Thursday, June 21, 2007

Video games as cancer therapy?

Parents struggle, strain and stress out trying to get sick children to take their medicine. Typically, this involves insidious tactics like crushing pills into pudding and playing endless hours of "Aspirin Airplane," but judging by the piles of strained peas covering kitchen floors, it's clear the kids usually win.

When it comes to fighting cancer, however, coercion takes a back seat to innovation. Instead of tricking patients into taking their pills, a joint effort by Cigna Healthcare and HopeLab is helping afflicted youth better understand their illness through an action-packed computer game.

Re-Mission is a third-person shooter that lets users fight cancer as a perky nanobot named Roxxi. Each of the game's 20 missions drops the player into the body of a patient afflicted with a specific form of cancer, ranging from common diseases like Hodgkins to rarities like Ewing's sarcoma. Featuring weapons like the Chemo Blaster, the Radiation Gun, and the Antibiotic Rocket, the game encourages users to zap malignant cells while enlisting the aid of helpful characters like Dendritic cells, T-cells and Platelets.

Unlike most educational gaming efforts, Re-Mission was designed from the start to be a viable, challenging action game. High-end 3D graphics, multiple weapon upgrades, and a variety of meters to manage have helped stave off the dreaded "edutainment" label that many gamers equate with a distinct lack of fun. By way of its visceral punch and frantic action, the product has even earned a "Teen" rating.

Most importantly, the game seems to be working on a medical level. The results of a 2006 Re-Mission study indicate that most of the respondents showed an increase in cancer knowledge and an improvement in their ability to manage treatment.

Re-Mission is being distributed to cancer patients for free at Further information can be found at, which also houses the product's community site.

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