Skip Med School – Just Play Video Games

All those hours of carefully aligned headshots and directing monkeys trapped in hamster balls might be good for something — namely, helping to become a surgeon.

A new study finds that the skills built through playing video games are the same small, hand-eye coordinated movements needed to perform surgery. CBS and the AP have the story, in which one doctor likens Super Monkey Ball to sewing intestines together. Awesome.

The study isn’t super-definitive or anything — don’t expect to start playing Halo for your med school exams. Researchers with Beth Israel and the National Institute on Media and the Family at Iowa State University tested 33 doctors, which is not a huge sample, and found that the ones who put at least three hours a week into gaming made 37 percent fewer mistakes during laparoscopic surgery. That’s the minimally invasive kind, with small incisions and a camera in your gut that helps the doctor see what the hell he or she is doing in there.

Those game-playing surgeons also were able to get the surgery down 27 percent faster than the ones who weren’t playing. Of the sample, 12 of the doctors were attending physicians and 21 were medical school residents. The study took place between May and August of 2003.

The doctors were stunned that fine motor control honed in a video game would be the exact same fine motor control needed for doing similar, delicate tasks:

‘We were surprised and actually awed by the fact that your video game skill, meaning how well you play, as well as the number of hours you have spent on video games were very highly correlating — meaning if you do this well you will be less error-prone, you will be faster and you will perform better at laparoscopic surgery,’ said surgeon Asaf Yalif, who participated in the study.

So there you go. Next time your parents/girlfriend/boyfriend/case worker demand you play fewer games, just tell them you’re training in case you need to perform emergency laparoscopy in a stuck elevator or something.

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