Boom, Headshot!

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Video games make excellent training tools, and a recent study shows that shooting games improve shooting skill:

After completing the surveys, participants were randomly assigned to play either a violent shooting game with realistic humanoid targets (Resident Evil 4), a nonviolent shooting game with bull’s-eye targets (the target practice game in Wii Play), or a nonviolent, nonshooting game (Super Mario Galaxy) for 20 min on a Nintendo Wii attached to a 19-in (48.3-cm) computer monitor. The video games were pretested and selected to be equal in terms of how entertaining and engaging they were but different in terms how violent they were and how much shooting was involved (see Table 1).

For the two shooting video games, participants were also randomly assigned to play with either a standard controller (in which the participant used a joystick to control the aim and pressed buttons to fire) or with a pistol-shaped controller (in which participants pointed at the screen to aim and pulled a trigger to fire). The same controllers were used for both the violent and the nonviolent shooting video games. The gameplay dynamics of the two shooting video games were equivalent: Players aimed at the target onscreen and fired, mimicking aiming and firing in the “real world.”

For both of the shooting video games, sections of the games that featured nonstop shooting gameplay were selected. All participants were monitored to ensure that they did in fact fire continuously during the 20 min of gameplay. Pretesting revealed that approximately 300 shots were fired in 20 min of gameplay in both the violent and the nonviolent games. Therefore, all participants fired approximately 300 shots at either bull’s-eye or humanoid targets during the 20-min video game “training” period.

After playing the video game, all participants fired a total of 16 “bullets” at a 6-ft (1.8-m) tall male-shaped mannequin target covered in hard Velcro that was located at the end of a narrow hall, 20 ft (6.1 m) away. The gun was a black airsoft training pistol that had the same weight, texture, and firing recoil of a real 9-mm semiautomatic pistol. The pistol can fire accurately up to a range of 50 to 70 ft (15.2-21.3 m) and is powered by a 12-g carbon
dioxide cylinder (pressurized air). We chose a 20-ft (6.1-m) firing distance so participants could more accurately hit whatever portion of the mannequin’s body they aimed at. The “bullets” were .43 caliber rubber training rounds covered in soft Velcro. Participants fired all 16 rounds at the mannequin target. Airsoft pistols are typically used for professional firing training (such as with law enforcement and military personnel). Participants were instructed in the use of the pistol and wore safety goggles while shooting. A post-test-only design was employed to eliminate pistol-firing practice effects. A debriefing followed.

As can be seen in Figure 1, participants who played a violent shooting game using a pistol-shaped controller had 99% more headshots than did other participants. Post hoc tests showed that participants who played a violent shooting game using a pistol-shaped controller had the most headshots, whereas participants who played a nonviolent nonshooting game had the fewest headshots. The other participants were between these two extremes and
did not differ from each other. Participants who played a violent shooting game with a pistol controller also had 33% more other shots than did other participants, but they did not differ from participants who played a violent game with a standard controller (see Figure 1). Both groups had more other shots than participants who played a nonviolent shooting game. Participants who played a nonviolent nonshooting game had the fewest other shots.

The researchers clearly aren’t shooters:

An airsoft training pistol was used in this experiment instead of a real firearm. Though the training pistol accurately imitated a 9-mm pistol in many ways, some aspects of firing a real gun–such as the fire and smoke–could not be replicated.

Fire and smoke? Seriously? How about noise and recoil?

Also, they make no mention of the fact that video games don’t ask you to rely on your sights; they place red cross-hairs on the screen. That’s a huge difference — if you’re not point-shooting at close range.

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