First-person shooter experts hoping for increased accuracy with real-world firearms may want to schedule some more practice on the firing range, as Ohio State University has retracted a study linking FPS gameplay to skill with handguns.
The communication research paper “Boom, Headshot!” first reported a correlation between first-person-shooter players and skilled marksmen in 2012, but the report’s findings have now been called into question following the discovery of “irregularities in some variables of the data set.”
“Boom, Headshot!” tracked several participants who played “a violent shooting game with humanoid targets that rewarded headshots, a nonviolent shooting game with bull’s-eye targets, or a nonviolent nonshooting game.” Reported results indicated that participants who played the violent game with humanoid targets scored “99 percent more headshots and 33 percent more other shots than did other participants,” effectively linking real-world firearm accuracy to skill with first-person shooters.
“These results remained significant even after controlling for firearm experience, gun attitudes, habitual exposure to violent shooting games, and trait aggressiveness,” the 2012 paper concluded. “Habitual exposure to violent shooting games also predicted shooting accuracy. Thus, playing violent shooting video games can improve firing accuracy and can influence players to aim for the head.”
According to Retraction Watch, authors Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman retracted the paper following investigations from Villanova University psychology professor Patrick Markey and Ruhr University Bochum behavior psychology postdoc Malte Elson. Markey and Elson were unable to confirm the results of the study due to the absence of its original research records, leading a Committee of Initial Inquiry at Ohio State University to recommend a retraction.
“I am pleased to see the paper is finally retracted almost 3 years after the authors were first notified of the concerns (and 2 years after it was first reported to the Ohio State University),” Elson told Retraction Watch. “The public record has now been corrected, which is the only thing Patrick and I ever wanted after we found evidence of severe errors in the data on which the now-retracted paper was based.”
“Boom, Headshot!” author Brad Bushman has completed a replication of the initial study, and his findings are now being held for review at Ohio State University.