Can Gaming Train You To Perform Endoscopic Surgery?

Maybe square eyes aren't so bad after all? Research and reflections from participants in our Year 12 Summer School


You’ve played Donkey Kong, Right?

It’s a really well known classic; you play as Mario climb up the stage and avoid rolling barrels to save the princess from Donkey Kong. If a barrel hits you, it kills you and the level restarts, jumping over a barrel gives you 100 points. At first you may die a lot and the game might feel frustrating; but over time as we played we noticed steady improvement, and soon were able to complete the level in a single run.


How does this have anything to do with endoscopic surgery?
Here’s where science comes in.


German neuroscientists got 23 participants to play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day over 2 months and after an MRI scan it was found that some players experienced growth in some parts of the brain that related to planning, organisation, navigation and motor skills, not too dissimilar to when we played Donkey Kong, where we noticed our reactions and timing improved. (From the BBC)

Now that we’ve demonstrated a simple game can improve some skills, but is it possible that a game could assess your abilities as a surgeon?


In a study conducted in London by Tariq Miskry, Tiarnan and Adam Magos, a positive correlation was discovered between the time it took participants (who were trainee surgeons)  to complete a lap in Diddy Kong Racing, and how long it took to complete a set of skill tests in their endoscopy workshop. The trainees who did better in Diddy Kong Racing were also more proficient in their tests.


This suggests that video games can help train future professionals to perform complex roles, similarly to the way how flight simulators are used to train pilots. If this was successful years of time and thousands of pounds can be saved by using video games to supplement educational materials. If these simple video games designed to entertain children can help develop complex skills in them, what if the public had access to video games that were designed to train them for professional roles?


Does this mean little Timmy can become an astronaut overnight? Probably not. But from what these studies indicate, the potential is clearly there.



– Erol and Jamie