Nurse, Joystick!

There's not much difference between zapping zombies and blasting blood clots, according to a study on doctors at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Following up on previous research suggesting that young doctors are quicker than older ones to pick up "laparoscopic" skills (which allow them to control tiny instruments inside a patient's body while watching the action on a big TV screen), the study set out to test whether this edge was explained by all the time that younger doctors had spent playing Nintendo as kids. The authors polled 33 surgeons on their video-gaming histories before putting them through a set of laparoscopic challenges—timed and scored surgical drills with nicknames like the "Cobra Rope," the "Cup Drop," and the "Terrible Triangle"; they also asked the surgeons to play a video game, such as Super Monkey Ball 2 or Star Wars Racer Revenge. They then sorted the data to see if joystick twiddling makes you a better surgeon. Indeed it does, by a wide margin. Doctors who'd once played for more than three hours a week did the lap-skills course in an average of 64 minutes with 197 errors; doctors who'd never played took 87 minutes and made 314 errors. Overall, the study found that a surgeon's video-game skills, or lack thereof, explained 31 percent of the variance in laparoscopy performance. Less than 2 percent of the variance was attributed to the number of laparoscopies surgeons had performed. Video games can lower grades and promote obesity, the authors allow, but they can also make for damn fine doctors.

"The Impact of Video Games on Training Surgeons in the 21st Century", James C. Rosser et al., Archives of Surgery