What Would Video Game Medics Earn (and Risk) In the Real World?

What Would Video Game Medics Earn (and Risk) In the Real World?

One of the things that makes video games so special is how relatable the characters are. In video games, we can insert ourselves into impossible, otherworldly scenarios to live out fantasies beyond our wildest dreams. So, what if we reversed that? What if, instead, we imagine how video game characters would live in our universe?
Bianca Villanueva

  ·  

March 26, 2024

TABLE OF CONTENTS

When we think of our favorite, iconic video game characters, we think of Super Mario, Pac-man, Link, or Sonic. It’s hard to imagine them living out their lives in the world we live in today. Still, they are inspirations for many of us. As doctors and nurses (or aspiring to be), maybe we even look up to medical professionals in video games.

This article will explore the personalities, skills, and earning potential of some popular video game characters. What would happen if they lived in our world? What job would they take up? How much would they earn? How likely are they to get their license revoked? So, let’s analyze some of our favorite video game doctors and nurses, and imagine how they would fare in our universe! 

Dr. Mario from the Dr. Mario Series

Dr. Mario is a popular 90s game, back when falling block games like Tetris were all the rage. The objective of the game was to help Dr. Mario neutralize a viral outbreak by throwing vitamins at different types of enemies. In the game itself, you have to match the colors of the viruses in the bottle on the screen with the colors on the pills being thrown in by Dr. Mario. If the pills reach the top of the bottle, the game is over. That was basically it. There’s little to go on from Dr. Mario himself, but we can make a few assumptions.

What skills does he have?

Based on his skill set and the story we follow, we can assume Dr. Mario is a medical doctor who specializes in infectious diseases. Unfortunately for him, eliminating viral outbreaks isn’t as easy as throwing vitamins–it involves a lot of public health regulations and research. Hence, if Dr. Mario was to enter our world, he might find his work cut out for him.

How much would he earn?

Becoming an infectious disease specialist requires a lot of training and is considered a subspecialization of internal medicine. This means that Dr. Mario would have had to undergo years of training to get to where he is, which typically correlates with a higher salary. He could be looking at a yearly salary of around $260,000. However, post-COVID-19, although infectious disease doctors are much needed, this salary doesn’t quite match-up with that of other specialties.

Risk of getting his license revoked: 10%

Dangermeter scale 10p

There is not much we know about Dr. Mario and his actual medical practice. All we know is that he fights infections with pills, sorted by color. Throughout the game he is neither being negligent of his duties nor engaging in any unethical practices. If anything, he’s doing his best to quell an epidemic with his skills as an infectious disease doctor.

The only thing that could be held against him is that actual clinical trials involve a lot more than just throwing antibiotics directly at bacteria.

There is not much we know about Dr. Mario and his actual medical practice. All we know is that he fights infections with pills, sorted by color. Throughout the game he is neither being negligent of his duties nor engaging in any unethical practices. If anything, he’s doing his best to quell an epidemic with his skills as an infectious disease doctor. The only thing that could be held against him is that actual clinical trials involve a lot more than just throwing antibiotics directly at bacteria.

Nurse Joy from the Pokemon Series

Next, we move to one of the most popular video game and anime franchises of all time: Pokemon. If you’ve ever owned any Nintendo handheld console, you’ve most likely played a Pokemon game. For those who may not know what it is, Pokemon is a game where you collect creatures called pokemon (short for “pocket monsters”) and battle them against other pokemon. The goal of the game is to become the greatest pokemon trainer and rise up the ranks by raising your pokemon to their full potential. However, it’s inevitable that pokemon will get hurt along the way. That’s where Nurse Joy comes in.

Nurse joy

What skills do they have?

Any Pokemon player is familiar with our favorite employee of every Pokemon center: Nurse Joy. Pokemon centers are essentially health centers where you can heal your pokemon for free. Nurse Joy is not necessarily a singular person. They’re a group of nurses who are based in every Pokemon Center to help heal your pokemon. According to the lore, it’s implied that they’re a family of sisters and female cousins who all work in the same profession. They’re often assisted by their own nurse pokemon called Chansey (or when evolved, Blissey). Nurse Joys are very dedicated to taking care of pokemon, even reprimanding trainers who neglect their pokemon.

How much would they earn?

It can be argued that Nurse Joys are veterinary nurses since the pokemon are essentially animals. Veterinary nurses can earn a salary of $50,000–60,000 per year. Since Nurse Joys have extensive experience and play an essential role in every Pokemon center, their salaries may be even higher. They could also be seen as vet technicians, which would earn them around $38,000–52,000 per year.

Risk of getting their license revoked: 0%

Nurse Joys are the best at what they do. They’re also incredibly consistent in their work. In fact, each of them follows the same script and procedure when treating their pokemon patients. In our world, consistency and the following of standard protocol is important in avoiding legal cases. So, it makes sense that Nurse Joys are safe from getting their licenses revoked, thanks to their superb hard work and expertise.

Angie Thompson from Trauma Center

Trauma Center follows the story of Dr. Derek Stiles, a young doctor with a special power called Healing Touch that allows him to perform superhuman feats in surgery and gifts him with vast medical knowledge. His trusty assistant is the reliable, skilled nurse, Angie Thompson. Despite her young age and having just started her position in Hope Hospital, she shows dedication to her work and a keen sense of observation throughout the story. In the game, Angie assists Derek in his operations and her role is mostly talking Derek (and the player) through the different procedures in the game.

Angie thompson

What skills does she have?

Despite not having Healing Touch herself, she still possesses great knowledge of surgical procedures, maybe even as much as Dr. Stiles. She provides a lot more surgical expertise than an operating nurse usually gives, and that adds to her value as a medical professional.

How much would she earn?

Being a nurse with an International Nursing License, Angie already starts off with a strong resume. Although, she is quite young and her age may imply that she is a fresh graduate, so she would have a lower salary than her skills may suggest. The salary of an operating room nurse in the United States can range from $6,000–8,000 a month. So Angie’s starting salary would likely align with that range. Despite being in a world where powers like Healing Touch exist, Angie has no special powers and relies purely on her passion and talent.

This means that Angie has a lot of grit to make-up for her lack of powers, and grit and drive can take people pretty far in the real world.

Risk of getting her license revoked: 10%

Dangermeter scale 10p

Angie is amazing at her job, even knowing almost as much as Dr. Stiles. However, during surgeries, doctors and nurses must follow a certain standard of sterility. The fact that Angie’s close enough to the sterile field to see everything that is going on and talk to Dr. Stiles throughout the procedures means that she is close enough to contaminate the sterile field. Angie should be wearing a mask, gloves, and ideally scrubbed in to assist Dr. Stiles.

Nigel Burke from Surgeon Simulator

If you’re a fan of first-person simulation games, you’ve most likely heard of Surgeon Simulator. It’s a game where you play as Nigel Burke (yes, he has a name), a surgeon who operates on a patient named Bob in different environments from an operating room to a moving ambulance to a space station. Unfortunately for Bob, Nigel’s hands are flimsy and controlled by a mouse and keyboard. So most of the time, Bob expires before the procedures are over.

Nigel burke from surgeon simulator

What are his skills?

As the name implies, Dr. Burke is a surgeon, albeit a very uncoordinated one.

Given the frequent mishaps in his operations, you can argue that Dr. Burke’s greatest skill is evading legal repercussions.

However, if we consider that he specializes in transplant surgeries, that in itself is already impressive and increases his earning potential.

How much would he earn?

Surgery is one of the highest-paying jobs in medicine. Usually surgeons’ income depends on how many surgeries they do in a set amount of time, but each surgery can garner a lot of money from professional fees alone. There are also different types of surgeons and cutting specialties, so the salary can vary by a lot. In Nigel Burke’s case, he specializes in heart, eyes, teeth, and even brain transplants. According to a study done in 2020 about the compensation estimate for a transplant nephrologist (most transplant surgeries are kidney transplants) transplant surgeons would earn a base pay of $180,000. This number can rise depending on their productivity (usually determined by patients and cases per year), and can amount to a whopping $365,910 a year. That is, if Dr. Burke can avoid having his license revoked before then.

Risk of getting his license revoked: 200%

Dangermeter scale 200p

For one, Dr. Burke doesn’t follow sterile techniques. He doesn’t wear gloves, and he touches everything in the operating room then the patient multiple times. Sure, his sterile area is separated from the rest of the room by drapes, but that doesn’t matter if he touches tools that have fallen on the ground. Also, he’s been shown to neglect Bob multiple times when he transplants: instead of going through the trouble of actually reattaching the vessels of the new organ, he just throws it in there and calls it a day. In reality, he would probably face much more severe consequences than only losing his license.

Valentine from Skullgirls

Skullgirls is a fighting game where you choose your character/s and your goal is to knock out your opponent team or be the team with the highest health points (HP) within the time limit. The story follows a group of characters who want to obtain a wish-granting artifact called the “Skull Heart”, each with their own reasons for doing so. During the game’s events, the Skull Heart is in possession of the Skullgirl. In the Story Mode of the game, you can follow each characters’ narrative to learn their own motives for wanting the Skull Heart. One of these characters is our favorite ninjutsu-fighting nurse, Valentine.

Skullgirls nurse

What skills does she have?

Despite her initial introduction as a villain working for the Skullgirl, there’s more to Nurse Valentine than her first impression to the players. She can be caring and generous when she believes it’s the right thing to do. While being a nurse, Valentine’s role is more that of a researcher and scientist. Her in-game dialogue implies that she mainly does lab work. Apart from being a nurse researcher, Valentine is also a skilled fighter, which is a useful skill for a dangerous place like the Canopy Kingdom, where the game is set. This makes her particularly fast and precise, which is a big advantage in the real world.

How much would she earn?

In the US, a clinical research nurse can earn around $80,000–100,000 a year. Although she is a skilled fighter, there’s not much physical combat to be had in the real world. Since a research nurse only has to work a regular 9AM–5PM job, she can probably moonlight as a professional martial artist or instructor. Being an instructor can net her around $30,000–50,000 in salary, but she would probably earn less than that if she’s doing it part-time. She can also work as a trained assassin.

However, since that is illegal, there’s no salary estimate for that.

Risk of getting her license revoked: 20%

Dangermeter scale 20p

Before the events of the game, it’s implied that Valentine used to work in advanced research. It’s also implied that this research was done using human test subjects and potentially without consent. No matter how benign an experiment may be, it’s illegal to perform experiments without informed consent from the subject. Of course, that’s all in the past and in an entirely different world. The only threat that Valentine would pose in this world is if she used her combat skills on others. As we know, it’s illegal to physically harm another person, in general. So as long as Nurse Valentine keeps her weapons away and her ninja skills for the benefit of others, she should be fine.  

Kyoko Minazuki from Rival Schools

Next, we have another fighting game, but this one is a bit older than Skullgirls: it first came out in the 90s. Rival Schools is about students and school staff who are trying to solve the mystery behind a series of attacks and kidnappings plaguing their schools. One of the characters you can choose from is Kyoko Minazuki.

Kyoko minazuki

What are her skills?

Kyoko is a beautiful, skilled, intelligent school nurse who specializes in orthopedics. Being from a fighting game, a lot of Kyoko’s special skills are more for combat, which is ironic for someone in the medical field. What makes her a good fighter is that she has expert knowledge of anatomy and medicine. She knows which places to hit to do the most damage to her opponent (for example, her special power called Pathway to Hell can target the joints of her opponents).

How much would she earn?

School nurses earn around $37,000–60,000 a year with variations based on experience, educational background, and additional certifications. In Kyoko’s case, she seems to be an experienced school nurse with a lot of compassion. Since she’s also particularly knowledgeable in orthopedics, she stands to earn more when she gets certified as an orthopedic nurse. So if she chooses to moonlight or quit her school job to become an orthopedic nurse, she could earn about $115,000–130,000 per year.

Risk of getting her license revoked: 20%

Dangermeter scale 20p

Similar to Nurse Valentine, Kyoko’s biggest threat is that she has fairly good combat skills that can be used on other people. We know how rowdy students can be, but it’s never an excuse to physically harm them, no matter how skilled you may be. So, as long as Kyoko can reserve her fighting skills for recreational and ethical events like sports, she should be okay.

The Medic from Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress is a multiplayer first-person shooter that makes use of the popular capture-the-flag and king-of-the-hill format. Players get to play in different teams (RED and BLU) and choose from nine different classes of characters. Each of these characters has their own strengths, weaknesses, and weapons. Unlike the other games on this list, Team Fortress doesn’t have an active storyline and it doesn’t have to. The main focus of this game is to work well in a team (or carrying one, if your teammates need more practice). Each class is split into Offense, Defense, and Support. One character in Support is called the Medic.

What are his skills?

As the class name implies, he provides medical support to the team. He is a former surgeon who lost his license and mainly acts as a German mad scientist and something close to an army doctor. Unlike the other classes, his main weapons aren’t the best for direct combat. However, he is still a vital member to the team with his Medi Gun (his own invention) which can heal and buff his teammates, no matter how close to death. What makes this gun special is not only its healing properties but its ability to make its target invulnerable to any attacks for a limited time.

How much would he earn?

The Medic has a lot of skills but his true talent lies in his ability to invent useful medical tools for combat. If he were to work in our world, he would fit best as a Biomedical Engineer.

Biomedical engineering is a field of engineering that focuses on designing and developing useful tools for healthcare applications. These engineers stand to earn $78,500–130,000 a year, and maybe even more for revolutionary inventions like the Medi Gun.

Also, considering his ability to fight opponents, he would also do well as a Combat Medic or Military Physician, fulfilling a double-duty role as a doctor and soldier (although they don’t necessarily fight, and firing at a medic is a war crime under the Geneva Convention). Depending on his military rank, his actual salary may vary. Since he has lots of experience on the battlefield, we can consider him to be a senior military attending physician, specializing in surgery. The estimate for that should be around $160,000–175,000 a year.

Risk of getting his license revoked: 100%

Dangermeter scale 100p

The Medic actually already lost his medical license. This was due to an incident where his patient somehow ended up without his skeleton, although that is not physically possible. If the Medic were to still continue his habits of performing unsterile procedures and experimenting on his teammates, his license wouldn’t last long. From not sterilizing the operating field to allowing doves to nest in his patients during his procedures, his patients would end up dying of sepsis from surgical site infections. Plus, performing experiments without informed consent, even if it is to develop useful tools like the Medi Gun, is still illegal.

Dr. Zed from the Borderlands Series

A lot of medical professionals in this list so far have been surviving in some of the most chaotic and crazy post-apocalyptic worlds, and it doesn’t stop there. If you’ve played Borderlands, you know how crazy (and fun) these worlds can be. Borderlands is an open world, first-person shooter game where you play as a Vault Hunter in which, as the name implies, you and your friends seek a legendary vault. On the planet of Pandora, a world filled with wastelands and where almost all life is hostile, you’d need someone to treat your otherwise fatal injuries. This is where Dr. Zed comes in.

Dr. Zed

What are his skills?

Dr. Zed Blanco is one of the two known doctors in Borderlands, the other being his evil twin. Despite having lost his medical license for whatever reason, he can treat pretty much anything under the sun, mostly because he’s the only doctor they got. Apart from that, Dr. Zed runs a profitable business selling medical supplies, which the Vault Hunters frequently purchase.

How much would he earn?

In the game, Dr. Zed mainly functions as a medical supply merchant, with multiple vending machines around Pandora. Being in the business of selling medicines, for the sake of simplicity, Dr. Zed would work best as a pharmacist. Maybe he would even own his own pharmacy. As a single pharmacy owner, Dr. Zed would be earning around $200,000 annually for himself. If he decides to start his own private practice on top of this, he would be earning an additional $90,000–170,000 per year.

Risk of getting his license revoked: 95%

Dangermeter scale 95p

In the world of Borderlands, the sterile technique is hard to follow considering that resources (that are unrelated to firearms) are slim on Pandora. However, his usual procedures won’t fly in our world. He would have to not only comply with aseptic techniques, but also with the use of anesthetics during procedures. In our world where those resources are not as lacking, his actions would be considered substandard treatment and even malpractice. It might take some time to adjust and avoid restraining his patients during procedures, but with some work, he will be fine.

The Doctor from Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town

If you enjoy farming simulation games, you’ve most likely heard of or even played Harvest Moon. It’s one of the best comfort games about living the simple life in a small town, making friends, raising animals, growing crops, and mining. You play as a farmer tasked to bring an old rundown farm back to its former glory. There’s something charming about living in a small provincial town, away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It’s a fairly simple yet wholesome game for all kids to enjoy. So what is this doing on the list? I couldn’t overlook my favorite rural health doctor from Mineral Town: The Doctor.

The doctor

What are his skills?

He actually doesn’t have an official name so we’ll just call him the Doctor. He is a resident of the town, and even one of the bachelors you can romance. As you get to know him, you’ll find he treats most common illnesses. However, he is frustrated when he is unable to treat the more chronic and terminal illnesses as the resources of a small town clinic are quite lacking. Despite the limitations of working in an isolated location, he is passionate about helping others. Sometimes the player can find him scavenging the forests for medicinal herbs, showing that he is incredibly resourceful. He also sells medicines you can use to help increase your stamina and health. He can make his own medicines which he also tries on the player to see if it works on them.

How much would he earn?

Rural health physicians are nothing short of heroes because they work hard to provide access to medical care in underserved areas. While many say that the pay for a rural health physician is more than their urban counterparts, the difference between their salaries isn’t a lot. One of the reasons why it seems like they have more is because the cost of living in the city is a lot higher.. That being said, new rural physicians make around $205,000 per year, compared to their urban counterparts who make around $200,000 per year. However, that pay would vary depending on where you’re working because, for example, different states pay different rates for physicians.

Risk of getting his license revoked: 10%

Dangermeter scale 10p

The Doctor is a compassionate, good, and a much-needed presence in Mineral Town. He does everything a competent doctor in his position with limited resources could and should do. The only thing he can be blamed for is using non-FDA-approved medications on the player character for experimentation. However, it can be argued that his medications are herbal in nature, likely used by the locals for years before he even created a potent extract to test on people. Additionally, according to an ethical framework proposed in a study, the use of herbal medications on patients is ethical as long as his test subjects are well-informed, voluntarily participating, and still treated with the best possible care. This could possibly help shield him from any doubts regarding his ethical standards.

Tae Takemi from Persona 5

Last on our list, we have Persona 5, a Japanese role-playing game that gained much popularity in 2016 upon its release. In this game, you play a boy who moves to the city as part of his court sentence as a juvenile convicted for assault. Much of the game focuses on societal commentary, but players will also find that it involves fighting shadows and getting into boss fights. So it’s inevitable that the player would need somewhere to heal. That’s where Dr. Takemi comes in.

Tae takemi

What are her skills?

Tae Takemi is a back-alley doctor whose clinic is located near where the protagonist lives. While she’s capable of formulating her own drugs and selling them to the protagonist (who is a student), it’s not something entirely legal, much less FDA-approved. Despite that, Dr. Takemi is dedicated to her patients, to the point that by the end of the game, she tells her clinic patients to register at the new hospital she plans to work in.

How much would she earn?

It’s unknown if Dr. Takemi is specialized, but Japan doesn’t have an official general practitioner system. So most doctors choose to specialize. Her broad knowledge may point to her being an internal medicine specialist. She could also be a pediatric specialist due to most of her patients (including the protagonist) being children or at least minors. Either way, as a doctor working in private practice, Dr. Takemi would earn almost $200,000–300,000 as an internal medicine specialist or $200,000–225,000 as a general pediatrician.

Risk of getting her license revoked: 50%

Dangermeter scale 50p

Dr. Takemi is a good doctor who deeply cares about her patients. She’s also a competent doctor who provides the player character with much-needed medications. In Persona 5, she almost had her license revoked after being involved in a case where her hospital used her as a scapegoat when a patient almost died. However, with the help of the player character, her old position was reinstated. So why is there a chance she could get her license revoked? During the course of the game, in order to access her more useful stock of medications, she would test experimental drugs on the player character, who is a minor, which requires the informed consent and permission of parents or a guardian.

Summary & Disclaimer

CharacterIn-game rolePossible real-world jobEstimated annual salary ($)
Dr. MarioDoctorInfectious disease specialist260,000
Nurse JoyNurseVeterinary nurse55,000
Angie ThompsonOR nurseOR nurse72,000
Nigel BurkeSurgeonTransplant surgeon365,000
ValentineNurse researcherNurse researcher90,000
Kyoko MinazukiSchool nurseOrthopedic nurse120,000
The MedicCombat medicBiomedical engineer130,000
Dr. ZedPharmacistPharmacist/private practice200,000
The DoctorRural health physicianRural health physician205,000
Tae TakemiDoctorInternist/pediatrician220,000

Just so you know… we did not crunch any real numbers or run surveys for this article.

We just looked at what these video game characters do and matched them up with real-world jobs that have at least some similarities. We then looked up the average salary for those jobs in online salary databases and job listings. For roles that didn’t have a clear match, we took our best guess.

It’s all about imagining what would happen if our favorite video game medics were thrown into our real lives. So, don’t take these numbers to the bank – unless you’re paying in Monopoly money.

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