Playing Video Games Makes Better Surgeons…Wait, What?

Video games, in all of their forms, have become one of the most pervasive, profitable, and influential forms of entertainment in the US. While most see gaming as a sedentary activity that perpetuates sloth, gaming actually has substantive benefits.

Most gamers will profess that they play their games strictly for the fun of it. Other than a few people playing Wii Fit for weight loss, mostly all gamers aren’t thinking about any sort of ancillary benefit to gaming. These benefits, however, do exist, and impact other parts of a gamer’s life much more profoundly than once thought.

Video games have become part of our daily lives. With the proliferation of smart-phones, and cheaper, faster computing systems, it seems every single platform and device we interact with on a daily basis has the capacity to play games. There are the casual gamers who mess around during down time on their smart-phones, and then there are the “hardcore” gamers who have multiple consoles, a gaming rig, and always shell out for the latest and greatest video card. Regardless of which category you find yourself in, playing video games is actually benefiting you more than you know.

A quick roll call of the benefits gained from playing video games shows just how much is going on at a physiological level during play. Eye hand coordination aside, studies have shown gaming can actually facilitate pain relief, both mental and physical, as it gives the brain a fully engaged distraction from mental ailments, and allows gamers to build tolerance towards chronic physical pain. Gaming also helps with weight loss, as gaming consoles, including the Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect, and PlayStation Move, create an entirely new gaming dynamic where actual physical movement is required to play. Gaming boosts self-esteem and social skills, as more and more gamers turn to online multi-player, they have opportunities to take part in team based objectives, and work cooperatively with others to reach an objective (barring the occasional racist, homophobic maniac on the other end of the mic).

Video games have also been shown to be very effective teachers. More and more educational institutions are implementing gaming solutions for learning problems. Gaming to learn isn’t just for toddlers and early education either, as Universities and even high level military training have turned to gaming and virtual simulations to gain an edge on the competition.

Some other ancillary benefits of playing video games include improved dexterity and eyesight, and faster response times. One profession that is heavily dependent on dexterity, eye-hand coordination and eyesight is that of surgeon. A scientific study conducted in collaboration by the Beth Israel, NYU, Montefiore, Iowa State, Brookdale, Virginia, and Stanford Medical centers have concluded that “Anecdotal observations of young surgeons suggest that video game play contributes to performance excellence in laparoscopic surgery.” These benefits, the researchers found, were both quantifiable and testable, as their hypothesis that a positive link between playing video games and performing surgery was tested amongst 33 medical school residents. The results were positive, as the researchers found that “Training curricula that include video games may help thin the technical interface between surgeons and screen-mediated applications, such as laparoscopic surgery. Video games may be a practical teaching tool to help train surgeons.”

So the next time your parents or significant other complains about your excessive gaming, remind them that not only are you trying to better your kill death ratio, but you are also doing something mentally and physically therapeutic, which is effectively helping your social, communication, and team-work skills, and has the potential to inspire you into a career in medicine!


2 comments on “Playing Video Games Makes Better Surgeons…Wait, What?”

  1. gurufred says:

    The military has been using video games (they call them simulators), for DECADES now, to train operatives for vehicle systems, including tanks and fighter jets. Hell, the people operating the drones nowadays are pretty much playing a video game, with real life consequences.

  2. dick Jones says:

    I agree with this article that gaming can build skills comfortably into people but only when the game they are playing is subtle, such as rpg games like zelda. On the other hand, games like super Mario brothers (the classic and newer versions) are extremely frustrating. Though the player will use different strategies which will help with the growth of this skill later in life, but most of the time those players, such as myself and other family members throughout my childhood, will end up throwing thwta controller and smashing them on the ground out of anger. SO some of these video games do help build better abilities in puzzle or strategy games, but most of the games played by the older generation delt with pure anger and frustration.

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