Video Games Helpful to Children and Surgeons

New studies conducted at a number of prominent Universities around the country have finally revealed what many of us gamers and long time technophiles have known all along--video games can help kids learn, and improve dexterity and some cognitive functions.

Other information gathered from the studies, however, didn't focus solely on game-playing children. They also used information gathered to gauge the abilities of some doctors and surgeons, and found that playing video games had a huge impact on their abilities as well.

"One study of 33 laparoscopic surgeons found that those who played video games were 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and made 37 percent fewer errors than those who didn't.

Advanced video game skills also were a good way to predict suturing abilities, according to their study, which was published in the Archives of Surgery in 2007."

Grand Theft Auto 4

This information flies in the face of the "conventional wisdom" that video games are in some way harmful and potentially detrimental to certain brain functions and cognitive skills, similar to watching television for hours on end. After all, how many of us growing up were told playing video games would "rot our brains"?

"The single best predictor of their skills is how much they had played video games in the past and how much they played now. Those were better predictors of surgical skills than years of training and number of surgeries performed...So the first question you might ask your surgeon is how many of these (surgeries) have you done and the second question is 'Are you a gamer?"

To say the single best predictor of a surgeon's skills was how much they had played video games is a very bold statement. We have trouble buying into that statement fully, but believe there is some element of truth there. The fact of the matter is, a surgeon that is more comfortable manipulating a controller while getting visual feedback from a screen, is more likely to be comfortable performing surgeries in a similar manner.

"Researchers who gathered in Boston for the American Psychological Association convention detailed a series of studies suggesting video games can be powerful learning tools--from increasing younger students' problem-solving potential to improving the suturing skills of laparoscopic surgeons.  One study even looked at whether playing "World of Warcraft," the world's biggest multiplayer online game, can improve scientific thinking."

News like this starkly contrasts much of what is reported in the mainstream media regarding video games. When games like Grand Theft Auto 4 launch and pull in more money than many so-called Hollywood Busters, much of the media tends to focus on the negative aspects of gaming. Yes, GTA4 is violent. But how many hours of entertainment and stress relief have adults gotten from playing the game? A lot. And according to these studies, those gamers are probably better problem solvers than their non-gamer counterparts.

World of Warcraft

For those of us that grew up in front of a computer playing games, the hand-eye coordination benefits are obvious. But, problem solving skills can also be improved, as can writing and communication skills depending on the usage scenario. There is also the side benefit of demystifying the computer--when kids get comfortable in front of a computer, they are more likely to want to experiment with it and learn what it can do. I can personally attest to this fact; I would not be working on HotHardware today had I not been so enthralled by my Commodore 64 and the games I played on it.

Of course, there was some bad news reported as well. "Other studies confirmed earlier research that found students who played violent games tended to be more hostile, less forgiving and believed violence to be normal compared to those who played nonviolent games. And those who played more entertainment games did poorer in school and were are greater risk of obesity."

Were the parent of these students also studied? We suspect that the fatter, more violent children gamers also have parents that were less involved and more willing to let the kids play whatever games they wanted.