Dr. Brad Bushman, Ohio State University – Video Games and Shooting Skill

Jul 19, 2012

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Brad Bushman of Ohio State University reveals the connection between first person shooter video games and real-world marksmanship.

Brad Bushman is a professor of communication and psychology and the Margaret Hall and Robert Randal Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication at Ohio State University where he studies the causes and consequences of human aggression and violence.  His research has been featured on numerous television programs and in more than 100 peer-reviewed academic journals.  He holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Missouri.

About Dr. Bushman

Dr. Brad Bushman – Video Games and Shooting Skill

People who play a lot of violent video games are not just entertaining themselves, even if that’s their goal. They’re also learning – learning how to fire a real gun and aim for the head of their target. Now, it’s no surprise that video games can improve shooting accuracy – the military and police already use video games for that purpose. But in a recent study, we showed that average players can also improve their accuracy.

In our study, we had college students play one of three different video games for just 20 minutes:  a violent shooting game with humanoid targets that rewarded headshots, a nonviolent shooting game with bull’s eye targets, or a nonviolent, nonshooting game. Participants who played a shooting game used either a standard controller or a gun-shaped controller. Afterwards, we had them fire 16 shots at a life-size mannequin using an airsoft training pistol, which has the same weight, texture and firing recoil of a real 9mm semi-automatic pistol.

The results showed that players who used a pistol-shaped controller in a violent, shooting game had 99% more head shots and 33% more other shots compared to other players. We didn’t tell players to aim for the head – they did that naturally because the violent shooting game they played rewarded head shots.

These results should give all of us pause. We shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss violent video games as just harmless fun. That’s not to say these games necessarily lead people to commit violent crimes. But the study does suggest that these games can teach players to shoot more accurately and aim for the head. That’s something to think about before we buy our teenager a violent shooting game.