Thomas wrote a post yesterday on medical board games, which got me reminiscing about medical computer games. There is a long history of medical computer games, particularly within the simulation genre. Most noteworthy is the now extinct Bullfrog Productions’ wickedly funny Theme Hospital, which was published in 1997 by Electronic Arts. The game is a darkly humorous simulation, in which the player has to build a hospital, manage staff and attract patients. A similar game is the recently published Hospital Tycoon, published in 2007 by Codemasters.
Another sub-genre of medical games emerged from Japan with the succes of Trauma Centre: Under the Knife, released for the Nintendo DS in 2005. The game is a roleplaying game set in 2018, and features the struggle against a man-made disease called GUILT (Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin), which is distributed by a terrorist organization. The protagonist is a young surgeon, who learns he is a descendant of Asclepius, no less. The gameplay consists of a series of increasingly difficult operations (you can see what the gameplay looks like here), which the player has to complete to advance the story. The game has since spawned a number of follow-ups and clones.
Another series of games that deserve a special mention is the Life and Death-series, which dates back to the early years of DOS-gaming. Check out what a digitalised interactive brain surgery looked like in 1990 here.
There are a number of other medical games, but my personal favorite medically themed game (well, sort of medically themed) is the fantastic Psychonauts from 2005, in which the player has to delve into the psyches of a group of kids to stop a villain from tampering with their minds. A truly original and brilliant game, by any standards.
I have no doubt that we will see more medically themed games in the future, and particularly games along the lines of the protein-folding game Foldit (which has been mentioned on this blog before). Everyone, including scientists, are increasingly realising the co-creative potential of the participatory web, and there will no doubt be a rush to explore this potential.