Recently, while I was researching the subject of firearms training I came across something very interesting. I happened upon Force Science News #280, and was stunned to learn about a study conducted at Ohio State University whose outcome indicated that those who play violent video games involving violent shooting, heighten the individual’s firing accuracy. Moreover, these types of games influence the game players to make headshots, rather than shots at center mass.

I’ve never played these types of games, but I’ve watched others play them. Two games in particular, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, seem particularly violent but also quite realistic. There is a never-ending array of bad guys, and the game player must be quick to engage them with deadly accuracy. Making too many shots on one adversary puts a player in danger of being shot themselves by other opponents. Thus, many players are conditioned to make headshots, since those automatically register as a kill. Ohio State Doctors Jodi Whitaker and Brad Bushman theorize that this conditioned behavior by players means they are “… more likely to repeat this behavior outside of the video game context.”


The study involved 151 student volunteers, half of which were white males. The group was randomly divided among three activities:

A violent shooting game with realistic humanoid targets
A non-violent game shooting bulls-eye targets
A non-violent non-shooting game for 20 minutes

Each shooting group fired 300 rounds using either the standard push button game controllers, or a pistol shaped controller in which the trigger was the firing mechanism. When the participants finished their assigned activity, they were each given an Airsoft training pistol which approximated the weight, feel, and recoil as a real 9mm pistol. Then each student was required to fire 16 rounds at a mannequin positioned 20 feet away down a narrow hallway.


Students that played the violent shooting game not only had the most hits on the mannequin, but they also had 99% more headshots than the others.
Students playing the non-violent non-shooting game had the fewest head hits and fewest hits elsewhere.
Results were not affected by any previous firearms experience.

The doctors were quick to point out that the study does not mean “that a person who plays violent shooting games is more likely to fire a real gun at a person.” However, “if such a person were to fire a gun, he or she would fire more accurately and be more likely to aim for the head.”

The study is available (for a fee) in the journal “Communication Research” under the title: “Boom, Headshot Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy.”

After digesting the study and its results, the question that automatically popped into my head was, “Do these types of violent games cause people to commit crimes?” According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), the research is insufficient to draw the conclusion that violent games cause crime. However, there is marked aggression in those who play, but it doesn’t follow that playing the games leads to criminal behavior.

Research has concluded that more than 90% of children play video games, and 85% of those games contain some violence. That notwithstanding, a task force found that while aggression increased, video games alone can’t explain this aggression. It seems the aggression is a result of an “accumulation of risk factors.” These factors include depression, delinquency or academic problems, and antisocial behavior.

Ohio State University’s Brad J. Bushman has done extensive work on violent media, to include games and aggression. He disagrees with APA conclusion of no link between violent video games and violent behavior. However, he said, “One can never know for sure whether playing violent video games causes violent criminal behavior, because it is unethical for researchers to allow participants to engage in violent criminal behavior in their laboratory experiments.” An article by CBS News on this topic can be found here.

The other question that came to mind was, Might we in LE better hone our own firearms skills by utilizing these types of video games? It seems more and more thugs are wearing ballistic vests, and we’re possibly wasting shots to center mass. Think about it.

Stay Safe, Brothers and Sisters!

By John Wills |