Which is exactly what Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers found when they assessed medical students for "previously acquired skills." Advantages gained from gaming manifest in a surgical simulator's novice mode vanished when they turned up the difficulty. I guess videogames really aren't that hard. Pitt researchers found a few years ago when they chose Top Spin, Project Gotham Racing 2 and Amped 2 to assess students' skills, that while performance in the games seemed to correlate with performance on the laparoscopic simulator, actually practicing with the games didn't improve performance at all. This suggests that maybe people who are good at games just happen to be good at laparoscopy ... err ... simulators.


Unfortunately, that's what current surgical videogame research focuses on: simulating surgery. Some even ask whether a variety of skills requiring manual dexterity, including gaming, playing a musical instrument or sewing, improve performance on surgical simulators. The best outcomes? Those with previous chopstick use (although subsequent research from the same group fails to bear out the chopstick correlation). Their conclusion? "It is difficult to predict baseline laparoscopic surgery skills." One hilarious paper deduces that prior exposure to an endoscopic simulator improves performance on endoscopic simulators. None of this research seems to consider that potential patients are unlikely to be interested in how a surgeon performed on his most recent endoscopic simulation.

A more relevant question for videogame researchers (and potential patients) is, "Do surgeons who played a lot of videogames have better laparoscopic surgery outcomes than surgeons who didn't?" Given that college freshmen who played the PlayStation upon its introduction in 1995 graduated from medical school in 2003 at the earliest, there isn't yet a cohort of practicing surgeons who have put in significant time with a gamepad (given the five-year duration of a general surgery residency) to qualify as a "videogame surgeon" generation. (High school freshmen who got a PlayStation in 1995 are in their second year of residency this year.) You can move the timeline back further to include Amiga fetishism or even '80s arcade gaming. But while I spent enough time playing Seven Cities of Gold and M.U.L.E. to potentially endanger my acceptance into medical school, these games are so far removed from the surgical skill set that it's doubtful they would make a surgeon any less likely to lacerate your spleen when trying to resect your colon.

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