gaming. You gamers are clearly on the defensive. The trouble for violent gamers is that you aren't trying to defend your chosen recreation from ignorance, poor reporting or misapprehension. You're trying to defend violent gaming from nothing more complex, or unstoppable, than a growing sense of distaste at what you do for fun.

    I'll illustrate my point by quoting Ian Donald Lowe above…

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    1. Ian Donald Lowe

      Seeker of Truth

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony, I love playing games and I love playing online in player versus player (PvP). I have no shame in admitting that at all. The thing is, I can keep my gaming in context and still be a reasonably intelligent, functioning adult who also happens to be a pacifist (this might suprise some of my online opponents but it's true). My awareness of real life targeting zones comes from real life, not games. As for drones, I wouldn't have a clue how they operate except for what I see in the media.

      Some of the things I might do in a game, I would never do in real life. I would never join an army or even point a firearm at another person for example. This is the difference between fantasy and reality and if you can't keep them seperate then that could be problematic so I would sugest that you continue to steer clear of video games.

    2. Jack OG


      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Anthony, poor illustration of your point!
      As mentioned in the paper itself “In contrast, firearms-training instructors teach individuals to shoot for the upper torso, perhaps because it is the largest lethal target”.
      Did you even read the paper?

      And your comments "a growing distaste (from society) at what you do for fun" ... "Presumably you see yourselves as adults. I don't"
      - A quick google search will remind you that "The average game player is 30 years old and has been playing games for 12 years - The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 35 years old - Over 60% of people are gamers, with over 90% of kids being gamers" etc etc etc...

      Bigotry of the minority is powerful, but increasingly minor, as illustrated above.

  5. John Browne
    John Browne is a Friend of The Conversation.


    Thanks Brendan. Good article.
    All over our country thousands of schoolkids head home every afternoon to their fps mmo games. They spend hours and hours in front of screens in simulated warfare of some kind.
    They get up and go to school the next day.
    Perhaps what the "Breaking Bad" screenwriters were trying to get across with their scene of Jesse Pinkerton (lets give them a bit of poetic license here) was to imagine some other part of the spectrum where a "bad boy", off his face on crystal meth, might just walk out that door, in a country where guns are readily available, and into the real world.
    But we do need more research. We are in uncharted waters here.

  6. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    I know of several kids that play in a particularly aggressive manner - so much so that other kids avoid playing with them. All 3 boys are only primary school age, yet they all spend many hours playing COD (Call of Duty). Interestingly, other kids are associating this violent playing behaviour (which includes specific terminology, moves etc) with the hours these kids spend playing COD. And they avoid them. I know of other kids who occasionally play COD & similar games, but show no particular enthusiasm for them. It's fair to say that some kids, obviously with a predisposition, become addicted to these types of games. You'd only need one to take it a bit of a step further and someone would be seriously injured. These games are an unregulated nightmare-in-waiting. Action is required before results of more studies are completed, and before there is a disaster.

    1. Dene Richards

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      The question then comes in that if these 3 boys are of primary school age, why are they playing a MA15+ game? It's not that it's an unregulated nightmare, it's that some parents and/or guardians don't seem to care what their child plays.

      Also, do you believe that the children have been made more violent through playing this game? Or the fact that the games are fairly violent, has drawn these kids with tendancies of violence? It could swing either way in that age group because, as I said before, they shouldn't even be playing these games at this age.

    2. Fiona Lake

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dene Richards

      I know these kids, and know there has been a change in them since playing these games. It's that simple. Obsessive playing of these games has developed a particular type of behaviour.

      It's blindingly obvious these kids shouldn't be playing these games, regardless of the rating (I can only wonder exactly what parenting experience you've had, with such an obvious comment). It's also true that underage kids shouldn't smoke, drink or do a whole host of other things deemed unsuitable for their age. That's why such things are banned, and policed. Go and do a survey of primary school children and you'll be shocked at what kids are allowed to do. Parents are overstretched, more than ever before in recent history. That's reality. They need help to keep their kids on track. Tougher restrictions on unsuitable games would help parents do the best job they can.
      And I'd turn it around. What good can such games do anybody? Anything positive?

    3. Ruari Moran


      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Obsession in any form can be dangerous, no matter the media. Whether these kids are watching violent television shows, movies or games isn't really the issue, the point is that they are obviously displaying symptoms of addiction and obsession which are unhealthy.

      But, Dene is correct in saying its the responsibility of the parents to police the activities of the kids. Much like if they were addicted to drugs and thus other children didn't want to play with them, they are doing something illegal…

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    4. Ian Donald Lowe

      Seeker of Truth

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      And I'd turn it around. What good can such games do anybody? Anything positive?

      1. Improve keyboard and mouse skills when played on a computer.
      2. Improve planning and strategic thinking skills.
      3. Improve teamwork and organisational skills. (In FPS war games, the best team wins every round)
      4. Help keep reflexes and mental agillity sharp in older gamers.
      5. Offer a platform for social interaction with other gamers from all over the world.
      6. Provide passive entertainment that can actually be a release for tension and aggression.
      7. Video gaming has pushed the development of computer power and graphics at every stage, with some gaming consoles leading the way to new technologies.
      8. Many games involve multi-tasking skills and some may even require a high degree of mathermatical calculation and team co-ordination (or management) skills.

      Thank you for asking the question Fiona. Hardly anyone ever does look for the positives in video gaming.

  7. Jack OG


    Just to skip any hype, prejudice and general BS, I have chosen to (mostly) only comment on the paper concerned (helps to read it before posting any pre-conceived views) and it actually sheds some interesting light on the topic:

    Gaming participants firing 16 shots IRL (in real life) shown in Figure 1: As expected, accuracy is shown to increase with more violent/realistic/simulated shooters - For ‘Violent Shooting (gun controller)’ participants, the accuracy was (to round the figures) 7 body hits…

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  8. Tim Scanlon

    Author and Scientist

    I'm not a gamer. I prefer reading. I agree with Brendan.

    There seems to be this warped perception that anti-gamers are trying to prove with these kinds of studies. The study is deliberately biased. They didn't try to measure whether the gamers were actually able to handle a gun for real - close enough to be able to hit whatever they pointed at... - so they weren't measuring training effects. They weren't measuring psychological impacts of shooting in real life, especially the ability to kill a…

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  9. Fiona Lake

    logged in via Facebook

    Ok, another question: how many of these discussions (well if you could call it that; I'd actually argue that some of the comments are lectures rather than discussions) are entered into by women? And how many by parents of teenagers?
    Tim - you can do better that trot out adjectives like 'warped' when you're commenting. And surely, the comments above are mostly just doing what you've complained about (i.e., they're really 'just pushing an agenda', but in the opposite direction). Ditto most other…

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    1. Ruari Moran


      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Instead of another "lecture" you would argue isn't really a discussion, how about I just ask exactly what your point is.

      You think violent games are harmful, especially for young children, correct?

      You want there to be "Tougher restrictions on unsuitable games" "before results of more studies are completed", ie action before we have the relevant information correct?

      Exactly what are you suggesting? I fail to see exactly what your argument, which is based off the negative effect of a game…

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    2. Ruari Moran


      In reply to Ruari Moran

      Also, not to be petty, but dismissing computer and typing skills as "fairly specific and mainly just help them play games better " seems ignorant to say the least.

      I would imagine around 80-90% of office jobs require these skills today, without offering any formal training.

      I certainly find them handy to have.

    3. Scott Dunsdon

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      I also recommend parents concerned about their children's gaming habits do their best to educate themselves about the games they are playing as best as possible. That same website has a series of articles designed for parents.


      I hope you find some of it useful in allaying your own concerns and empowering you to work with the kids you speak about in your comments.

    4. Ruari Moran


      In reply to Scott Dunsdon

      I support this kind of thinking 100%.

      Much like a parent would turn off the TV if they walked in on their 12 year old watching porn, failure to do so when they are playing games that are designed to be played by an 18+ audience* makes them accountable to a certain extent. (*admittedly games like Call of Duty are stuck under an MA15+ rating due to the lack of an R18+ rating for games in Australia, but one is currently being introduced to rectify this problem)

      No it doesn't mean the fault lies completely on the parents, considering factors like the lack of information on the topic and the amount of naivety there still is regarding games as a mature medium, but neither is it the responsibility of the games industry to censor their content to stop what goes on in your own home.

      For comparison, alcohol companies promote safe drinking and not to drink and drive, but they aren't about to stop selling alcohol just because drunk people get behind the wheel.

    5. Dene Richards

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona - I was suggesting no such thing, I assumed you were a teacher or something along those lines. I have no children and don't see any in the near future. This has no impact on my argument whatsoever. The best way to prevent a child from accessing material that they shouldn't be is parental supervision. I'm not saying that the parent needs to always sit with them while they're playing but at least educating themselves on what their child is doing and seeing what their child is actually playing.

      Simply bringing out an argument that parents are too busy to, well - parent, is completely absurd.

    6. Ian Donald Lowe

      Seeker of Truth

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona, first of all, let me say that obsessive or compulsive behaviour in any form that impacts on leading a full and active life is not good and it is usually a warning sign that there is something more going on to cause that behaviour in the first place.

      The case that you gave of three boys who play CoD obsessively could show that these boys are finding something in the gaming world that they are not getting in the real world, such as positive reinforcement perhaps, or a sense of achievement…

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    7. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Fiona Lake

      Fiona, I can see how my comment could be interpreted that way, but I'm coming from a non-gamer perspective. The reason I use the terms "warped" and the like is that I have looked for actual data that supports the claims that are often made in the media and in studies such as this. It just isn't there, yet the claims are continually made like they are true.

      Social sciences are usually weak on actual hard data, and the few actual experiments such as this one are clearly biased. So my terminology…

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  10. Jackson W. Ryan

    logged in via Twitter

    First of all, I just want to say that this is an excellent article, so thanks for filling my Wednesday arvo with something stimulating.

    In my eyes the study does not imply that there is a causal link between violent actions and violent video games. The conclusion clearly states:

    “Playing the violent shooting game facilitated the learning of shooting behavior but does not necessarily make it more likely that the player would actually fire a real gun. These results instead indicate that if such…

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    1. Brendan Keogh

      PhD Candidate, game studies at RMIT University

      In reply to Jackson W. Ryan


      Thanks for the excellent and thorough comment. I did try to stress (and perhaps I could have stressed it much clearer) that I had no issue with what the study 'actually' found, and that it is perhaps interesting how many subjects aimed for the head. Still,my primary issue with the paper itself was its presentation and, as you note, its subjective use of words like "violence". And, certainly, 'deadly' is an accurate term, but so loaded with connotations! "Accurate shooters" would have…

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  11. Scott Dunsdon

    logged in via Facebook

    Great article Brendan. I think your point about the industry agreeing to such distorted portrayals in popular media is really interesting!

    Is it perhaps the media arms of game publishers are not as in touch with the realities and intricacies of gaming as say, the developing studios are? Are they coming from the angle that all publicity is good publicity?

    Definitely a case of shooting the industry in the foot though.

  12. Richard Hockey

    logged in via Facebook

    fantastic article Brendan. I had a bit of exchange with one of the authors a few years ago on his assertion that video games were as dangerous as passive smoking. Its unfortunate that this author and others such as Craig Anderson don't devote some of this effort into researching some of the real reasons for violence such as poverty and family breakdown. Also maybe when it comes to gun violence they might well consider some level of gun control.

  13. James Wookey


    It seems to me to be history repeating.

    The same critisims that are leveled at video game (violence, obsession, anti-social behavior, errosion of morals, etc) have been used against emerging forms of entertainment and new social trends for centuries. Had we been having this debate 60 years ago it would have been about the dangers of "Rock 'n' Roll" or 100 years ago maybe over women showing their ankles on a public beach (gasp).

    The obsessive or anti-social behaviours described by some would…

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  14. Dan Smith

    Network Engineer

    I saw this study*, right, where some people are shown videos of parents holding babies, and others are shown people holding kittens. When given a real baby to hold, the subjects who were shown baby-holding did better at holding babies. ERGO, YOUTUBE VIDEOS OF BABIES CAUSES PREGNANCY.

    But seriously, this is another in a neverending series of studies that get sexed up by PR spivs and reproduced uncritically by media outlets desperately seeking revenue. There are some important arguments to be had…

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  15. Peter Bruce

    Software Engineer

    Thanks Brendan,
    So many "studies" achieve the "results" that they want to achieve. Objectivity is very often lost. So often I see conclusions drawn from data sets that are simply incorrect. Data spikes are ignored when they should be focused on. This is a very common research problem.

    Those that seek to find a link between shoot 'em games and real violence are simply wasting their time and the tax payers hard earned money.

    There is an erormous difference between a gamer trying to get his or…

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  16. Peter Bruce

    Software Engineer

    I think Scrabble was a greater potential for inducing violence.

  17. Will Marmol

    Devil's Advocate

    I was raised on Mortal Kombat, an atrocity of violence and blood lust. I have never even been in a serious fight and I do not use my real gun to hunt because it is cruel.

    With that said, games are simulations. Playing violent games does foster more aggression to a degree. For most children, that means very little. For children with violent tendencies, it means the games are troublesome. I remember the GTA games coming out and teachers screaming bloody murder while us kids enjoyed the fun…

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