back to article Want to be a better marksman? Play shooting games

Gamers who play shooting games have improved accuracy when firing a weapon in real life, a new study has found. They're also more likely to aim for the head, apparently. Researchers from Ohio State University asked 151 college students a series of personality assessment questions related to guns and gaming habits, before …


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  1. MJI Silver badge

    I better have a go with a neighbours guns then

    All legal of course, ex army ect I have no issue with him owning them. But I play shooting games a lot with motion control so literally point & shoot, so I wonder how I would do?

    Perhaps they should have done PS Sharpshooter & real rifle and see what happened.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: I better have a go with a neighbours guns then

      You would lose.

      Video games and dummies don't shoot back.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. ItsNotMe
        Thumb Up

        Re: Re: I better have a go with a neighbours guns then

        With no real recoil from the video games...he would most likely be killing flying squirrels with most of his shots.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: I better have a go with a neighbours guns then

          I have used air pistols / rifles years ago fun actually.

          1 go with shotgun

          But never a bullet gun

      3. MJI Silver badge

        Re: I better have a go with a neighbours guns then

        Paper targets don't shoot back

        Other players do shoot back - but there is no respawn in real life

    2. Marvin the Martian

      Re: I better have a go with a neighbours guns then

      That's not what the study tested: the study found that experienced shooter players are better at playing shoots than the average person, and play it in ways that in some games score more points (headshots vs bodyshots).

      The study hasn't even shown that people improved through playing (though that is obviously true): in this study, people without interest in shooting games are seen to be worse at it than those who like them. So, have the non-players given it a pass long ago when they found they had no talent at their first tries, being untalented? Are the uninterested players not paying as much attention as those engaged by the genre? Etc. All hypotheses to reject before you conclude anybody has learned anything.

    3. dogged


      Headshots are bad, mmkay? Two in the torso, one in the head.

  2. Bassey

    Well bugger me sideways

    People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it than people who don't. Fuckin' hey! Research grant well spent, guys.

    1. Francis Boyle

      Re: Well bugger me sideways

      According to that logic I should be able to fly a 747, drive a Formula One car, and pilot the Space Shuttle.

      1. Lee Dowling

        Re: Well bugger me sideways

        If you added the disclaimer "better on your first attempt than someone who HASN'T played any sort of simulation" (which is what this study really shows), then I'd actually say:

        Yes. You probably should (be better).

      2. Graham Bartlett

        Re: Well bugger me sideways

        Plenty of pilots have indeed used PC-grade flight sims to practise. And *all* commercial and military pilots have used pro-grade flight sims to practise.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it

      If you think playing a FPS is practice for a real gun, you clearly haven't done both of those things.

      1. Bassey

        Re: People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it

        Incorrect. Have done plenty of both - though no real pistols. Just shot guns and air rifles. And, other than the obvious kick-back from a shot gun - which only takes a couple of shots to get used to - they are damn near identical. Aim, track, squeeze. It isn't difficult.

      2. Eponymous Cowherd

        Re: People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it

        I have done both, and there is some truth in this.

        I used to do a bit of clay shooting and was pretty average. After some extensive use Wii Crossbow Training I found I had actually improved. Not a lot, but noticeably.

        Now I know wielding a Wii controller is nothing, at all, like a real shotgun, but it did have an effect. My assumption is that the game improved the time I took to recognise the target, giving me more time to aim and fire.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it

          One huge difference with moving targets

          Real guns you need to aim ahead, game guns you don't.

          BTW 2 shots still missed the clay disc, I reckon another couple and I would have hit it.

          1. Smallbrainfield

            Re: People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it

            "Real guns you need to aim ahead, game guns you don't."

            Not sure what games you're playing. Was on BF3 last night, long range sniping down a street, you have to account for bullet drop and the fact you're trying to hit a guy running across the road means you aim ahead. I discovered I'm pretty crap at long range sniper shooting.

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Re: People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it

              Scifi guns don't suffer from bullet drop. Even the bullet based sniper weapons - you need to ask Visari Corp.

              The speed of the normal rifles again you are close quarters, you tend to just shoot them.

              I will try the lead in tonight if I play with the sniper, but normally if their hit box is in the sights, I shoot they die. But normally you are sniping people camping or running towards you. Panning a sniper rifle is not easy with motion controls.

      3. L.B.

        @Ac 12:31

        My first reaction to this article was bullshit, but then I read it.

        The players doing the shooting games were using controller designed to be held and used in a similar way to real hand guns.

        As such they got out of the chairs and used muscles they would not normally use in that way, it is often referred to a muscle memory by sportsman.

        This is almost certainly the only reason for them to be better (and also they defectively practised doing nothing but head-shots) than those doing the Mario games who were probably just sitting down fiddling with a joypad.

        Remember they said nothing about them being "good shots", just better. The article never stated the range they shot the real guns over, so scores are meaningless. Shooting a stationary manikin in the head at say 10 yards is a lot easier that at 25 yards.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well bugger me sideways

      "People who practice doing something turn out to be better at it than people who don't. Fuckin' hey! Research grant well spent, guys"

      Though if there was an article about how in his trial Breivik has said that he used computer games to practice shooting people before he went off to kill 70+ kids then you'd get a chorus of people rubbishing the connection between computer games and being good and shooting

      1. Andydude

        Re: Well bugger me sideways

        Well he played Warcraft a lot. That must be relevant as all the papers reported it. Personally I'd like to know if he ate a lot of marmite and cheese sandwiches, that would speak volumes...

  3. Jon Double Nice

    Have they tried this with Cooking Mama

    and making sandwiches?

  4. Paul Westerman

    side effect

    The participants also got better at camping

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The point is?

    The same would apply to laserquest players

    So you can still get degrees in "The bleedin Obvious"

    Hand-eye co-ordination can be improved with simulations. So what?

    Sitting on your butt at home staring at a screen, flight sims don't make you a pilot, shoot em ups don't make you a badass soldier.

  6. Vanir

    Yes, but ...

    how well would they do against a gang of marauding zombie mannequins?

    I think I'd fill me underpants if so confronted - thinking about head shots would be immediately replaced with the flee instinct.

    No magical herbs etc in real life - I think. No NHS in Resident Evil 4 - well if there was it obviously failed the zombies.

    Real life is a DiD scenario -

  7. Thomas 18

    aggression vs accuracy

    I expect aggression reduces ability to aim, probably also lowers your fear reaction to firing a gun. What would be interesting is how long term the benefit is i.e. if you train the people for a week do they all end up at the same level.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember...

    years ago, when my girl friend had to do some shooting practice, AK-47 by the way - she was to work as a prison psychologist. You'd say "wow, what country applies assault weapons to solve psycho "issues?!" But then, it was the rules (nowadays called "the system") and, when you think about it, on top of persuasion and negotiation skills, knowing how to operate an AK in time of a prison riot DOES come in handy ;).

    Anyway, the best, truly marksman results apparently came from a guy who admitted, rather bashfully, to have had "extensive" video gaming practice. Now, I don't know how you can get a marksman results from an AK-47 ever, unless shooting from a prone position, but she wasn't a person to make up stories and she found the whole thing hilarious at that time. What happened to the guy? Well, he got the job of a prison guard, nothing more "glamorous", I'm afraid.

    I'm still a bit skeptical about conversion from screen to real life though. After all, aiming with a mouse or a joystick, even with best emulation of weight, etc on a computer, is nothing like lifting and aiming a real piece, with your real hand...

    1. Bassey

      Re: I remember...

      "I'm still a bit skeptical about conversion from screen to real life though. After all, aiming with a mouse or a joystick"

      The study did make a distinction between those who had used a traditional controller and those that had used a "similation" aiming device like a wii remote in a gun-mount.

      1. MJI Silver badge


        Huge difference as well between controller and pointing devices.

        I cannot use a normal game controller for a competative FPS at all well.

        I however can use pointing devices OK, in fact the first FPS controls I used were keyboards, then KBM.

        But using a pointing device in a shooter game is so much more natural than wobbling a stick, so much so that I, an over 40 can compete with any other player and not get wiped out. I just position the aiming crosshairs over the opponent and shoot, not even needing to go to sights unless it is a long way away.

        Mind you I find when in game sniping I need to hold my breath to avoid wobble.

    2. Evil Auditor

      Re conversion from screen to real life

      Indeed, it's very different. I'd say it's easier with the real piece, based on experience with assault rifles and pistols. At a time when I was well trained the "double chest and one head" hardly ever failed. And that's definitely not what I may say from my mouse controlled aiming.

  9. Crisp

    The object to your left is your weapon in the upcoming zombie apocalypse

    How boned are you?

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: The object to your left is your weapon in the upcoming zombie apocalypse

      Bag of DVDs... if the zombie apocalypse is of the splatter/comic variety, I might be able to fling them at zombies and behead them.

    2. soddit112

      Re: The object to your left is your weapon in the upcoming zombie apocalypse

      my computer tower, which weighs about 20kg so i could cave in a few zombie skulls with it, and have a bash at Umbrella Corp's super-shady computer network of nefariousness afterwards :P

    3. The Indomitable Gall

      Re: The object to your left is your weapon in the upcoming zombie apocalypse

      The object to my left is a long-distance touring road bicycle. I'm alright with that....

  10. Horridbloke
    Thumb Up

    My personal experience...

    I've wasted many many hours on shoot'em-ups. I and some friends went clay pidgeon shooting for the first time last weekend. At the time it felt a lot like camping in UT and I scored second highest in the group, just behind someone with previous experience in shooting things, so I can believe there's something in this report.

    Caveat: the kick from the shotgun wasn't a big deal. I've had goes with handguns in the past (a 9mm and something bigger, I think it was a 45) and they weren't at all like UT.

    Thumbs-up 'coz guns are awesome.

  11. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    I play shed-loads of Skyrim, so if beating the ancient walking dead in long lost crypts and killing off innocent tribal natives with very large metal weapons charged with supernatural powers is your need, I'm your man!

    There must be a world of difference between firing off a pretend gun with a game controller and using a real weapon that weighs a fair amont and I can imagine, recoils quite harshly.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      I used to play Skyrim all day...

      ... but then I took an arrow to the paycheck

  12. The Grump

    Who knew ?

    Then I must be pretty good at repairing chain saws with baseball bats by playing Fallout New Vegas. Who knew? (LOL)

    Why can't researchers study something important, like how many people use hand air dryers vs paper towels in public restrooms ? (Push button, hold hands under nozzle, wipe hands on pants)

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a waste of research grant

    We have this thing in the Army called the EST 2000.

    Its a weapons simulator that has recoil, albeit not much because most AR-10 derivatives like the M16A2/M4/M4A1/M100 and such don't really recoil. Your first day on the range and a drill sergeant, usually the smallest female drill sergeant in your training company, will fire it off her head, chest, one handed, etc. Its only a little bigger than a .22, its a 5.56x45mm round which is roughly equivalent to .223. You could fire .223 Remington rounds through it if you absolutely needed to in all actuality. So recoil with that particular type of rifle isn't really an issue and unless you're in a Route Clearance company, or if you're a designated marksman, the AR-10 derivatives are what you'll use. They use compressed air to simulate the round firing, and in all honesty the recoil from the air compressor can be rougher than actually from firing a round. Its sure as hell louder.

    It also features a sort of multiplayer, cooperative tactical video game with dynamically scripted variables that can be modified by the operators in real time (For instance, one I recall clearly was a situation where we're defending a bazaar in Iraq from terrorists that were going to try to detonate a VBIED/Car Bomb, and the operators will throw in a moral dilemma, do I shoot the guy that I think has an AK47 under his robes thats sitting there watching the road and one of the entrances to the area or not? Because it may or may not be a weapon and if it isnt, I just shot a dude for no reason, which in the real world is generally frowned upon, the real Armed Forces isn't MW2). Its not for entertainment, the Graphics are about as good as a mid 2000's PC game. It is a very good training tool however because even the operators never see the exact same thing twice.

    So no shit, It does actually work.

    That being said, I dont get how another University got a research grant to find out the same thing that UCF and MIT (IIRC) both did at behest of DARPA, the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force in the 1990's when they were selling the services on the 1st Generation of the currently deployed systems.

  15. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Just wait

    when the mutant camels attack - then you will need us 80s kids to deal with them

  16. Koyaanisq


    Have you ever played Resident Evil 4? Jesus ammo is scarce in that. I'd say that's why they're aiming for the heads. Also, you get to kick them for afterwards, save some more ammo. Then stab them with a knife. Good times.

    I swear to God though, I'd stockpile shotgun ammo and not waste anything but handgun rounds on the Ganados. I preferred a stunning headshot followed by a roundhouse kick, which I guarantee those guys who played RE4 would have done given the opportunity.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Headshots?

      Ammo I find is easy, spawn as engineer and make ammo crates, put up a turret, get killed, come back as a tactician with aerial bot, and get kills off both, sentries do not need ammo.

  17. ek6891

    RE4 doesn't reward for headshots

    "It turns out that those folk who'd played Resident Evil 4, which rewards points for headshots, continued to aim for the head, with an average of seven cranial hits each."

    Like Koyaanisq said, RE4 doesn't reward head shots. It's the most inefficient way of killing enemies in the game, as it takes a lot of head shots to kill an enemy and therefore a lot of bullets (of which there are a very limited supply in-game). As it's such an inefficient way of killing enemies in-game, it is not rewarding players. Players need to sparingly use ammo, which means disabling enemies with shots to limbs and moving in for melee moves.

    Also, the more enemies you kill, the harder the game gets and so it doesn't reward killing. In many instances you're better off outrunning enemies.

    The number of places I've seen report on this report and state that Resident Evil 4 rewards headshots... I wish people would actually research the game a little first. You don't have to play it, but most footage of the game doesn't show players concentrating on head shots.

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