Surgeons train with Wii

first published at The Manila Times,  Aug 10, 2008

This makes me feel ashamed to be a gamer.

A dumb-make that very, very dumb-19-year-old (giving the word “stupid” a whole new meaning) murdered a Bangkok taxi driver apparently imitating one of the crimes in the game Grand Theft Auto.

According to police reports, 19-year-old Polwat Chino stabbed Kuan Pohkang, a 54-year-old taxi driver, around 10 times in an attempt to imitate carjackings in Grand Theft Auto. Chino then apparently admitted that GTA inspired him to steal the cab and kill the driver.

He was arrested after he was caught trying to drive the cab backward down a Bangkok street with the cab driver slumped in the back seat. According to the Bangkok Post, Chino cannot drive and simply thought it would not be difficult.

Bangkok police Captain Veerarit Pipatanasak said Chino wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game.

Chino said he needed money to play the game every day, saying his parents only gave him 100 baht (about P131) a day. On Saturday he was given 500 baht (about P657), which he spent at the Lotus superstore instead to buy knives.

He said he did not want to kill the driver, but when the driver reached for a metal bar he stabbed him. Police reportedly said that Chino showed no signs of mental problems although I don’t think any normal person would think he could carjack a vehicle and drive just because it looked easy in a videogame.

This prompted the Thai government to officially ban sales of Rockstar’s controversial Grand Theft Auto franchise. However, it wasn’t certain which version of GTA Chino was playing. Game distributor New Era Interactive Media said it has yet to import GTA IV.

The company states they have stopped selling Grand Theft Auto and would inform all legal vendors to withdraw the game from their shelves. The ban comes as Thailand’s Culture Ministry has been pushing for stronger regulation of violent video games.

Ladda Thangsupachai, director of the Cultural Surveillance Center, said in an interview that the situation could get worse, adding “today it is a cab driver, but tomorrow it could be a video game shop owner.”

GTA was banned initially because of its obscene content under the criminal law article 287 prohibiting the reproduction, distribution or possession of such material. Thai police have been allowed to immediately arrest shopkeepers if they find any GTA games on sale. Storekeepers caught stocking or selling a copy of any GTA game face a fine of up to 6,000 baht ($135) and up to three years in prison, while online retailers face even stricter penalties of up to 100,000 baht ($3,000) and five years in prison.

The Grand Theft Auto series is one of the best games ever made; unfortunately it is also one of the most violent, and has been subject to numerous controversies.

A word of advice: Being a true gamer isn’t about one’s skills or in the number of games played. It’s in the ability to appreciate games for what it is-a form of entertainment. Don’t confuse it with reality.

Now, the irony.

Residents of a hospital in the US say they enjoyed a 50-percent increase in surgical skills after practicing with a custom-designed training device powered by the Nintendo Wii’s remote controller.

According to a news report on New York’s WABC-TV, doctors from Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix discovered a correlation between playing games on the motion-sensing Wii and certain surgical procedures by using “cyber gloves” to record the fine movements of surgeons’ hands. After making some adjustments, they placed the Wiimote training tool in the hands of residents and have been impressed by the results.

Surgical resident Dr. Jeff Henke said it helped coordinate hand movements and helped him prepare himself before going to the operating room and perform laparoscopic surgery.

Dr. Mark Smith said one of the problems they’ve had over the years was that they had no method to teach surgeons surgical skills without going into surgery, and simulators are incredibly expensive just like a flight simulator for a pilot. The Wii system presents a more cost-effective way to train fine motor skills that the surgeons employ during surgery.


A Call Center Christmas