Video games are a multibillion dollar industry with users ranging from young children to adults. But today, thanks to their impressive ability to simulate "real life", they are so much more than just "games"; did you know professionals whose jobs involve saving lives every day, use video games to train and enhance their skills?

With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s not surprising to find video games at the top of many shopping lists. Since their creation more than six decades ago, video games are now sold all around the world and have developed into an industry grossing nearly 25 billion dollars every year!

Fast Fact: In 1947, T.T. Goldsmith Jr. and E.R. Mann designed an analog WWII missile radar stimulator, considered the world’s first video game.

Today, because of their constantly evolving capability to recreate “real life” circumstances in a highly controlled virtual setting, video games are being used as practical training tools for personnel ranging from public health workers, to surgeons, and even the Marine Corps. For example, scientists at Chicago’s University of Illinois have designed a “disaster-planning” computer game which they hope will speed up the training process required for responding to national security threats.

Fast Fact: In a study of a group of New York surgeons, those who reported higher levels of video game use, performed considerably faster and more accurately during simulated surgery drills than their colleagues who had never played a video game before!

Since creating a new game from scratch can be very expensive, computer programmers are now working on adding new features to already existing games. For example, the US Marine Corps use a modified version of “Operation Flashpoint”, a popular interactive tactical game, to create “virtual battlefields” when training new Marines.

Fast Fact: In addition to video games, virtual communities such as “Second Life” with nearly 15 million “residents” and an average 70,000 active users at any point in time, are being considered as effective options for personnel training.

Although there is a considerable amount of controversial research about the value of video games and potential side effects associated with spending too much in front of one, they are proving to be a practical and powerful tool in preparing for the unexpected.

Learn More!

"Surgeons With Video Game Skill Appear To Perform Better In Simulated Surgery Skills Course." JAMA and Archives Journals,, February 2007.

“Training Marines with Video Games.” Marine Corps News Service,, March 2005.

Article first published on December 7, 2009.

Saba Mir

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Human Development & Applied Psychology at University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Prior to switching fields to pursue an MA along with OCT & ECE qualifications with AQs in Primary & Special Education, I completed an Honours BSc majoring in biology and botany, followed by an MSc in sleep physiology and neuroscience. In addition to academic commitments, I am a faculty member of George Brown College/Ryerson University's School of Early Childhood and serve as the elected President and Ontario Board of Directors Representative of the Council for Exceptional Children.

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