FPS video games don’t make you better shooters in real life

Bradley Wint
Jan 22, 2017 11:12pm AST
Photo: IMGUR

Just in case you’re 13 years old and played hundreds of hours of COD hoping to improve your real life shooting skills, I’ve got some bad news for you.

The editors of Communications Research, a peer-reviewed publication on communication and its related fields, have issued a retraction of one of its papers entitled, ‘”Boom, Headshot!?”: Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy’ by Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman, after discovering statistical inconsistencies “in some variables of the data set” used.

This comes after a year long debate over the validity of data being used in the study. One of the wonderful things about the scientific community is that even after studies are published, there are always other scientists will to re-review those findings to confirm the accuracy of the findings in question.

For those not familiar with the paper, here’s what conclusion the researchers came up with.

This experiment demonstrates how interactive media such as video games can affect learning and behavior. Playing a violent first-person shooting game for only 20 min increased accuracy in shooting a realistic gun, especially at the head. It is important to note that our results do not indicate that a person who plays violent shooting games is more likely to fire a real gun at a person. 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 a person were to fire a gun, he or she would fire more accurately and be more likely to aim for the head. These results indicate the powerful potential of video games to teach or increase skills, including potentially lethal weapon use.

The paper which was published in April 2012, came under great scrutiny as researchers from two different universities noticed statistical inconsistencies and were unable to replicate the results of the study, ultimately concluding that the paper’s results were positively skewed, and that the effects of playing first-person shooters were not long lasting as the paper made it out to be.

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The outside researchers were Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and Malte Elson, a behavioral psychology postdoc at Ruhr University Bochum, in Bochum, Germany.

After years of back and forth, the paper’s authors finally gave it and accepted the retraction.

The editors of Communication Research, Drs. Gibbs and Knobloch-Westerwick, wish to issue a retraction of the article entitled ““Boom, Headshot!?”: Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy” by Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman.

This article was first published online on April 30, 2012 and in print in the October 2014 issue of Communication Research (issue 41, pp. 879-891) as doi:10.1177/0093650212446622. It should be noted that, to ensure impartiality, Dr. Knobloch-Westerwick was not involved in the preparation of this decision, because she is on the faculty at the same institution as the corresponding author. This retraction is in response to inquiries from Drs. Markey (Villanova U) and Elson (Ruhr U Bochum), in agreement with the corresponding author Dr. Bushman.

A Committee of Initial Inquiry at Ohio State University recommended retracting this article after being alerted to irregularities in some variables of the data set by Drs. Markey and Elson in January 2015. Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable. In 2016, Drs. Markey and Elson sent their report to Dr. Gibbs, one of the editors of Communication Research, who decided that a retraction was warranted. A replication of the study by Dr. Bushman is in review.

Unfortunately the timeline documenting the errors discovered in the paper was removed, so it’s hard to say what went wrong at this point, but of course the study would not have been retracted if the journal’s editors were not satisfied with the validity of the information presented.

The study is being replicated to rebuild a data set.

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