Games in Healthcare

Re-Mission Video Game Helps Youth Fight Cancer

Re-Mission LogoA study released in the latest issue of Pediatrics Journal finds that a video game focusing on the mechanics of cancer treatment can play a significant role in the remission of teens and young adults. Developed by HopeLab with the assistance of young patients, Re-Mission speaks to the issues that they confront daily in their fight against cancer.

Re-Mission is a free downloadable (PC only) 3D "shooter" with 20 levels that takes the player on a journey through the body of young patients living with different kinds of cancer. Patients play as Roxxi, an intrepid nanobot and blast cancer cells and control side effects. Beating the game requires taking chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics, using relaxation techniques, eating proper foods and keeping up with other types of self-care. Read More...

The study of the game, led by Dr. Pamela M. Kato of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, found that Re-Mission significantly improved treatment adherence in teens and young adults undergoing cancer treatment.

The study was comprised of 375 male and female patients, ages 13 to 29, who had an initial or relapse diagnosis of a malignancy, and who were following treatment. The participants were asked to play an assigned game for at least an hour a week. The study group played Re-Mission, while the control group was asked to play Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, a standard video game.

Through electronic pill taking monitoring, the study group showed a 16 percent rise in antibiotic adherence, who took 62.3 per cent of their total prescribed antibiotic medications, compared to 52.5 per cent for the Indiana Jones group. Adherence to a standard chemotherapy drug was also higher in the Re-Mission group, the study explains.

The findings support current efforts to develop effective video-game interventions for education and training in health care. These efforts are of increasing importance, as death rates among teens and young adult cancer patients have not improved as rapidly as with younger patients. "They're kind of a tough group that gets a little bit lost in the system," Kato said to Reuters.

According to Kato, the game worked because it gave the patients a new way of looking at their illness; for example, thinking of chemo as a way to combat cancer, rather than as an annoyance that makes their hair fall out. "To me it was kind of changing their reward system for taking chemo and giving them a different insight," she explained.