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Wot I Think: Surgeon Simulator 2013

Heart-stopping

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As a games blogger, the question I am most often asked is: “When are you going to go back to school so that you can get a real job, like an accountant or a doctor?” To which I reply: “Look, Mum, Dad, writing about videogames is a real job now. I’ve paid my rent unaided for at least several years.” Then I show them games like Surgeon Simulator 2013 and ask why I would want to be a real anything, when I can be a simulated everything?

Yeah, that’s my philosophy degree talking. Paying for itself, right there.

So my parents, bless them, give me the benefit of the doubt. I welcome them into my world, and start to unfold the electronic wonders that I deal with every day.

Look, I say, look at what videogames can do:

Uh, okay. Well… this isn’t so much a simulation in the sense that it accurately portrays the act of invasive medicine, so much as it simulates breaking open people’s bodies with one of those grab stick hand things that seemed like popular toys when I was a kid. But that was probably just my perception. I wanted a hand on a stick. [Look at the bullet points through that link! – Ephemera Ed.]

Developers Bossa are in on the joke, of course. Surgeon Simulator 2013 was a Global Game Jam title that they realised they could take much further once it hit YouTube and sent people rushing to their desktops to share it.

This is essentially a game which has happened because it was funny.

Not because it’s a good game, necessarily, or because Bossa saw some commercial niche, but because it’s a really great joke, played out to the full size of a developed and released game.

It’s kind of amazing.

The controls are suitable rudimentary. You use three keys to flex your fingers, and spacebar for the thumb. Left click can be used to move the arm up and down, while holding down the right button controls the rotations. There are items which, when you grasp near them, sort of “stick” to your fingers. Then it’s up to you. Dropped the circular saw thing? Yeah, me too. But a drill and a hammer work just fine for getting that ribcage open. After that? Well, I dunno. Maybe… uh.

The result of this is that you are essentially incapable of interacting with the scene presented to you in a sensible way. You fumble about in the space in front of you like Octodad inside a paper bag, and you might just be able to grasp a scalpel or a whirring saw. Sure, you might even eventually get through that guy’s ribcage – but what then? Horror.

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is actually Surgeon Unsimulator 2013. Instead of having a surgeon’s fluidly dextrous hands and vast anatomical knowledge, you have someone else’s dead hands on sticks, and you know nothing other than what you saw in that half-glimpsed episode of Grey’s Anatomy where Dr Beautiful was using a drill to stop someone’s head exploding while Dr Sexy talked her through it over the phone.

Yes, this is a bit like operating on someone over the phone, only much funnier. In the way that disgusting slapstick body-horror can be funny. I don’t know if there’s a term for it, but it’s gross out silliness of the most childish kind.

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is not a brilliant game. But it is a brilliant joke. In the form of a game. It’s an idea that is a clean magnitude of awesome above 90% of what will be released this year because it is so absurd. You should buy it because Bossa understood that a game can just be an incredible cack-handed punchline, covered in gore.

You should buy it because the ridiculous can be sublime. And we need much more of that right now.

Surgeon Simulator 2013 is out now.

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Jim Rossignol

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