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Post Column: Video gamers bound to save the world

Video games will save humanity sometime in the future. I assure you with more confidence and levelheadedness than Donald Trump proclaiming October surprises.

I am comforted by this fact every time I see someone play Call of Duty. Believe me, those shooting skills are going to come in really handy when the zombies come at the end of 2012. Every time I see someone pick off an enemy soldier whose head peeks out of a hole in a warehouse 40 gazillion miles away, I realize that I will survive any undead apocalypse if I find a way to meet up with a crowd of video-gamers at a U.S. grade-A military warehouse.

There are other, more concrete advantages to playing video games (before the zombies come to eat us all, that is). The best one is that video games can help you get through medical school and make you a successful surgeon.

A study conducted by Iowa State University tested laparoscopic surgeons across the age spectrum, and had one group of surgeons play video games regularly while the other group refrained from playing.

Laparoscopy, by the way, is a medical operation in which a lighted tube is inserted through an incision in the abdomen to examine the stomach interior for cancerous tumors. For this week’s comforting mental image, it’s like that government bug that dug into Neo’s belly button in The Matrix.

When the scientists analyzed the success rate of the operations, they concluded that laparoscopic surgeons who played video games regularly were 27 percent faster at carrying out the operation. Alarmingly, surgeons who played video games were also 37 percent less likely to make mistakes.

One of the lead scientists of the research project, psychologist Douglas Gentile, later stated that the amount of video games surgeons played “were better predictors of surgical skills than years of training and number of surgeries performed.”

For the patients whose surgeons made mistakes while operating on them, next time make sure the doctor spends more time in front of a video-game console before sticking a tube into your stomach.

And for the kids out there whose parents complain of overt video-game consumption, next time you can claim that you’re practicing surgeon skills for medical school.

Video games are such a part of the medical field that they have even entered research on the human genome. In fact, there is a specific protein named Sonic the Hedgehog that codes for placement of limbs on the human body as well as cancer growth.

The Sonic the Hedgehog protein is part of a series of three proteins known as the hedgehog proteins, each of which codes for a specific portion of embryo development in a fetus. The other two hedgehog proteins are known as “desert hedgehog” and “Indian hedgehog.”

Another protein that potentially inhibits, or deactivates, the Sonic the Hedgehog protein has similarly been named Robotnikinin. Robotnikinin was discovered and named by a team of Harvard scientists.

There. Something else you can tell your parents when they criticize your gaming habits. If Harvard scientists are fans of video games, then they can only boost IQs.

In a less happy story, another scientist who discovered a gene that caused cancer named it “Pokémon,” which stood for “POK erythroid myeloid ontogenic factor.”

It’s a bit of a stretch, and apparently, the company that owns Pokémon thought so too. Pokémon USA later threatened to sue the researcher, Dr. Pier Paolo Pandolfi, for defamation of the franchise’s name. Pandolfi, who also happens to be the instructor with the most awesome name ever at Harvard Medical School, complied with Pokémon USA’s request, and renamed the gene  the less-catchy “Zbtb7.”

Really briefly, as silly as those monikers might sound, there are even odder names for genes, including “faint sausage,” “tribbles,” “groucho,” “smurf,” “death executioner Bcl-2,” and “sex lethal.”

Specifically, I have an issue with “smurf.” Who in their right senses would name a gene after those blue monsters?

Another study of video games revealed that video games reduced sensitivity to pain. Participants in a study were divided into two groups: one that played a violent shooter game, and another that played a peaceful golf game. Participants later dipped their hands in cold ice water for ten minutes while researchers measured their pain.

The study concluded that people who played the violent shooter game felt 65 percent less pain than people who played the golf game.

I think this might reveal a teensy problem with our societal mentality. Violent games desensitizing sensations of pain could be a little bad.

But, on second thought, who cares? If more violent-shooter-game players means more protection against zombies for me, then by all means, keep shooting.

Kevin Hwang is a senior at Athens High School who is taking classes at Ohio University and a columnist for The Post. Tell him the names of your genes at

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