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Hope for cancer patients now comes in the form of a video game, thanks to a non-profit organization called HopeLab. Founded in 2001 to help improve the quality of life of young people with chronic illness through scientific research into innovative new forms of treatment, HopeLab teamed with medical experts, psychologists, game developers and real cancer patients to create Re-Mission, a unique and fun 3D shooter specially designed to educate young cancer patients about their disease while strengthening them with a sense of power as they blast away cancer cells. And to assist in the free distribution of the game, interactive agency Zugara was enlisted to create Re-Mission.net, a warm and open online community for teens and young adults living with cancer to support each other. "The game is initially what drove the site," says Zugara CEO Matthew Szymczyk. "Our mission was to build a site and community where cancer patients could learn about their condition in an interactive manner. "Most of our work revolves around selling material goods and experiences to the consumer, like the game promotion we do for Sony PlayStation, Square Enix and Tecmo. But here, we were building an online experience for an educational purpose. Our greatest motivator in doing this project was that we were working to create something special."
Players control a nanobot named Roxxi in a series of 20 missions through the bodies of young patients with different kinds of cancer. As they seek out and destroy malignant cells, battle bacterial infections and regulate dangerous side effects on the body, players increase their confidence in their ability to manage their disease—all while being entertained on their PC. "From a creative standpoint, it was important to get patient feedback to make sure this effort would not only appeal to them, but be used as an educational tool as well," says Szymczyk. "So patients actually had a hand in selecting the design of the site and features they themselves would use." Best of all, results of a formal study indicate that Re-Mission truly helps—patients who played the game showed significant increases in quality of life, self-efficacy and cancer-related knowledge, and even maintained higher blood levels of chemotherapy and displayed higher rates of antibiotic utilization. In other words, the game actually helped patients respond more effectively to their cancer treatment.
In addition to the game itself, visitors to Re-Mission.net can find resources like the "What's Up Doc?" advice and information section, as well as blogs and message boards filled with inspirational stories, art, poetry and shared links to helpful sites.