Grossman on VA Tech Massacre: Blame the Games

May 19, 2007 -
While Jack Thompson's attempts to blame the Virginia Tech massacre on video games didn't go over so well, another critic of video game violence has weighed in on the Virginia Tech massacre.

As reported by the NewsMax site, David Grossman (left) and a colleague, Frank Borelli, seem to point the finger at violent video games. From the article:
Shooter Cho Seung-Hui was moving through Norris Hall methodically firing his weapon as if he were playing a first-person shooter (FPS) video game...

One of the world's foremost experts on the causes of violence, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who has seen confidential information stemming from the investigation, tells NewsMax in an exclusive interview that Cho was "deeply influenced by media violence."

...Grossman forwarded an e-mail from Borelli... Borelli suggests that intensive extensive FPS gaming experience helped Cho fire with devastating accuracy...

Borelli cited an "anonymous reliable source" for the information that Cho fired three shots into nearly every victim. Some video games require the firing of multiple shots at each target.

GP: Anonymous source? The fact that Cho fired multiple shots at victims was widely reported in the mainstream press.
"The rest is quite obvious," Borelli wrote Grossman. "Even if [Cho] only hit each victim once, he had a 32 percent hit ratio, which is better than most cop shootings."

GP: But wouldn't most cop shootings take place under the stress of confronting a bad guy who is shooting back? Cho, an angry sociopath clearly unburdened by any sense of human compassion, fired his weapons into small rooms crowded with unarmed people at close range.

In fact, in this USA Today report, Virginia Tech victim Colin Goddard describes being shot once by Cho, who then goes around the room shooting those who were already down. He fired two more bullets into Goddard. It seems like it would be difficult to miss under those conditions, FPS experience or not.

UPDATE: Frank Borelli has posted in comments, clarifying some of what was reported by the NewsMax site. We greatly appreciate his taking the time to do so.


Dear Mr. Borelli,

Well I just sent another e-mail, and unfortunately I didn't read this new comment you made before sending it.

Clearly, what I said has already been said... many, many times.

If you don't want to be involved in games, that's fine by me and I can respect that.

What does concern me was your misrepresentation by NewsMax. Are you going to take any actions to correct them and have the mis-stated remarks removed? I think you have a right to be angry at them, and I'd hate to just see them get away with that kind of thing, not just because it's about a topic close to home for me.

For everyone here, as I'm sure they all feel the same way, thank you for taking the time to clarify and comment here on You are very well spoken and your views and opinions meen quite a bit to us. While we'd like to see you contribute to this site as a regular writer, we understand if you don't want to. Still, thanks again for all you have done.

Thank you Mr. Borelli.


Very true, and thank you for your response. =^_^=


Yes and no. Given that the average police shooting occurs within 8 feet, trajectory and other external ballistics considerations don't really matter. Even at 25 yards, the difference between point of aim and point of impact on a human size target isn't going to matter. Anything within a 4" circle is good to go.

And, just FYI, I've seen games (and played them some time ago) that actually taught the shooter how to adjust for windage and elevation for long distance shooting. To play you had to first complete the tutorial on how to compute your "dope". This game WAS teaching a small part of sniper craft and did have educational material about internal ballistics, external ballistics and terminal ballistics.

Not all games are JUST fun...

Well said, Mr. Borelli, and thank you for taking the time to clarify your opinion.

I have one question, however. Every light-gun game that I've ever played, and the vast majority of FPSes, as well, don't integrate anything to represent windage or drop - they practice "straight-line ballistics" rather than true ballistics. Wouldn't any so-called "training" done under these conditions effectively train someone poorly for anything but the closest of ranges?

Good day: Welcome to Monday. I've received a number of educated and intelligent emails explaining in detail the difference between FPS games and Light Gun games. I've also had plenty asking me how I feel about FPS games versus Light Gun games. I have come to a conclusion and I mean no offense to anyone when I say this - although I'm sure someone will be offended simply because they want to be and no one can stop them:

I don't care anywhere NEAR as much about video games as anyone here or Dave Grossman or Jack Thompson. I care what my kids play. I care what they learn while playing. I think it's silly to restrict and / or legislate video games anymore than they already are. But the rating system for video games is of value only to the limit it's enforced. Just like movie ratings, if the guy at the cash register doesn't care to check an ID then a ten year CAN buy a rated-M game. Not MY son mind you - because I AM a parent who pays attention.

With that out of the way, I think video games are equally responsible for twisting a person's soul as are real guns. Both are as responsible as hammers, ladders, pencils, computers, keyboards, water fountains and birds who poop from the sky. Ultimately each human being is responsible for his or her own actions. All I have said - and I'll say it again in language as correct as I can given the emails I've received - is that people who play lots and lots of Light Gun games are mastering shooting skills even if unintentionally. Should they ever decide one day to become mass murderers, they may well be more efficient killers because of their increased shooting efficiency as practiced playing those Light Gun games.

The constant play of FPS games using a controller, mouse, keyboard or joystick should be discouraged amongst those who have to work behind a real gun. The conditioning that can be caused constantly "shooting" a target in the game by pushing the X button (or whatever) DOES carry over into real life and in a real life threatening life or death situation, that contemporary warrior CAN NOT afford to be trying to push an X button to shoot a bad guy when he needs to pull a trigger.

With all THAT said, I have a request to make: Please quit trying to convert me. I'm not AGAINST video games - but I'm never going to be a fan. I'm too old and too disinterested. You'll never make me like golf either but that's because I'd rather SHOOT the little white ball than hit it with a club. Because of the way my opinion was presented BY SOMEONE OTHER THAN MYSELF and because I was asked about my opinion, I came here to do two things: defend my good name and clearly state my opinion. I'm really not interested in being drawn into conversations about the ergonomics of controllers, the butt position for the best comfort while playing something for hours, etc. See the sarcasm?

I'm not your enemy. I'm not sure YOU have an enemy. There are those who don't like video games. You'll never change that. There are those who don't agree with legalizing marijuana, but there are those who will argue for it forever. I'm not interested enough in video games to debate their value or lack there of ad nauseum.

If you disagree with my opinion as I have stated it, then please send me an intelligent email telling me why - or post your disagreement here and I'll respond in kind. If you disagree with someone else's presentation of my opinion, please quit holding me responsible for what someone else said.

"... Cho fired three shots into nearly every victim."

I don't know if this has been mentioned, but this brought to my mind the tactic that the police use. Policemen are taught to fire 2 shots to the chest and one shot to the head in quick succession. The chest is a large target and two shots means at least one will hit and likely kill the target. The third shot to the head is in case the target is wearing body armor.

Another explanation is that Cho was high on adrenaline and acting irrational and firing multiple shots at each person just to release anger.

In a videogame, you fire multiple shots at each person because you know that the target has a fixed amount of health points. No-one would be stupid enough to infer that the same is true for real life.

In conclusion, there are many plausible explanations for his actions and only the least likely of them involves videogames.

@ All of the people who are making the, "It was THIS BIG!" joke, I can't help but note that he's making the, "Ooooh, scary!" face along with it.

Sorry Soldatlouis , I meant to say:

Someone please make CS Hostage skins from David Grossman and Jack Thompson "Immediately"...

To say that could be perceived as a a "threat" from angry gamers implies you might actually believe the billions of things in life we see affects our moral judgment.

If things you see every day affects your moral judgment, you have no morals and are simply looking for something to blame...


Bill Of Rights;

Dear Mr. Borelli,

I just sent you an e-mail with a rather lengthy piece I wrote regarding the differences between what is considered a "First Person Shooter" and a "Light Gun" game. I feel that there is a bit of confusion between the differences between the two in regards to how many criticizers of game violence claim that "First Person Shooters" can properly train people to become violent, accurate gun wielders.

Please give it a read through, as it gives what I hope is a clear clarification between "Light Gun" games and "First Person Shooter" games.

I hope it is helpful.


Steve Broida

I don't have time for a full post at this moment, but I have to say this:

I've gone over David Grossman's books and other media several times before. His work is well-spun bullshit, in a word.

Grossman is a propagandist that actually believes his own propaganda. His theories have been debunked many, many times, and it's been shown that some of the very data that he started working from in the first place was fraudulent (his source with regard to military fire rates was determined to have fabricated the numbers), and yet Grossman still uses these figures as though they were wholly authentic and representative of something.

Generalizations are not bad, in and of themselves - the ability to see connections between unrelated things is actually one of the hallmarks of sapience. But Grossman's entire foundation is flawed, and he seems to be so totally incapable of discerning the difference between correlation and causation, that it's inevitable that his conclusions would likewise be faulty.

@Dave Thompson : please avoid this kind of "jokes", unless you want them to complain constantly about "death threats from angry gamers". That's neither funny, nor smart.

Someone please make CS Hostage skins from David Grossman and Jack Thompson...

*Did that help clarify my outlook further?*

Yes very but sense you defended Grossman I feel the need to point out why I and many other disagree with the man, at least on the issue of video game regulation.

*To some extent, training someone to shoot in combat is a matter of conditioning.*

This is a reasonable point; however Grossman has gone well beyond this point and is basically painting games as a threat to modern civilization as we know it. At the very least he clearly supports video game legislation once we inject this in to the mix, things change. Among other thing although he is civil unlike some critics, his view are still presented in a rather illogical and misleading manner. I have read Grossman Stop Teaching Our kids to Kill so let use that as an illustration.

In his book, he gives an account of a school shooting, which from my research is wrong on multiple levels. For now, I will only focus on one underlining logical fallacy in his account. Dave Grossman describes the attack as a unique event. He also describes game as being ubiquitous. He also uses this example to sound the call against violent media. So let construct the argument.

Argument: This unique attack is somehow indicative of how the ubiquitous medium of violent video games leads to violence. Because it is indicative of violence this proves we need anti-game legislation, targeted at the general public.

Assumption 1: The attack was unique
Assumption 2: Games are ubiquitous
Assumption 3: Games do play a factor in school shootings.

Let’s continue with these assumptions, in order to see how the argument does not logical support anti-game legislation.

Let define our premises:
Premise 1: This school shooting can tell us something relevant of about how games effect the general population.

Let’s see why this is illogical:

Fallacy 1:
First of all the entire frame work of Grossman argument is a case of misleading vividness This uniqueness of this event actually makes a poor example of what ever Grossman is trying to prove. (It doesn’t actually matter what it is he wants to prove, explaining the effects of ubiquitous medium using a unique event is the definition of this fallacy.) So right, here the idea that his account support anti-game legislation is debunked.

Fallacy 2:
Even if we pretend that he did not describe the attack as unique, it is still illogical to use any school shooter, unique or not to justify legislation aimed at the general population. This is a case of using a bias sample: Even if all school shooter played games this says nothing about how games effect the normal population. Example: If you go to a jail, I am sure you can find people using ski mask, base ball bats and kitchen knives in many illegal ways. Are we going to concluded that ski mask, baseball bats and kitchen knives are dangerous to the general population based on this sample? Or in another words we are using examples of mentally disturbed individuals to decide how to treat the healthy, using sociopaths to determine the rights of the well adjusted.

I think we are approaching this from two different Grossman the researcher into killing may have a good point but Grossman the videogame activist are likely to be a bit different.

I could go on describing some of the other examples of fallacies arguments (and sense we are talking about passing laws, I can safely say Grossman does not understand the huge can of worms he is opening) but my main point is simply to show that not all of the hostility directed to Grossman is blind hated. Hopefully I’ve succeeded.

Thank you again for sharing your views with us Mister Borelli.

Conditioning someone to acquire a (possibly human) target swiftly can be done in normal simulator rooms with pop-up target or through a virtual 3D environment, In this point i can agree with Borelli. Elsewise anyone handling a real gone will need to have practice of using it beforehand.

The recoil, weight and reloading procedure as well as the correct grip and pressure point for the trigger require beforehand skills/training with actual weapons.

No one with conditioning klicking on the (usually) left button of a mouse will be able to successfully discharge a weapon 170 times without feeling recoil effects and weight on the arms and especially will not be very talented in dual-wielding a weapon, as this is hightly unusual and also not very helpful when reloading.

170 rounds it says - that would mean roughly around 10-12 magazines depending on the weapon. Which makes a rough reload for each of both guns of around 5-6 times. Without any real-life handgun training (as f.e example offered to law enforcement) it is not possible to reload quickly under stressful situations.

The issues on the sight, movement of the target, movement of the shooter etc. have already been commented on, of course these also require real life simulation.

re: ZippyDSMlee: Yeah, I guess so. I'm just going off my own experiences. I'm a fair hand in game (even to the point of sniper qualifying in America's Army which simulates breathing and wind effects on your shot), a decidedly average shot with a short arm and terrible with a rifle.

re: Frank Borelli: Your points are well made. Tbh, I've been playing FPS so long I didn't really think about light gun games and you're right. The last time I played one of those (wow.. like 5 years ago in an arcade iirc), I had the double handed grip and wide stable stance I would assume when actually firing a handgun. If you played it for hours a day you couldn't help but become accustomed. And depending on the level of violence, desensitised.

Mr. Borelli,
as others have said, thank you for discussing this with us. Though there are many video game advocates quick to respond to any attack on our collective hobby with bile and anger, I think that frank discussion is a much better way to reach out to the non-gaming community. I'd like to throw my own two cents into this discussion.

As a United States Marine and a video game advocate, I find myself laughing at the link between gaming and real-life violence. Even simulated violence isn't a good representation of a persons' skill with a weapon. Before joining the Marines, i spent several hours a day on games of all kinds. Mostly shooters however. I had handled rifles and shotguns before, but used "Kentucky windage" when shooting.

My first time on the rifle range as a Marine, I found that all my experience was not able to transform into a noticable skill increase. Nor did my video game experience translate into familirization with the weapon. I was not prepared for the experience of shooting at a man-shaped target.

Even training in an advanced simulation firing range, the ISMT (Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer) did not correlate to actual skill with the weapon. While I shot phenomenally with the simulation rifle (which uses compressed air to simulate kick-back), I was barely able to qualify with the actual rifle.

A year later, after becoming more familiar with the weapon, and the stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, and most especially trigger and breath control, I shot expert- the highest qualification possible in the Marine Corps. During that time, I played almost no games, and had to unlearn all the skills from my previous gaming experience.

Undoubtedly, violent games in the form of light-gun games do teach quick reaction and "snap-in" accuracy. But they do not teach stance, control or anything that matters in true marksmanship. Even the most advanced of simulators cannot fix the problems associated with aiming in on a REAL target. It is a cognitive difference between shooting light and firing a bullet which always has the capacity to kill or wound.

So while I can see a connection, it is thin. To the same point where I can find an equal connection with violent media of ANY sort. Simply put, violent games, even of a light-gun variety, are not effecient at conditioning a person to be able to kill. Certainly, to respond to the presence of an object , but the same could be said of any number of activities.

No matter what others say, there is a very cognitive difference between shooting sim rounds (whether they be blanks or virtual rounds) and having a loaded, fully operational weapon. It is one of the main reasons I despise the notion of rifle qualification indoors. I have not seen it done in the Marine Corps and don't believe it would ever be an effective qualification mechanism.

Whatever we may say about training with a violent game, there is a difference between one who does them healthily and one who takes that experience and translates it into violence against innocents. There is a disconnect somewhere in the psyche long before the person is able to apply video game skills (what little I believe can be brought to bare) into real-life violence.

So the question is: do video games CREATE the violence? The answer, I believe is no. The blame lies in something prior to the game. A healthy mind can distinguish between violent games and real-world violence. Parenting, childhood trauma, peer pressure, psychology, chemical imbalance-- there are many other factors which can lead to this fracture, but they are not the responsibility of the game company.

Alchohol, tobacco, cars, etc-- all can be deadly with a person who is not responsible. Far more deaths occur each year due to alchohol than violent games. Yet we do not ban it. Why? Because the majority are able to use it responsibly. The same can be said of games. Why should the producers of this media be expected to be responsible for the actions of their customers? If I get a DUI, should Ford and Budweiser be sued? Of course not, I am an adult and make decisions for myself.

In the case of minors, the parents should be taking care of their children. If my son or daughter is playing a game I feel is innappropriate, it is my duty to take it away. As a parent you SHOULD know what games your child is playing. If you don't, you can't blame the company when the game happens to portray something violent.

In the end, games are entertainment, which may portray adult actions and situations. In those cases, only people of age, or with parental consent should play them. Beyond that, it's user responsibility, not corporate responsibility

Cho didn't play violent video games.

He actually did attend college.

He actually did graduate high school.

He actually drove a car.

He actually is Asian.

There's actually more evidence in attending college, graduating high school, driving a car, and being Asian were more related to him committing this Counter Strike. At least he did/was all those things!

P.S. The view above does not imply any of those things were related to Cho's motives. :-)

Big breath and exhale... I DO find myself having to clarify once again - and it's my own fault.

THANK YOU to those of you who haven't immediately jumped down my throat but have instead asked, "Is this what you really meant?"

In answer: Yes. When I talk about FPS games that teach shooting skills I AM talking about those games that use a simulated handgun that shoots a beam of light. Obviously, playing a game using a controller - say like the one my son uses playing Call of Duty - DOES NOT build the mechanical skills necessary to shoot a weapon efficiently. In fact, I have previously argued (in a different forum) that such playing is indeed counter-productive to actual shooting skills.

Repetitive actions are conditioning. There's no denying that. If a person with a simulated weapon simply aims the weapon off screen and pulls the trigger to reload, then he's not learning actual reload skills. If that person playing is a cop and he does it enough, then won't he eventually learn to reload by shooting an empty gun off screen? If he does that in real life, his game play has hurt his chances of emerging from a gunfight victorious. The same thing applies to gamers with controllers. No amount of handling a mouse, keyboard, controller, etc will help you learn shooting skills. Only those games played with a simulated weapon wherein you DO have to master most of the basic marksmanship skills will help you learn to shoot better.

I believe the benefit I have in this arena is that I'm not a gamer - nor am I avidly against them. "All things in moderation" is a rule I've always believed in so when my own kids want to play video games I just set time limits and then make them change activities.

As to the military using simulation training to desensitize soldiers to killing... I've seen Dave Grossman's presentation and I've studied his books. Let me be blunt: I just had lunch with Dave last week. Dave has studied the efficiency of human killing across the span of the last six to eight decades like no other human being I'm aware of. The point he's made, and made well in my opinion, is this:

To some extent, training someone to shoot in combat is a matter of conditioning. Note that I said "to some extent." Decades ago all of our soldiers qualified on bullseye targets. But in combat, no one ever gets attacked by a bullseye and it's HARD to kill another human being unless you're a sociopath or have one hell of a good reason - and even then it's not so easy. To increase the willingness of soldier's to engage human targets, the military began training on human shaped targets. When I was in the service we qualified shooting human shaped silhouettes (did I spell that right?) that popped up. When they popped up in our field of view, we shot them and they fell down. THAT IS conditioning soldiers to shoot human enemies - in my opinion.

I train police officers with firearms. We don't shoot bullseye targets - we shoot human shaped silhouettes. When the target shows itself - representing a threat that has been revealed - the officer is supposed to draw and fire at the target. When he does that enough times he's been conditioned to engage the threat as quickly and efficiently as possible.

To that extent, the use of human targets both on paper and in simulation DOES condition soldiers and cops to shoot human targets. I don't believe that the SOLE purpose is desensitizing soldiers to killing, but that has to play some part in it. The largest part - in my experience - of what we use simulators to each is JUDGMENT.

For what it's worth, as an instructor, I'm not a fan of simulators either. I like force-on-force training tools such as paintball and Simunitions. Such training can actually stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and put stress on the trainee closer to a real life shooting. THAT is where his skill gets tested - in a situation as close to real as we can get it.

Did that help clarify my outlook further?

In completely unrelated news

Is it just me or does grossman look like he's saying "I swear the fish was this big" in that photo

It can help with with basic projectorary , which can help with target acquisition within a 7 foot radius at least I can hit most of the milk jugs I aim at with a BB pistol can even hit 2 out of ten at 80 foot on a new OC cart still tho..marksmanship is training training and more training to get to be able to aim ,breath and and shoot as well as handle recoil.

Mainstream media is to busy scapegoating to see its realtivly easy(with a alittle training of some kind ) to shoot things within a 10 foot radius.

Hello Mister Borelli, I thank you for your time.

I regardless to the issue of why some have accused of lying most of it is blind hatred dictated to anyone who would say anything remotely bad about video games, how said that we so often meat knee-jerk reaction with knee-jerk reaction, however their is one thing which stand out to me as being highly suspect, and a likely reason for so much hostility at your comments:

*In Cho’s case, his family and roommates have made statements that he was an avid Counter-Strike game player; that he played this game almost every evening and did so for hours on end.*

Last I checked there was no evidenced to suggest such a thing. His roommate was interview on national television and said he never witnessed him play any video games, let alone a specific game, such as Counter-Strike The only references I have seen suggesting this is as part of story in the Washington post which was taken down and reposted with out the video game reference, and that statement supposedly came from his high school friends not his roommates or family, or from the mouth of Jack Thompson. (This story notes this if you need a reference of some short: I do remember his parents saying some thing about video game play and basketball in somewhere but again nothing that could narrow it down to an individual game. Unless new information has come out that I am unaware of this claim seems too insufficiently supported to be presented as a cold hard fact. While I apologize for the childish nature of others here, you will forgive the more mature among us if we remain a bit skeptical when the much of your argument rest on something which is yet too be confirmed as fact (and there exist some evidence to the country).

That being said assuming that Cho did play Counter Strike compulsively the rest of your does make sense and does provide some food for thought. The problem with this debate is that both sides are searching for black and white answers, it is very bimodal mentally, I thank for acknowledging that there are same shades of grey.

I thank you again for your time.

*The military can claim that they don’t use “games” to train soldiers all they want. However, I have personally qualified with an M16 when I was in the service on a simulation system. It is COMMON for the military and law enforcement to teach firearms skills and judgmental shooting skills on simulators.*

I think you might have misread something no one is calming they don’t use them for training, what the military has denied is the calm made implicitly and explicitly by Grossman and others that simulators are used for the specific and sole purpose of desensitizing a solder to killing.

Nice to see some intelligent conversation over this topic rather than the usual emotional kneejerking that goes on (by both the anti game and pro game sides).

I think it's highly debatable that playing a PC game can train you to shoot. I do believe games can teach you target acquisition and priority, encourage aggression and perhaps even some tactical thinking. I just don't think Counterstrike is the game to do it... = \

Seriously, nailing a head shot with a Desert Eagle at 50 yards while jumping repeatedly 3 feet in the air... I think if you fired a DEagle mid air the recoil would probably knock you on your ass... (That being said, I've never fired one, but I'd tend to think it would have a bit of a kick).

However emotive images of some balaclava wearing stereotypical terrorist tbagging the corpse of a downed law enforcement type obviously gets the collective juices of the media machine (and everyones favourite Uncle Jack T) flowing.

The more relevant thing that seems to have slipped below the radar again is that immersion in media (games, books, movies, music etc) regardless of the type will affect certain people more than others. The important factor is not the media, it's the [b]person[/b].

Dear Mr. Borelli,

I would simply like to thank you for your presence. We certainly enjoy being able to communicate with people that understand what we at Gamepolitics are discussing in depth. I applaud the fact that you haven't bought into the illusion that Cho's link to Counter-Strike isn't what caused him to empty 177 rounds on the Virginia Tech campus. People like David Grossmand, Don Phau, and Jack Thompson seem to believe that participation in violent media is the sole cause for these accidents, and I believe that they are overlooking the most important thing, motive.
I do have a few conflicts with your statement about gun efficiency and training, because I believe that the point-and-click nature belongs to the gun first and foremost. Guns were designed to make killing more efficient in the first place. It's a complex problem if you think about, because you're trying to equate mouse/controller inputs to actual gun usage. There are many things that can be "fine-tuned" on a first person shooter, but I believe that almost anything learned by a FPS can be enhanced to a much greated degree by going to a shooting range. Most important of all is the fact that controllers and computer rice don't recoil into your face after firing.
In closing, I appreciate your willingness to discuss this topic with us. I hope that we can find some middleground, and actually work towards a solution (if needed) instead of sensationalizing every little detail. Thank you.

@Frank Borelli - Frank, your comments here are much appreciated. It's great to see your willingness to clarify the NewsMax report.

I would, however, take some issue with your thoughts on what players get from FPS when you said:

"To be successful in first person shooter games the player must master stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through."

Outside of arcades (which these days account for a miniscule proportion of gaming) where a fake gun might be attached to the game machine, these games are almost always played while sitting down, using either mouse for control of the weapon (PC) or a controller (consoles). Actual stance, grip, trigger press and follow-through are thus not involved at all.

As far as sight alignment and sight picture, most games substitute a virtual aiming reticule for an actual front-back sight picture.

At best - my opinion - these games teach rapid target acquisition, training the player to confront and score hits on multiple threats quickly.



Dear Mr. Borelli,

First off, thanks for posting to clear up what you actually said. And thanks for your service to the country as a soldier and law enforcement officer.

In your post you say that "to be successful in first person shooter games the player must master stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through." Now, to clarify, are you talking about games which use a simulated, plastic "light gun?" If so, then, yes, I would agree with you on this for the most part. However, the FPS game Cho allegedly played in no way, shape, or form trains or requires the user to master any of those skills, as they are played from a comfy chair, hunched over a mouse and keyboard.

Obviously there is no stance involved while sitting. A mouse doesn't feel like a pistol grip, and the grip angle of it is perpendicular to that of a real firearm. Nor does a mouse have weight since it's sitting on a desk. Sight picture and alignment-- aside from a cursor in the middle of the screen --are non-existent, because the guns are shown in the lower right corner of the screen as if shooting from the hip cowboy-action style. Trigger press is not simulated well, given that a mouse has a binary "click" which doesn't have creep and doesn't interfere with its movement the way slapping a trigger/limp wristing/thumbing would. Then with the mouse sitting firmly on a desk, bottom planted firmly in a chair, and a cursor which doesn't move upon clicking or recoil, breath control and follow through don't even come into play.

As such, the only things one could ostensibly learn from Counter-Strike and its ilk are some degree of tactics. Even that is questionable given that players unrealistically shoot while sprinting sideways or backwards, and players often hop around like deranged bunny rabbits. Were they to try such tactics in a real gunfight, they would lose rather quickly.

From personal experience, I've played shooter games for over a decade, and had fired rifles on numerous occasions. Yet the first time I ever fired a handgun was roughly a year ago, and using a pistol chambered in .22LR with a 5" barrel, my first target looked like this at 7 yards:

Out of two ten round magazines, only nineteen even hit the paper. That might not be entirely bad for the first time, but it's hardly marksmanship either. Since then, I've fired thousands of rounds and passed the NRA basic pistol course, and found myself having to unlearn most of the silliness you see in video games. Even now, it's a good day when I can manage to keep fifteen rounds of 9mm in the black at 7 yards.

Going back to Cho, as I said in a previous post, it was reported that he was frequently seen practicing at a range near VT during the two months proceeding the attack. Even if he only went twice, and brought a 500 round brick of .22LR with him each time, that's still twice as many practice rounds as you yourself have said most LEOs and soldiers get in a year. If he went weekly, and brought a box of ammo for both of his pistols, that's exponentially more practice, no?

Why can't anyone shut up about the VT shootings were caused by videogames. I am sick of this shit! I mean come on...

It doth not compute!!!!!!!!

Grossman must have been on vacation for the last month, he's got a lot of work to do if he wants to catch up with all the other massacre chasers.

At this point, he's sucking hind teat on an already sorry-looking sow. Compared to the rest of his 'peers', he's really the runt of the litter right about now.

Well not so much the pillars of Cho's problem. Some people are just nuts and it's not the sort of thing you could just solve with the wave of a wand. It was mostly about youth and young adult violence in general. It's for the most part a cultural discussion that I don't think I can have with my body going through withdrawal after half a quart of rum. Sorry.

Although it IS nice to have someone who comes here to actively discuss and debate with GP readers. Props for that.


I had not considered the flaw in the 32% hit ratio comparison. You're absolutely correct that the cops hitting 20% are typically avoiding an immediate threat at the same time as shooting.

That admitted, hitting moving targets (and I have to assume that at least some of those 55 shot students WERE moving as they tried to escape the threat) isn't as easy as shooting stationary targets. I've trained cops who have a hard time scoring 70% on stationary targets. I still believe that it's a statement about Cho's shooting skills that he hit AT A MINIMUM with 32% of his shots fired.

Note that I have not recommended getting rid of video games, and I'm actually very pro 2nd amendment. That's why my own children have been properly trained with firearms.

I am curious as to what you see as the "real pillars of the problem" in this case? I personally believe that Cho was dillusional and mentally imbalanced - but that belief is based on information reported in the mainstream media and I've already voiced my opinion on the accuracy of that.

BTW, does anybody ever tell these people against violent video games that getting rid of them isn't going to solve anything? I have a hard time believing that people under the age of 25 wouldn't know the basics of how to use a gun (Point and click?) if not for violent video games.

I would say limiting the ease of access to firearms would help, but I guess it's easier to make band-aid fixes than address the real pillars of the problem.

Besides, if I've learned nothing else from playing Counter Strike, it's that the players on it are anything BUT tactical in their gameplay.

"No, I don’t think that playing video games turns people into killers. However, I DO believe that the repetitive shooting practice that occurs in FPS games makes them more efficient killers once they’ve crossed that line for other reasons."

I could believe this. The alternate version of "I saw someone do it on TV once".

And the comment about a 32% hit ratio is flawed and almost insulting: Either it doesn't take into account that his targets aren't shooting back, as GP stated, or it says that cops do nothing but shoot unarmed innocents all day.

Good day. I received an email asking me which side of the fence I was on or if I was standing on top. I assume this came from hayabusa75 who has posted immediately above. Let me set the record straight about myself as much as I can, although in reading some of the above comments it seems that there is nothing I can ever say that will make everyone happy. Such is life...

First, I'm not a liar. I take issue with that statement and invite whichever of you that thinks I am to bring forth your proof so that I can refute it. Making statements without substance is the sure sign of a childish mind facing a reality he doesn't like. Pout...

Second, the email I sent to Dave Grossman was cited only in bits and pieces. I can't alter what the entire breadth of the news media does.

Third, I DID attempt to respond to NewMax at least twice and got answering machines both times. I responded to their email as well. I take GREAT issue with the fact that they say they couldn't reach me for comment. My email address and office phone number are on the contact pages for all my websites. Get real... NewsMax has lost all credibility in my book - not that I'd ever heard of them before this.

Fourth: here is my response to the email I received.:

"Thank you for your email and the objective approach you are taking to the subject. Given your involvement at's blog, it would be easy for you to assume a bias on the side of games. I applaud you your open mind. Let me answer your question about my outlook.
To understand my outlook you have to have an idea of my background. I'm a prior service veteran with time spent as an active duty army military policeman, a national guard light infantryman (foot soldier) and a national guard combat engineer (one step up from foot soldier). Outside of my military time in service I've spent virtually all my adult life as a police officer. So, since the age of 18 - more than two decades since I'm in my mid-forties now - I've been working in professions where training with and the use of firearms has been an integral part of my performance.
Since 1994 I've been a firearms instructor. I am responsible for the annual qualifications of police officers from eight police departments and have spent the past 18 years (since 1989 when I first became an instructor in general topics) providing adult education to those who work behind guns - at least sometimes.
So, where I stand on video games:
There is some truth to the points made by LtCol Dave Grossman and others who believe that video games contribute to violent behavior. My understanding of the studies performed is that they have shown how saturation involvement in first person shooter video games promote altered brain development. Remember, I'm not talking about the kid (if you take that term to mean you, I may not mean you: when I say "kid" I mean people still in high school or younger and I mean no offense by the term: I have two kids of my own with two college age)... So I'm not talking about the kid who plays a first person shooter game once a week or so... I'm talking about someone who gets on the game every evening and plays for hours. I believe that to some extent that individual is being both trained and conditioned.
The training: In firearms basic marksmanship training there are seven basic skills: stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, breath control, trigger press, and follow through. Of those seven basic skills, six are either taught or reinforced through the play of the types of games specified. To be successful in first person shooter games the player must master stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through. One of the goals of all trainers in the military / police fields is to get the operator to be able to perform those seven basic skills as if they were second nature. In other words, so that he doesn't have to think to do them right. Cops and soldiers get to fire maybe a couple hundred rounds each year on the range to practice and reinforce those skills. Six of the seven are practiced and reinforced by first person shooter game players sometimes hundreds and thousands of times EACH EVENING. THAT is what we refer to as "simulation training" and is very empowering for the shooter where his skill sets are concerned.
The conditioning: Remember Pavlov's dogs? Blow a whistle and feed them and eventually the whistle makes them salivate because they've been conditioned? Well, to some extent, the same is true of the games. The player, through repeated play, is conditioned to shoot whatever target is presented by the game, as fast as he can as accurately as he can, and then to move on to the next target just as fast. He is rewarded by points, extra life time, etc. The bottom line is that he is conditioned through rewards to engage targets efficiently. If the targets involved are humanoid of any kind, then the player is being conditioned - albeit unintentionally - to shoot and destroy / kill humanoids. What are we?
In Cho's case, his family and roommates have made statements that he was an avid Counter-Strike game player; that he played this game almost every evening and did so for hours on end.
It is my belief that Cho was trained to shoot accurately through his near-constant use of the game and that he was hardened to the violence performed by the near-constant death or destruction he viewed on the screen as he played.
I DO NOT think that the game play or Cho's involvement in it was what drove him to kill. I believe that he had other mental, emotional and perhaps religious issues that inspired him to be willing to kill. However, once he had made that decision, I DO believe that his practice hours, achieved through game play, made him a more efficient shooter / killer.
I hope that clears my outlook up. If not, email me back your questions and I'll do my best to respond in a timely manner. I have no issues with defending my position or beliefs and welcome all intelligent discussion including dissenting points of view. Nothing intelligently discussed, nothing learned.
Thanks again for your email and time.


Let me clarify a few things because in reading through that I realized some misunderstanding could occur.

According to the FBI's statistics reports, cops in real shootings average about a 20% hit rate. Reportedly Cho fired 170 rounds and hit 55 people. That's approximately a 32% hit rate even if he only hit each person one time.

I have four children: two high school age or younger and two that are college age.

My own sons have often played FPS games but they've also been properly trained with live weapons. The time they spend playing FPS games is limited.

No, I don't think that playing video games turns people into killers. However, I DO believe that the repetitive shooting practice that occurs in FPS games makes them more efficient killers once they've crossed that line for other reasons.

The military can claim that they don't use "games" to train soldiers all they want. However, I have personally qualified with an M16 when I was in the service on a simulation system. It is COMMON for the military and law enforcement to teach firearms skills and judgmental shooting skills on simulators. Whether or not those simulators can be called "games" is a matter of symantics. The bottom line to me is that the software engines are very similar if not the same.

As I said in the email response quoted above, if you have intelligent comments - even ones that disagree with my position - please feel free to email me so we can have a discussion. I am open to intelligent debate. If you're going to slander my name and call me names and pout because someone challenged your own belief structure, don't waste your time and my email space.

BE SAFE in all that you do.

I've been posting on GP for well over a year now, and sometimes it gets tiresome writing the same stuff about the same idiots, so I want to say thank you to all my fellow posters for keeping up the fight, so to speak.


That was an interesting article, it almost seemed like it was written by a different man. I noticed that in the Newsmax piece, Grossman only quoted certain bits of Borelli's e-mail. In light of the link you posted, I wonder if the e-mail in its entirety wasn't as condemning of video games as the article made it seem. I definitely wouldn't put it past a nutsack like Grossman to only include the stuff he likes.

Maybe I'll write Borelli and ask him what side of the fence he's really on.

@eXm : when you say :

"I am curious why nobody has done a study of measuring how well people can shoot after playing an fps game to prove it doesn’t teach one how to competently fire a weapon. "

In fact, a study has been made by Tom Stougton for the Center for Successful Parenting under the patronage of Grossman. This study has been published by the UNESCO. It appears that those who play FPS are better shooters, but I don't know which FPS they studied. And I wonder that they made a confusion between first-person-shooters and "rail shooters" or "lightgun games" that you play with a pistol.

Anyway, here is what Grossman has to say about it (source : )

"There can be no doubt that video games can teach marksmanship skills. A controlled experiment conducted by the Center for Successful Parenting, written by Tom Stoughton and published in 2002 in the Newsletter of The UNESCO International Clearinghouse On Children, Youth and Media, demonstrated that those kids who were proficient at point-and-shoot video games are significantly better shots when they pick up a real gun for the first time."

And there is another page (from a paranoid conspiracy site) that refers to it : . Go down to the "Training killers" section.

@Hayabusa :

Also note that this Borelli's article was written on april 19th, right after the shooting. So Borelli may have changed his mind, or got a more radical point of view (thanks to bad influences ?).

Oh, and here is an analysis written by Dave Grossman himself (still on NewsMax) :


Hmm. Well, I just e-mailed him, hopefully we'll find out some good news.

You know, I play FPS's all the time, I would like to go to this Goddard's person house and try to shoot him (and probably miss) just to show him that being good at FPS's doesn't mean you're a good shot in real life. Also, I think it's funny that the people that blur reality and gaming the most are these people that think Video games affect people's real life decisions. You know, because I play halo, i want to kill everyone...

I think that the actual cause for the "efficiency" is the nature of firearms in and of itself. For all intensive purposes, it's simply a point-and-click device. It doesn't take a rocket scientists to figure out that you point and click with weapons like the Glock 17s that Cho used. I highly doubt that people would not know how to use a gun if they were given one. Knowing how to fire a handgun is the equivelant of knowing that the sky is blue.

The absolute most unbelievable item about Grossman and Borelli's assumption is that video games CAUSED Cho to go on a rampage, and all video games CAUSE this violent behavior. It's called a MOTIVE. Video games can't explain why these people do bad things. In Cho's case, he's been in a "flat-effect" state ever since his family can remember. I doubt that what happened at Virginia Tech was the result of a few months of planning. I believe that this a process that took a lifetime.

It's the same excuse that people use to dodge malicious intent in criminal cases. "Why did you shoot those people in the bank?, "I wasn't trying to rob anyone; Grand Theft Auto made me do it"! They try to avoid the circumstantial evidence that is pointing to malicious intent, and try to refocus the case so that somebody else can be a scapegoat.

What begins to worry me most about Grossman is his laughable assumption that violent video games are "hiding" behind the first amendment. Last time I checked, protection is not the same thing as hiding. Why should violent movies and video games be singled out? What about violent books? As the record shows, "The Turner Diaries" and "Mein Kampf" have resulted in the death of more people than video games can possibly ever account for in the next hundred years. Why isn't Grossman pushing for the abolishment of the right for those books to exist in the United States? Oh wait, it's because book-burners look like absolute idiots.

If David Grossman ran the country, there would be no more "Free Speech". There would only be "Happy Nice Pony-Pink Speech".

In the picture it looks like David Grossman is measuring how big of a douche bag he is.

Gaming Community: "Hey, Grossman, how big of a douce are you?"

David Grossman: "I'm thiiiiiiiiiiiiis big!"

FoxmanZEO: Did he actually pull the actual police accuracy percentage out of his arse alongside the other arguments?

Nah, the numbers are actually somewhat accurate. While there are some departments with excellent firearms training, the majority just don't have the funding for extensive training, or the crime rate to justify it. Statistically speaking, local law enforcement agencies have a worse hit ratio (and hit more bystanders) than private security contractors, or even citizens involved in self defense shootings.

Because I’m sure that’s a load, stress or not, there are officers who DO fire their weapons and practice at the range frequently.

Sure. There are lots of ex-military people in law enforcement, and lots of enthusiasts who shoot outside of work (some of them even play GTA..). They seem to be generally outnumbered though by people who view their sidearm as just another job-related tool, and only fire it when required.

This guy just lost a lot of respect in my book. Which is amazing, since he never had any to begin with.

ooftygoofty: Of course it scares them, to think that they're losing control in a world where we are in a position to take it away from them.

I squirm with excitement at the thought of these people being the looked-down-on rejects of their old school of thought.

Comics, television, and rock and roll were evil corruptors of our youth, as well.

I wonder what people in our own generation will target, though, years down the road. I just hope i'm not such a blind idiot.

I have played several FPS games, even hitting a few tricky shots (many with rockets in Halo and Halo 2).

However, the one time I played paintball, I didn't manage to hit anybody, and I fired every paintball from the hopper. I don't remember there being much of a kick either, so not even paintball fully 'teaches' you how to handle a firearm.

That and I'm just not a fan of guns for some reason. I dunno why, I just don't like the real thing.

Did he actually pull the actual police accuracy percentage out of his arse alongside the other arguments?

Because I'm sure that's a load, stress or not, there are officers who DO fire their weapons and practice at the range frequently.

“I hope that I am wrong and I pray that I am wrong, “Grossman adds, “when [Cho’s] generation hits the workplace and they hit the public domain, they are going to make the … shootings that we have seen so far pale by comparison. We will reap what we sow for many generations to come.”

Cho was a college student. No doubt thousands, if not millions, of his generation are already in the workplace, but even that is missing the point. Once again they've resorted to the lie that video games are only for children and no one (except sick, pervese people who need to be taken out and curbstomped) plays them once they reach the age of 18.

As is repeatedly pointed out, the average gamer age is somewhere in the 20s. There are gamers over the age of 60. Doctors and lawyers play video games. I'm sure some politicians do it too. Mr. Grossman, the day you've predicted came years ago, and yet these insane rampages, horrible as they are, happen relatively infrequently and are ALWAYS traceable to severe psychological problems. Shouldn't these be happening at least once a week for no other reason than video games?

People like JT and Grossman are losing credibility and relevance every day, and it scares them.


About your suggestion on making a study on how well an FPS can train people on how well to shoot. Why not take the initiative in conducting the study ourselves instead of waiting for researchers to do it. A collaborative effort for the summer, grab your friends and a few psych undergrads to do the lit. review, plan on your procedures, collect data, analyze and conclude. Some journals may not accept the study, but at least it'll attract some attention and some answers.

@father time

not all killers are cold and unfeelng. it depends on the motives and reasons why they killed or will kill. some people kill in cold blood for no reason, some kill for revenge, some kill in self defense, some kill in paranioa, etc. imagine a parent whos child was killed by someone and as an act of revenge goes out and kills the person who killed the child, the parent wouldnt really be cold or unfeeling for the retaliation but instead be the exact opposite, the act would be commited out of pure emotion.

Okay im a heavy FPS gamer.

And in my job we have to go down to a firing range once a year to qualify.

In solider front, i can take down people with 'startaling' accuracy while running around in full kevlar gear. Course having a cross hair helps.

the last time i went to the firing range, many things were lacking. Like my Heads up display for instance, or my cross hair. Most guns dont come equiped with cross hairs.

I scored a 25/100, a far cry from my accuracy in solider front. the recoil is a bitch when wering a helmet, cause like in loony toons your body armor and helmet also work aganst you. (helmet kept falling into my eyes. )
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