The flawed report that made erroneous claims about violent video games

Research that claimed link between shooting games and improved marksmanship retracted

An academic report claiming that playing shooting games helped improve real life marksmanship has been retracted due to irregularities in its cited data.

“Boom, Headshot!” was published in 2012 and claimed to demonstrate that people who played first-person shooting games extensively also became better at shooting real guns. It was headed up by Professor Brad Bushman at The Ohio State University, who has published other research on how consuming violent media can lead to aggressive behavior.

But the report has long been disputed by researchers Patrick Markey, psychology professor at Villanova University and Malte Elson at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. They have published research that shows how violent games can be beneficial to users.

Publisher Communications Research posted a notice that the report is being retracted following an Ohio State University committee of inquiry into the matter. The notice stated that data inconsistencies highlighted by Markey and Elson could not be verified because the data is now missing.

The Ohio State University sent a statement to Retraction Watch on the issue. “The Ohio State University was alerted to irregularities in some of the variables of the data set by Drs. Markey (Villanova U) and Elson (Ruhr U Bochum) in January 2015. The university and Dr. Bushman were unable to confirm the values of the questioned variables because the original research records had been taken from The Ohio State University. Therefore, in November 2015, Dr. Bushman and The Ohio State University recommended the retraction or correction of the article. In 2016, Drs. Markey (Villanova U) and Elson (Ruhr U Bochum) sent an inquiry regarding this matter to Dr. Gibbs, one of the editors of Communication Research, who decided that a retraction was warranted. A replication of the study by Dr. Bushman has been done and is under review.”

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You can follow the story in more detail via Retraction Watch’s reporting here.