Faulty Research: Questioning the Link Between Video Games and Violence

Back when “Ms. Pac-Man” cocktail tables were all the rage, were parents worried about games causing their children to break into violent outburst? It’s a topic of much discussion today, with realistic, first-person shooter games solely in the spotlight. Study after study has tested the connection between video games and violence, with mixed, and now conflicting results. One study claimed playing first-person shooter games trained gamers to use weapons more accurately in real life. That study is now being retracted.

Bushman’s Research

Brad Bushman, a professor at Ohio State University, conducted a study titled “Boom, Headshot!: Effect of Video Game Play and Controller Type on Firing Aim and Accuracy” that was published in the journal Communications Research in 2012.

The study involved 151 students who were first questioned on their history using firearms, their favorite video games and their current aggression levels. The students were then split into three groups. The first group played “Resident Evil 4,” the second group played a target game on Nintendo Wii and the third group played “Super Mario Galaxy.”

Once the video game play portion of the test was completed, the three groups were brought back together and asked to shoot a mannequin target using rubber bullets. The group that played “Resident Evil 4” had the highest number of hits and headshots. The study concluded that some games had the ability to train gamers to excel at firearm use.

What’s the Big Deal?

Since the study was published, it’s been a source of debate between the original author, Bushman, and two other researchers, Patrick Markey from Villanova University and Malte Elson from Ruhr De Bochum University in Germany. They noticed a major inconsistency in the data points, or as they would describe it, the data had a “positive weight” in favor of the study’s conclusion. When the journal attempted to check the data, it could not be found in Ohio State University’s archives.

Even though it’s not the first time Bushman has been forced to correct the original findings of his research, he still claimed that Markey and Elson’s complaints were a personal attack on his reputation. Nevertheless, he agreed to retract the study and the journal has issued an apology. It looks like video games might not train gamers to become expert marksmen after all.