We’re not talking terrorism, but cancer. Can playing a game provide a cure? Maybe not, but Hope Lab developed Re-Mission in an effort to improve the quality of life for teenage and young adult cancer patients, and they have the clinical data to prove the game works.
Here’s the clinical part: in randomized, controlled experiments with cancer patients aged 13-29, those who played Re-Mission were more likely to adhere to their medical regimen as evidenced by higher blood levels of chemotherapy, and they also showed higher rates of antibiotic utilization. Over time, the players also showed a higher quality of life, a greater knowledge of their disease and an increased ability to manage side effects.
That might be impressive to parents, but kids with cancer are like any other teenagers and wouldn’t play Re-Mission or anything else that wasn’t fun. A third-person shooter, Re-Mission stars the very cute and very highly armed nanobot Roxxi, who, at the player's command, travels through different portions of the body to search out and destroy malignant cells. It’s a bit like the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, in which a team of scientists is shrunk down to travel through the bloodstream, or the Body Wars ride at the Epcot Wonders of Life pavilion; being a fan of The Mouse I think that’s a good thing.
Re-Mission features 20 different missions, and in each one, you control Roxxi in her task. One mission is about a patient with a brain tumor, another about a patient with lymphoma, and in each, the player must master medical terms and concepts specific to the particular type of cancer. Many missions also have relaxation goals and most have a component to help the game-patient (and the real patient) through chemotherapy and/or pain management.
Re-Mission also offers an online community, where teenage and young adult cancer patients can talk to each other and have a "normal" social experience even if they might feel awkward around their classmates, while at the same time getting much-needed peer support. The game seeks to empower young patients, both by the creative visualization of "zapping" cancer cells and by gaining more knowledge over the medical process.
Re-Mission is rated "T" for teen, mostly because the medical concepts necessary for the game would be a bit too complex for young children. Re-Mission is free to download for cancer patients, although a $20 donation is recommended. A doctor’s note or other medical verification is not required, so while anyone can play without pay, I wouldn’t recommend it; Hope Lab, a non-profit, does excellent and groundbreaking work in helping children manage chronic health concerns, so if you want to try it, please donate what you can.
Hope Lab’s latest project, Ruckus Nation is an online idea competition looking for new and innovate ways to get kids moving. It's worth noting that games don't necessarily create couch potatoes, and many high schools already offer gym credit to students who participate in Dance Dance Revolution clubs.
Can a game cure cancer? Not exactly, but it can help those who have it.