Game for cancer patients goes mobile

Game for cancer patients goes mobile
Game for cancer patients goes mobile

Cigna is promoting the video game Re-Mission 2, the latest version of a simulation that puts young cancer patients at the center of their own treatment plans.

The insurer, which also distributed the original Re-Mission game on CD and DVD to young people with cancer in 2007, said that the latest iteration, partly available as a free mobile app, has been designed by HopeLab (a non-profit started by Pam Omidyar, wife of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar) based on research showing how game play drives behavior.

Researchers, reporting in a study which ran in PLOS ONE did fMRI scans on subjects playing the original Re-Mission and found that “participatory engagement in game play (interactivity)” activated the reward-related neural circuits in patients.

As a result of that knowledge, Re-Mission 2 became a different type of experience than its more serious predecessor, said Richard Tate, VP of marketing & communications for HopeLab. “Re-Mission 2 represents an evolution of Pam's vision to take advantage of mini games and small mobile games.”

That evolution was partly spurred by players. HopeLab worked with over a dozen hospitals and 120 young cancer patients to create Re-Mission 2. Joe Mondy, director of public relations at Cigna, told MM&M, “One of the big challenges oncologists and pediatricians have is that you're trying to treat teenagers who sometimes naturally resist learning things and following the regime you've laid out for them. This game educates them without them realizing it.”

“It's not a magic bullet,” said Tate, “but the games support them in doing their part.  Anything that can give you information, and more importantly, a ‘sense of agency' is a powerful tool in getting young people to engage in their care.”

After evaluating the game's impact, HopeLabs wanted to find out how it drives behavior. That desire spurred the PLOS ONE study. As researchers showed, “An hour of game play or less was the same as playing through all 21 levels,” said Tate.

Genentech, through its foundation, signed on to support the next version of the game.