The link between videogame experience and surgical ability has been widely reported in the media. Until now, however, there has been no published research regarding the question of how videogame experience affects the speed of surgical skill acquisition. That's all changed with an article in the May issue of Surgical Endoscopy entitled "Should surgical novices trade their retractors for joysticks? Videogame experience decreases the time needed to acquire surgical skills." From the article:
"[T]he current adult gamer has been playing videogames for an average of 12 years.... It is logical to assume that present and future generations of surgical trainees will have experience with videogames. What is less clear is how this may influence their aptitude for acquiring surgical skills."
To investigate this question, a group of medical students and surgical residents from Emory University School of Medicine were trained and tested in the use of a laparoscopy simulator. In the end, there was a substantial difference in performance between those with and without prior videogame experience. As the authors explain:
"[T]rainees with previous videogame experience took significantly less time to reach proficiency than did nongamers.... Prior to their formal training, gamers have acquired some of the visuospatial and motor skills needed to excel in surgery, and progress along the learning curve...more quickly."
None of this is particularly surprising, given that both surgery and videogames rely heavily on hand-eye coordination. In addition, since this is talking about a virtual reality surgery simulator, it makes sense that gamers would find their bearings more quickly than non-gamers. Maybe I should have studied to be a surgeon.