A couple days ago I posted about an NPR/ESPN piece that I heard on my roadtrip where COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf games) were used for training. In a follow-up post, Tony Karrer adds his own personal experience with his son. His post was then followed by a nice post by Karl Kapp. Karl lists a bunch of games and some of their potential and actual applications for learning. Certainly their are plenty of great games being developed for learning in the serious games space, but it’s good to see people finding reuse for existing games. My own series of posts (1, 2, 3) on The Movies: The Game venture into that same space.

I feel a bit like Don Clark here (and will actually quote him in a minute) , but one word of caution on a statistic that Karl uses in his post. He quotes a study that says:

Surgeons who play video games three hours a week decrease mistakes by 37 percent in laparoscopic surgery and perform the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who do not play video games…so, you want your surgeons to play games.

While the quote is accurate, it’s missing some important details. First, which game they played mattered. Specifically, the game that worked best was Super Monkey Ball. The object of the game is to get the ball through a maze of holes and ramps to the goal. However, the player doesn’t move the ball, they move the platform. It was based on an older game called Marble Madness, which itself was based on a similar physical game from 20 years ago with a wooden box and a steel marble, but I digress. The other games they tested did not get the same results. Second, the study only tested with laproscopic surgeons, not other types of surgeons. Third, the study was a bit limited in scope and has been questioned pretty heavily for it’s methods. Thankfully, the studies author, Dr. James Rosser, is doing much more research, but until then we really can’t generalize outside the study’s results which said playing Super Monkey Ball makes laproscopic surgeons better, and even that needs to be taken cautiously.

On a related note (health and learning), Don Clark just posted on the use of games like Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Sports, and Guitar hero for health and fitness. In the last 2 generations of consoles, games have definitely become less and less sedintary. One of my favorites, Yourself!Fitness, doesn’t get mentioned often enough is a great example of coaching, learning, and exercise using a game. Designed for the Xbox, Maya (the virtual coach) takes the participant through a daily exercise routine. The virtual coach customizes the routine with hundreds of possible exercises to the person’s fitness level and even attitude that day. Results are tracked in the system and progress can be viewed over time.