, , , , ,

Video games that are considered first person shooters are a popular video game genre. I’ve played video games in many forms for the majority of my life; much of my recent playing is based on first person games. Due to controversial events like public / school shootings the topic of violence and video games continues to influence debate and psychological research.

Read Part 1 of our series.

Although my history of video game usage is anecdotal recent research has concluded that video games like first person shooters may have the potential to ,”increase skill, including potential lethal weapon use”. Participants who played a videogame with a pistol shaped controller were 33% more likely to shoot a mannequin with a real gun and 99% more likely to shoot the mannequin in the head (Gamboa, 2012). It seems behaviorism may come into play here as it could be stated the visual reinforcements that accompany lethal shots in game may condition similar behaviors in real life shooting scenarios. How many of you play video games where the sole objective is to fire or propel something into an object or person? Could games like Angry Birds really help in understanding physics? Could sports games on the Wii or Xbox Kinect increase skill in the actual sport?

A second article argues that first person shooter games are being used as training and recruitment. Some argue that first person shooters and flight simulators as training may be used as a type of manipulation or desensitization in preparation for killing another individual. The continued reward of the simulation may make the decision to enlist easier as well as influence behavior and decision making during a lethal event like war.

According to Richard Williams, Technical Director of the US Army’s Systems Integration Modeling and Simulation, “The game mechanics of First Person Shooters are now being implemented to create highly specific tutorials that allow recruits to better understand what they were doing, and who they were fighting” (Voakes, 2012). Recent research by Gackenbach, J., Ellerman, E., & Hall, C. (2011) surveyed 335 military personnel, both active and inactive, the research concluded that after filling out an Emotional Reactivity and Numbing Scale as well as Trauma Inventory it was shown that those who reported a high degree of video game play showed, “less threat and war content in their military dreams than the low-end group” (Gackenbach, 2011).

Both of these news articles could be considered a media psychology issue as they both are concerned with videos games and the potential influence on real world decision making, behavior, emotion and skill. I feel that these simulations may influence decision making and skills as the recruits are given visual rewards and points during the simulations for completing tasks. I think the second article is more directly a media psychology issue, it raises the question of how video games like first person shooters may be desensitizing or manipulating perceptions concerning killing another individual, or completing military tasks. The focus is not video game realism or content itself, and also not solely covering desensitization in the military. These articles are concerned with how the media may be influencing real life behaviors, perceptions, decision making and skill.

By Jim Crenshaw Dec. 12 2015


Gackenbach, J., Ellerman, E., & Hall, C. (2011). Video game play as nightmare protection: A preliminary inquiry with military gamers. Dreaming, 21(4), 221-245. doi:10.1037/a0024972
Gamboa, C. (2012, May 21). Violent video games turning gamers into deadly shooters. Retrieved from potential of video games to teach or increase skills, including potentially lethal weapon use.”
Voakes, G. (2012, June 30). How do video games and modern military influence each other?. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregvoakes/2012/05/30/how-do-video-games-and-modern-military-influence-each-other/