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November 23, 2012

Slate: High-school video gamers match physicians at robotic-surgery simulation

(Continued)

As Kilic told me, it's funny that a game like Call of Duty that includes so much death (an infographic released last year by Activision said that Black Ops players alone had killed the world's population nine times over) could create skills to save a life. But what about using games to teach actual medicine? In the early '90s,the video game Life & Death made me briefly consider being a doctor. I became an expert at distinguishing gas from kidney stones and performing virtual appendectomies. But that game's co-creator, Don Laabs, said in an email that though they worked with a real surgeon ("and his graphic surgery videos") to make the game feel true to life, it was never intended to be any sort of training ground or even necessarily to inspire kids to want to be physicians.

I recently had a chance to try out a real surgical machine that allowed you to use tiny remote controlled instruments while being able to view the surgical area with magnified 3D vision. The video gamers among us proved quite adept at using the machine. We all agreed, though, that the 3D view was absolutely essential to get the job done. Things have certainly come a long way since Life & Death! With that type of tech available, I'm sure surgery games and simulators will become more and more applicable to real surgery training.

For now, though, Kilic warns that parents with MD ambitions for their children shouldn't mandate two hours a day at the Xbox 360. Sorry, kids.

Bosch is the editor of Slate's Future Tense project.

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