Video games as a simulator for preparedness

I must admit that I always thought of video games as nothing but a waste of time reserved for immature boys and men to live out hero fantasies. The I ran across this article that listed several benefits including helping surgeons become better at their work.

Now at first I was skeptical figuring it was just a feel good article for gamers. That’s until I ran into this scholarly article showing a study backing that claim. Well I’ll be damned. It turns out that hours of video games aren’t a complete waste after all. However you also need to have the intelligence to acquire the other 99.9% of the skills needed to become a surgeon of course.

It turns out playing video games improves hand-eye coordination reflexes of the brain. So since gamer surgeons exercise this aspect a lot as they play, they get to kick ass during surgery. Makes a lot of sense since the human body works on the principle of ‘use it or lose it’. We see it in atrophication of muscles in patients who spend years or even months in a coma. They then need a period of physiotherapy after waking up and recovery to be able to ‘get their strength back’.

This got me thinking, maybe we could use the same thinking to exercise skills which we seem to be using less and less everyday. The human race evolved as hunters and gatherers. It’s no secret that we are no match physically to the hunter animals that would seek to prey on us. So we used our intellect to outwit predators and become the most successful mammal. Even after organizing ourselves into societies, the most successful hunters and warriors were able to thrive as opposed to their more docile counterparts.

However, the human animal is now more civilized and the growth of cities and role specialization means that a majority of people don’t have to kill even a chicken. This in theory is a good thing, since all things considered, we’re living in the most peaceful period of human existence. It, however, poses a problem if ever that existence is threatened.

I am a survival enthusiast. I constantly push myself on the boundaries of what I can achieve in the wilderness on my own. How many people can last a day if dropped in the middle of nowhere with absolutely nothing and having to fight off predators? Can you fight off invaders if handed a gun and nothing else?

This is where I believe video and computer games come in. It’s so easy to put together a cheap gaming PC and indulge in the latest survival game. Which is exactly what I did. With a surround sound speaker system or headphones you can practice your environmental and situational awareness. You can develop your reflexes and problem solving skills. Oh yeah and turns out it’s a lot of fun.

Now of course you’re not gonna become a master survivalist from playing computer games. Just like you don’t become a master surgeon just by playing video games. It is only one set of skills that you get to exercise. It’s upon you to acquire all the other skills that may be needed in the wild or in a combat zone. However you get to practice skills that are falling into disuse in modern society.

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