Dr. Byerly is a GamerDad reader and an MD. He was kind enough to send us this Op/Ed on gaming and how it helped him become a doctor.by Dr. Erich Byerly M.D.
Video and computer games get a lot of bad press. People blame games for everything from teenage violence to childhood obesity. I personally believe that playing these games does have some redeeming qualities.
I am of the generation that grew up with the original Pong all the way to the current computer and video games. Playing these games was one of my pastimes as a child that continues to this day, and I feel that this has helped me in my professional career.
I am 33 years old and currently practice as an OB/Gyn in rural Texas. As a resident in training, I found that when learning how to perform laparoscopic surgery that it seemed to come relatively easy for me.
When discussing this with my fellow residents and faculty it was pointed out that to perform well with the laparscope, one needs good hand-eye coordination. When performing other forms of surgery, you are actually looking directly at the surgical field and watching exactly where your hands are going. The laparoscope, on the other hand, involves placing your surgical instruments into a closed field and operating by watching the instruments on a television screen. You are not able to look down at your hands because you need to keep your eyes on the screen. As you can see this definitely requires some amount of hand-eye coordination.
In my opinion, the reason that this came easily for me was all those hours spent playing games in front of the television or the computer. When playing many of these games, you are watching a screen and simply pressing buttons on the controller or the keyboard to control the action that you see on the screen. A lot of the time, you have to make split second decisions and looking down at your hands could mean failure in the desired outcome of the game. After playing these games for years, it becomes second nature for you to simply react to the actions on screen without needing to make sure your hands are performing the correct movements. In my professional opinion, growing up in the age of video games has helped me to learn how to perform laparoscopic surgery more easily and quickly than those that did not grow up in this day and age or simply never experienced the joy of video gaming.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am better than these other physicians or that those who are either older or not gamers can’t learn to be excellent laparscopic surgeons. In fact, the majority of the teaching physicians are older and didn’t grow up playing these games. I simply feel that by honing my hand-eye coordination as a child, I was better equipped during my training to learn these techniques.
My professional experiences have been aided by being an avid gamer and I believe that I am a relatively well rounded individual, so there are some positives to spending time either in front of the computer or television. We should encourage our children to have other activities but we need to also encourage them when they are playing, who knows it might actually help them later in life.