Game Politics (gamepolitics) wrote,

Shooter Game Helps Young Cancer Patients

It helps teens and young adults who are afflicted with cancer.

It has been shown to improve the quality of life for young cancer patients and to increase their understanding of the disease.

It also enhances their ability to talk about their cancer, manage its side effects, and stick with therapy regimens.

Could "it" be a miracle drug? Some revolutionary new medical procedure? White magic?

Nah. It's a video game. (Hey, this is GamePolitics after all!)

Created by Hope Lab in collaboration with several game developers, biologists, and young cancer patients, the somewhat whimsically titled Re-Mission is one of those serious games we love to write about because they show the positive potential of video game tech. Re-Mission is a third-person shooter starring a microscopic nanobot named Roxxi whose mission is to enter the bodies of patients and fight cancer and bacteria on the cellular level.

I met Hope Lab's Strategic Initiatives V.P. Ellen LaPointe last month while covering the Games for Health Conference in Los Angeles. She was kind enough to send a copy of Re-Mission for review. Let's take a look shall we?

First, expunge your mind of any thought that this is a cheap production on par with an online Flash game. Re-Mission is an honest-to-goodness, professional-caliber video game complete with DVD case, ESRB rating, and a full color game manual.

Its awesome presentation is, in part, what makes Re-Mission work so well. Each assignment gives the player a case history and mission briefing before launching a full-motion video cut scene. During the mission preview, Roxxi and her holographic adviser discuss strategies for battling the patient's specific ailment. The in-game banter of the characters frequently refers to the patient by name and discusses how his or her body is responding. This makes the player feel as if he or she is really inside someone's body rather than just another video game sci-fi environment. Re-Mission's load screen also impresses with an animated diagram detailing exactly where in the body Roxxi will be working, be it the throat, colon, lymph nodes or elsewhere.

Missions are presented on a map of the United States. The game's first four patients are in California and from there the player works eastward. The game provides a fantastic sense of traveling the country and helping cancer patients wherever they may be. It's a small touch but an effective one.

Re-Mission also does a great job of being scientifically accurate while still fun to play. Cancer cells are nasty, metroid-looking little buggers. If the player fails to kill an entire cluster, they will reproduce back to full strength. They can also grow can grow accustomed to Roxxi's chemo blaster, forcing the use of alternative treatments such as the radiation gun (a fun beam weapon right out of Ghostbusters). Infection-causing bacteria can spike a patient's temperature and send him or her straight to the hospital if the swarming, rat-like enemies aren't taken down by the antibiotic shotgun.

In addition to blasting cancer cells with chemo, Roxii must monitor patients' health and communicate with them on a regular basis. Part of her job involves keeping patients' heart rate and nausea meter in check through relaxation exercises. Reminding patients to eat or take medication will provide their body (and Roxii) with energy and disease fighting ammunition.

In style, Re-Mission game plays out partially as a rail shooter. Other levels use a free-ranging movement system. Players can explore the lymph nodes, eliminating clusters of lymphoma cells and issue a beat-down to the nasty Reed-Sternberg cell. Or, catch a wave of vomit while shooting mouth sores with pain medication and dodge dripping mucus. Players may also explore the colon of a constipated patient, blasting stool jags with a softening agent to prevent tears in the colon's lining and the associated infection risk.

Sure, it may sound icky, but for cancer patients this is serious stuff, and it's real.

The bottom line on Re-Mission?

It's a fun game and cancer patients will get a great deal out of playing. Re-Mission can give patients something entertaining to do while simultaneously helping them deal with a debilitating, socially-isolating disease. The game can also provide patients with interactive visual training on the importance of properly managing their health, and offer them a sense of empowerment and control over their condition by letting them zap cancer.

Re-Mission is offered for free to young cancer patients. For other purchasers a $20 donation is suggested. Kudos to Hope Lab and everyone involved with the creation of this game!

Want more info? GP readers can watch this 10-minute video to learn more about Re-Mission's purpose and creation.

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen

Want to talk about it? You can discuss this story via the "comments" feature (click below), or in the new GamePolitics Forums...

Tags: cancer, ellen lapointe, games for health, hope labs, re-mission, serious games
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