Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wii Surgery

Speaking of surgery sim video games, a recent study suggests that surgeons who play video games may, as a result, perform better in the operating room. More specifically, some Italian researchers, conducting randomized trials that had a group of surgical residents playing Wii Sports on a regular basis, found that, compared to another group that had not gone through Wii training, the gamers subsequently performed better at simulated laparoscopy (inserting tiny cameras into the body to assist with minimally invasive surgery).

Speaking with NBC News, Dr. Gregorio Patrizi, who led the research team, offered his hypothesis:
"The problem in laparoscopy (real and virtual) is that you have to move in a 3-D space with a 2-D view," he said. "The Nintendo Wii is a video-game console with a wireless controller able to detect movement in three dimensions. Thanks to this controller, the gamers can play using physical gestures while traditional video-games require the player to press a button or to move a joystick. Therefore the improvement is based on the fact that the Nintendo Wii, like others recent consoles, provides 3-D video games and accordingly enhances visual attention, depth perception and movement coordination. On the other hand, the group who did not train on the Wii improved mostly according to the familiarization with the simulator."

I've also always felt that the ability to maintain a delicate handle on one's fine motor skills within tense situations is something required both to perform surgery and in order to line up head shots in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. But maybe that wouldn't be the best game to train people on how to save lives.

I am disappointed that neither Trauma Center: Under the Knife nor its Wii remake, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, factored into the research. It's probably because those games are wildly unrealistic, but I'd like to imagine at least that, just as Guitar Hero was responsible for getting a generation of kids into learning to play real instruments, maybe Trauma Center inspired some young gamers to pursue careers in the medical field. Speaking of which, I remember reading an interview with guitarist Slash, who admitted that Guitar Hero was too difficult for him, even when attempting to play his own songs, because his ingrained real guitar-playing habits actually worked against his being able to adapt to playing with the big colored buttons on the plastic instrument. Similarly, setting aside whether Trauma Center could ever prepare one for real surgery, I wonder if the opposite could ever be the case—that is, whether a real surgeon playing the famously challenging game would have any kind of advantage over someone with no surgical skills.

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