Wot I Think: Surgeon Simulator 2013

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.


  1. BD says:

    Oh god, I got a good laugh out of that video.

    • Timmytoby says:

      They have learned to format their spam!
      The singularity is upon us!
      To the Shelters of Eternal Wailing, ladies and gentlemen!

  2. amateurviking says:

    Honestly one of the funniest things I have played in a long time. Some of the ‘let’s play’ videos out there are brilliant.

  3. ResonanceCascade says:

    So what’s the difference between this and the free gamejam game you referenced? I had a good laugh with that one.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That is also my question; it was a fairly short, sharp joke. Funny, but not something with much longevity.

      • ooktar says:

        There’s supposed to be all sorts of new stuff added. like different surgeries including brain and kidney transplants and some new features like Surgery in the back of a moving ambulance or in a theater, and performing a whole surgery with a piece of broken glass.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          It is a mini game, but I saw a good play through on youtube and the player ended with the phrase “best game ever!”
          Had mi in stitches. It’s one of those games you watch others play. Give it to a friend etc and watch them squirm.

          Just a pity it is so graphically violent. I actually think people would think I’m crazy if I played it. (They’d not get the joke and/or forget it’s not real.) :D

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            I don’t think it would be nearly as funny without the violence.

          • RedViv says:

            This game needs a violence reduction as much as the organ donor scenes in Meaning of Life.

          • Napalm Sushi says:

            Yeah, a central part of the joke is that, after employing a grotesquely overengineered UI to reduce you to a pitiable oaf barely in command of his own faculties, the game then casts you in a role which, above perhaps all others, not only demands precise dexterity and encyclopedic knowledge of the field but carries the direst consequences for any lapse in those things.

          • jrodman says:

            RedViv: an apt comparison. I can’t handle either one, unfortunately.
            Or .. fortunately?

            In any event, i’m part of some subgroup of people for whom it doesn’t work.
            Which is totally fine. I see how it could be funny, and wish the rest of you the most enjoyment possible.

        • Professor Snake says:

          The things you mentioned. Those are pretty much everything that was added. Three types of operations, and six stages. In the latter three, you repeat the same first three operations in a moving ambulance. There’s also an extra stage where you are in space. I wouldn’t exactly call it a 10$ game. It’s probably going to last an hour before it gets repetitive and boring. One of valve’s worst greenlight choices.

    • Rognik says:

      There are a lot of changes from the free game jam version of this game. Basically it’s best to consider the original as sort of an alpha test for this. Here are basically all of the changes that I’ve noticed:

      -Great interactive main menu
      -More organs (stomach, liver, kidneys, intestines…)
      -More tools (drill, laser, sedative, sedative antidote…)
      -Better physics (no more floating rib chunks, generally less buggy)
      -Two more transplant operations (kidneys and brain… yes, a brain transplant)
      -Ambulance mode (lots of bouncing, tools and organs flying everywhere!)
      -Hazards (sedative causes hallucination, electrocution messes up controls)
      -Hidden bonus level (just another heart transplant but in an awesome setting)
      -Lots of funny achievements
      -More music

      Whether or not that’s all worth $7-$10 is your decision. For me, it definitely was.

  4. Lambchops says:

    Ah but, Jim is a simulated everything simply just a real nothing?

    That’s not my degree talking, my degree would probably be saying something like “it’s incredible really, we still don’t properly understand how gneral anesthetics work but it’s a damn good job they do or I’d have an unhappy customer right here.”

  5. Orija says:

    So, can “games journalist” and “games blogger” be used interchangeably now?

    • P7uen says:

      It’s more Games Blogging Blogging than straight Games Blogging, I reckon

    • djbriandamage says:

      We’re calling it Neo New Gonzo Games Journalism now, not blogging.

      • Obc says:

        so does the neo imply that there was new gonzo games journalism before this and if what was it? and was there just gonzo games journalism even before that?

        • djbriandamage says:

          Technically “new games journalism” is in the gonzo style, and we now find ourselves in the post-new games journalism world. Categorization!

          • Obc says:

            while we’re on this subject:

            Dibs on NEO GONZO GAMES JOURNALISM as a Band Name.

      • Lambchops says:

        What if it isn’t blogging at all but game journalist simulation?

  6. P7uen says:

    Why can’t I find this game to purchase anywhere? The website is unhelpful and Steam can’t seem to find it.

  7. djbriandamage says:

    Looks absolutely hilarious – very QWOPpy. I don’t see it on Steam yet but I hope it’s a reasonable price.

  8. Caerphoto says:

    The Rage Quit video of this game is hilarious:

  9. rossguitar says:

    ITS OUT NOWWWWWW!!!!!! link to store.steampowered.com

  10. Drake Sigar says:

    He’s dead, Jim.

  11. wodin says:

    Hmm..I didn’t really get the funny side of it..well it didn’t make me laugh just felt like there was absolutely nothing to it at all..try and pick something up saw or smash through ribs then fumble around the screen..rinse repeat..

  12. analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

    Just seen a drunken George Osborne coming out of the Garrick club espousing the virtues of this game and of the common man bankrolling the few.

    Some see outsourcing as the future of the NHS apparently!

  13. Low Life says:

    Hear transplants are cool and all, but it’s not exactly brain surgery, is it?

  14. SurvivalistDev says:

    Amazing! Anybody else reminded of Jurassic Park: Trespasser? Trying to hold those guns straight was a nightmare and I always just ended up trying to fend off a velociraptor by punching at it with a helmet or a watermelon. Good times.

  15. tehfish says:

    Saw this article then looked up youtube videos of it.

    link to youtube.com

    It looks awesomely silly :D

  16. engion3 says:

    cocaine is a helluva drug

  17. dare says:

    After watching an hour of Let’s Plays I decided that I’ve already got my money’s worth of entertainment, and bought the game. I tried playing it and it’s exactly as awful (in a good way) as you’d imagine. This is definitely a party game, to be played on the big screen, with a living room full of drunken mates.

  18. waltC says:

    Although you may be (what am I saying? You probably are…) too young to remember it, there was a board game called “Operation” popular when I was a boy, and the UI for this game as pictured here looks almost like a carbon-copy of the physical board used in that game. You were supplied with a metal “tweezer” (your scalpel), and when tasked with organ removal you got a big BZZZZZ_Z_Z_Z_ZT!!! sound (game was battery operated) when the the metal scraped against the sides of the opening in which the plastic facsimile of the organ lay….(whew!)….;) That’s all I can remember–except that if you were successful with the surgery then a clown’s (at the top of the board) red rubber nose lit up–or *something* like that…;) Anyway–this game is a dead ringer for that one…

    • Brun says:

      Operation isn’t that old – plus, it’s the kind of “classic” board game that never really gets discontinued, like Monopoly. I’m familiar with it and I’m only in my early 20’s, and I assume the game is still around today.

      • Thermal Ions says:

        Actually, it is that old. I remember it from the 70’s and wikipedia tells me it has been around since 1965, so it’s coming up to 50 years in production.

    • Triplanetary says:

      If there’s one thing the Internet offers consistently (besides porn), it’s condescending, “You kids are probably too young to know what I’m talking about, but [insert something my five-year-old niece is probably familiar with]” posts.

  19. MacTheGeek says:

    “You wanna know something? I’m a bad doctor. I’m not boasting — I mean, who would? — I’m just stating a fact. I’ve never really gotten the hang of the whole ‘healing the sick’ thing. And don’t interpret this as some sort of false modesty, please; it’s not. It’s not like I’m weak in some areas, no; I’m homogeneously unqualified to practice medicine in ANY capacity.”

  20. Nasser says:

    I’m sure someone has thought of this already, but this game would be even more hilarious with this: link to leapmotion.com I hope someone is able to mod support for it once the controller launches around May.

  21. Orogenesis says:

    This game can be an argument for interactive art with the way it elicits primal laughter thanks to the slapstick idea being so well executed in function with the control setup.

    The game is a hilarious showcase of human/computer interfacing.

    Great job devs.

  22. Soapeh says:

    It reminds me of the Whose Line is it Anyway game where someone would be Ryan Stiles’ arms and act out a scene requiring some vague form of dexterity to complete.

    The disconnect between the visibility of the goal and the convoluted interface provided to you to complete the task leads to almost guaranteed hilarity. See also: Enviro-Bear 2000.

  23. Mario Figueiredo says:

    The game is pure crap when actually played. Meanwhile, the videos are lots of fun. My money is to the uploaders.

  24. Sotto Voce says:

    I just don’t have the stomach for this game.

  25. gingerbill says:

    maybe its just me but i thought watching my brother play it was funny for 5 minutes and that was it . Terrible game to be honest.

  26. Hahaha says:

    For 7 quid I would rather not buy a browser game that has no gameplay


  27. Dowr says:

    Here is my review: you can bash open a guy’s skull.

  28. Ridnarhtim says:

    Okay, that looks like some good random fun and all, but £5? Not a chance.

  29. 101GamerNews says:

    Haha. I have noticed this game on Steam Greenlight, and to be honest – I don’t know what to say, i mean, there are so many “Simulators” out there, so why shouldn’t there be a surgeon simulator. Hehe, bright idea id say.

  30. edwardh says:

    And that’s why I would like to study philosophy. Bill Hicks, Slavoj Zizek and now this ;)

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  32. MaryMcNeill24 says:

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