CNN – Drawing Dangerous Conclusions on Gaming


In the wake of recent violence, discussions on whether violence in video games can have negative impacts on violence in real life. While we personally feel this type of study and conclusion can be almost impossible to conduct (too many variable and unknown factors), they can offer great insight. CNN recently published an article on how they feel violence in video games can certainly impact real life and the steps they feel we should take to avoid such situations. We would like to take some time to break down this article and point out some major flaws in the conclusions. Note, this is my opinion but I feel that CNN’s words can be harmful.

The article for discussion: ‘If a possible mass shooter wants to hone his craft, don’t hand him a virtual boot camp’ was published March 5, 2018 and can be fond here:

There are at least four major flaws that we’ve identified in this article. Let’s start off with the following:

There is at least one documented case of a killer using a first-person shooter game to improve his combat skills. According to the Guardian, the Norwegian shooter Anders Breivik told the court in 2012 that he used “a holographic aiming device” in the game “Call of Duty” to develop his target acquisition abilities.”

This excerpt has poor wording and is just not correct. This is not a ‘documented case’, this is the court ramblings of a mass shooter. I do not think we should hold anything these individuals say as truth, let alone use them as the tried and true ‘documented case’. A mouse/keyboard, or controller is not the same as using an actual weapon. The same way when we play NHL, NFL or FIFA games we do not develop the skill and athleticism of a professional athlete. Our minds, bodies and brains do not function in this way.

The article then goes on to shift tones about how the ‘realistic’ nature of virtual reality (VR) games can allow individuals to hone their shooting skills:

“First, let’s change the physics of bullets. Think about a Frisbee. In order to hit a target straight ahead, one needs to arc it to one side, to account for its return swing. If virtual reality bullets also traveled with a slight curve, then virtual shooters would always be pointing away from a target in order to eventually hit it. This learned side-aiming would likely carry over to the real world, and people would have trouble hitting a target straight ahead. A more subtle example can be seen in paintball, which has pellets that move slower than real bullets, and subsequently slightly change the way shooters aim the guns based on gravity, wind and other factors.”

I am not sure if this individual has actually played VR games, but this is not how they work. To suggest that they are so realistic that a solution is to change the physics so they cannot be used as practice is just ludacris. VR games are so extraordinarily far from realistic that these changes are laughable. As the technology progresses we may want to think about this, but currently and for the foreseeable future this is just not even an argument.

“Second, guns in games shouldn’t have the mechanics of real ones. You shouldn’t hold a realistically weighted, gun-shaped object and pull a trigger in virtual reality. Instead, to operate a virtual gun, you should flick your wrist or bend your elbow. Before you discount this idea, think about the wildly entertaining types of weapons one typically sees in superhero movies — guns that are far too big for normal people to carry, for example. This way, muscle memory for virtual guns will be abstract. A player can log hundreds of hours as a virtual shooter and be utterly perplexed when picking up an actual gun.”


Again, I doubt this individual has actually seen or held the VR controllers. Realistically weighted? Gun shaped? No and No. Also, to suggest that a user would need to use a VR gun to develop the idea of muscle memory to understand that pulling a trigger makes the gun shoot is also a bit disingenuous. I think the vast majority of individuals understand how guns work and to suggest that VR or video games will allow them to better associate the pulling of a trigger to shoot a gun is a massive stretch.

The last point, is perhaps the most outlandish and dangerous because it actually has historical significance and precedence.

“Another change that makes sense — and I am happy that most, though not all, virtual reality games are adopting this strategy — is to have the targets in games be nonhuman. For example, virtual shooters should aim at robots. Robots move and are shaped differently from humans. But designers can animate them to move much faster than humans, or to have skills that humans don’t, like flying. Hence virtual reality would teach skills that would not work as well when aiming at people.”

This argument falls apart in many ways. To suggest that targets should be dehumanized is also suggesting to remove emotional context of killing.This contradicts their own idea that VR is so realistic it could train killers. Although the merit of their claims are in question, the author is literally suggesting that VR is both realistic enough to train a mass shooter and to change VR so users will disassociate any human emotion with killing. THIS IS A HORRIBLE IDEA. I think the author needs to re-read that very slowly to understand what they are actually suggesting. Looking at this idea in a historical context we can go back to 1939. This type of dissociation was pushed before, during World War 2. Propaganda was used to associate the enemy soldiers with robots so people did not feel as emotional when we had to fight and kill. Again, I would argue this is the LAST thing we want. If we honestly think VR is too realistic and dangerous, the last thing we want to give potential threats the training they need to kill and the emotional disconnect from humans nullifying any emotional consequences for the killings.

This is a heavy topic and lot to take in. I suggest you read the CNN article and understand of it what you can from your own experiences. I attempted to include as large of excerpts from the article as possible to avoid any misrepresentation of the author’s words. These types of suggestions do show a clear disconnect between reality and games. Which is quite ironic. This article would suggest that some individuals already have their minds made up on the effects of video games on violence , and while we cannot say for sure one way or the other on this topic. It is very important to understand that the absence of evidence is NOT the evidence of absence.

About the Author

Chris Mumpton
AButton Games Administrator

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