Before surgeons are let loose on real-life patients, they are often trained through computer simulation.
Now a controversial new game allows players to operate on virtual patients, performing open heart surgery.
Clearly aimed at those who fancy themselves as Dr Gregory House or Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey, Surgeon Simulator 2013 is described by its makers as a “darkly humorous over-the-top operation simulator game”.
Players become Nigel Burke, a would-be surgeon who takes life into his decidedly shaky hands, performing life-saving manoeuvres on ‘patients’.
Developed and published by London-based Bossa Studios, Surgeon Simulator 2013 was initially created in just 48 hours following the Global Game Jam at the beginning of this year.
Bossa, which also created Bafta-winning Monstermind, has now taken that first prototype and expanded it into a bigger game experience. In the first version, there was one simple objective – to perform heart surgery on a patient without killing them, while being in control of just one hand.
This time round, the game play has got tougher but, if you can make it past that initial operation, you can try your hand at kidney transplants, operations that have to be performed en route to hospital in a moving ambulance and even become a brain surgeon.
So far, despite being labelled “silly and gross,” Surgeon Simulator 2013 has won over critics. Ashton Raze from The Telegraph says he struggled to get past the first level before taking on board tips from its creators but is now completely addicted. “I ended up hooked, playing it for hours,” he says, “and I’m almost certainly not done.”
While Darryl Kaye from Gaming Union, describing game play, says: “There are numerous ways you can perform tasks and that’s what makes the game rather unique. Most people will opt to use the hammer to break off the ribs but even this is a rather difficult task in itself. It that’s not your thing though, you can also choose to use a bone saw, circular saw or even a drill. It all depends on whether you want to go for cleanliness or speed because that’s ultimately what you’re judged on once the operation is completed.”
Whether Surgeon Simulator 2013 is your cup of tea or not, what it isn’t is an actual simulator. It’s really just a bit of slapstick fun that is all the more humorous for its clunky controls. The A-W-E-R and space keys act as your fingers, with the mouse as the rest of your hand but as soon as you reach out for your first scalpel, you realise you’re probably the world’s clumsiest surgeon.
All the time you’re performing surgery, your patient, Bob, will be losing blood. There’s a handy needle that reduces blood loss as you play but it’s all too easy to stab yourself with it, meaning you’ll have to finish your virtual operation through a drug-induced haze that leaves you with less than perfect vision.
If you do manage to fix Bob’s faulty heart, replace his ailing kidneys or perform successful brain surgery, you’ll be graded from A++ to D, based on how much blood your patient loses and how long it takes you to finish the operation. Even getting a D is pretty tricky through but becoming an A-grade medical student gives you something to aim for.