Jan 06 2011

Games and Medicine: It’s a Nerd’s World

Because games look to real life for inspiration, it would make sense that elements of medicine would permeate into the medium. Anytime a character is realistically bloodied or maimed it would make sense to me that some form of realistic medicine be required. Some forms of medicine are more magical while other are more scientific. This can range from potions to the realistic treatments Snake uses in MGS3. Medicine in video games may not always be scientific, but at least it has a strong presence and influence in gaming.

Countless games make it very easy to see the influence of medicine on gaming, but what about the influence of gaming on medicine? One such example is based on gaming’s most beloved blue hedgehog. Sonic Hedgehog is one of three proteins responsible for regulating vertebrate organogenesis. What that means is that Sonic Hedgehog is responsible for forming your internal organs (Ed. Note: Here’s proof). What makes this even better is that the protein has an inhibitor. For those who don’t know, the role of the inhibitor is to get in the way of the proteins main goal. Every force of good must have an opposing evil and this evil’s name is Robotnikinin (obviously named after Sonic’s arch nemesis Dr. Robotnik). What makes this amazing is that this is not an oddity.

A few other examples highlight the influence of Nintendo’s Pokemon franchise. Pikachurian is a protein named after Pikachu (Ed. note: More proof).  Also on the roster is a gene linked to cancer. This gene is now known as Zbtb7, but its original scientific name was Pokemon (Ed. note: Wiki proof). As awesome as that would be, I could see why Nintendo wouldn’t want their product to be associated with something as grim as cancer. These are just a few example in one professional field where gaming culture has had any sort of influence. Medicine is one of those traditionally respectable jobs, so it does me proud to see that video games can have an influence in a professional world.

It isn’t just cool that video games are able to extend their influence into many spheres of life, but it also shows a significant sociocultural change. Gaming hasn’t been around forever and holds a lot of social stigmas because of this. When I was a child, games were toys and a simple thing of entertainment. There was no gaming journalism and gaming wasn’t the industry that it is today. Proper jobs were in medicine, law, government, and things like that. The gaming industry as we now know it hardly existed and was only about production and publishing. Because of this, gaming was for kids and nerds and was a phase people grew out of. It sounds weird, but it was once a reality that you weren’t suppose to play games once you reached a certain age. Fortunately, gaming has grown a lot and is starting to get a lot of attention. Gaming is now a multi-million dollar industry which everyone wants a piece of. I see it as a significant milestone that gaming has such an influence on medicine. As the industry grows I am confident that aspects of gaming culture will be more accepted and start cropping up all over the place. I am reminded of the popularity of the Phoenix Wright games and wonder if gaming might have an influence on law in the near future.

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