Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A new way to fight cancer

Azar sounds like an expert [on cancer]. Part of this comes from being a naturally curious 14-year-old boy, hoping to be a doctor one day. But some part of this comes from the new videogame called Re-Mission, developed specifically for teens fighting cancer. But this isn't your ordinary educational game, the boring kind kids toss aside before sneaking in a few sessions of Halo. Developed by a team with a history in commercial videogames, Re-Mission is actually fun. Also, teens that have played Re-Mission are more likely to adhere to their often painful chemotherapy treatment schedules; they are more knowledgeable about their own illnesses; and most importantly, kids are generally happier and more comfortable living with cancer.

Best videogame level ever?
One interesting stage places Roxxi, traveling through a patient's bowel, among the more disgusting levels in gaming history. But a serious side-effect of chemo is constipation, relieved by stool-softeners. A number of kids are embarrassed by the problem, however, and sometimes don't take the softeners. As a result, stools will rupture the bowel, causing raging infections in the body that have too often proven fatal. In the game, Roxxi shoots out stool-softeners at these giant piles of crap, dissolving them instantly. Every now and then Roxxi gets splattered herself and she'll respond with a witty, crude comment, the kind of comment for which Re-Mission earned a Teen rating by the ESRB.

"You can talk about shit in gameplay in a way that the kids think is fantastic," Christen said. "They learn to take the stool softeners, that it's important to keep hydrated, through the course of gameplay that really means something to them. They find ways then to have conversations about constipation that's not embarrassing because they're talking about the game.



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