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Games For Good

Posted on Sunday, Jun 4th 2006

Interesting article in WSJ on the pros and cons of a generation growing up on Video Games, mainly showcasing the advantages of Video Games in developmental issues, including value system.

The author cites a game called The Sims Franchise as a prime example: “You have to have a job to buy food and things, and if you don’t go to work, you get fired,” she said matter-of-factly. “And if you spend all your money buying stuff, you have to make more.” Thanks to The Sims, Mr. Reynolds says, his daughter now knows how to budget and how to read an income statement. In SimWorld, he notes, “narcissism, hedonism and impulsiveness are punished” and “traditional middle-class virtues, like thrift and planning, generally pay off.”

I recently heard about a project from Pam Kato, who worked on it : Re-Mission™

HopeLab‘s first project is Re-Mission™ — a video game developed for adolescents and young adults with cancer. Re-Mission is a challenging, 3D “shooter” with 20 levels that takes the player on a journey through the bodies of young patients with different kinds of cancer. Players control a nanobot named Roxxi who destroys cancer cells, battles bacterial infections, and manages realistic, lifethreatening side effects associated with cancer.

HopeLab conducted a randomized, controlled trial to test the effect of Re-Mission on treatment adherence, cancer-related knowledge, self-efficacy, and quality of life among adolescents and young adults with cancer. Three hundred and seventy five male and female cancer patients aged 13 – 29 were enrolled at 34 medical centers in the US, Canada and Australia, and randomly assigned to receive PCs pre-loaded with a popular video game only or that same control video game plus Re-Mission. Study results, which were presented in March of 2006 at peer-reviewed scientific meetings, indicate that playing Re-Mission produced significant increases in quality of life, self-efficacy, and cancer-related knowledge for adolescents and young adults with cancer. In addition, young people who played Re-Mission maintained higher blood levels of chemotherapy and showed higher rates of antibiotic utilization than those in the control group, both results suggesting that Re-Mission helps patients adhere to cancer therapy regimens.

This project has been masterminded and funded by Pam Omidyar from her foundation.

I had writtent a few pieces earlier: Screenwriters and the Electronic Gaming Bubble and Advergames: Cross Technologists and Story-tellers. In general, my thesis on the Gaming business is that the “title” financing model is trickier, whereas, “Advergames” is a very powerful, lower risk model, whereby the entire marketing muscle of a major brand can be behind a game. And if such games are nuanced towards “good”, then even better.

So, the screenwriters who are thinking about getting into the interactive storytelling / gaming business, should look towards Advergaming for a steady flow of work. Talent agents, hence, need to build relationships with Advertising Agencies, to help their clients access this channel.

And while all this gets sorted out, I quite like Ms. Omidyar’s model of bringing together video game developers and animators, cancer experts, cell biologists, psychologists, and young people with cancer themselves to create Re-Mission. Similar cross-discipline collaboration, I am sure, can create exciting new “stories”, much different from the standard and predictable Hollywood faire.

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Sramana, I found your site recently and am really enjoying your writing. I never really thought much about how SIMS is developing the values that children will grow up with. The concept of making these online worlds more complex with the real issues we face in life is fascinating.

Thank you
Mark Dowds

Mark Dowds Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 6:23 PM PT

Hi Mark,

Thanks for writing, and I am glad you are enjoying my musings. The online world has become quite a “virtual reality”. Check out http://www.Neopets.com for a flavor of what else is going on. I think it is a good thing for kids to learn to care for pets. However, there are issues and restrictions that come up when you have a dog, for example, like having to find a kennel if you are traveling. For duel-career parents, this may be quite complicated, and Neopets may be a good alternative.

Similarly, …

Sramana

Sramana Mitra Sunday, June 4, 2006 at 8:19 PM PT

A few videos & podcasts on Re-Mission:

“New Video Game Gives Teens a New Way to Cope with Cancer,” on KPIX News, Channel 5, a CBS affiliate in San Francisco, CA, https://cbs5.com/video/?id=14643@kpix.dayport.com, July 3, 2006.

“Video Game Helps Kids with Cancer,” https://www.welltopia.com/2006/05/episode-21-links.html, May 4, 2006

Re-Mission video game and outcomes study, “Video Game Helps Teens Fight Cancer” on KTVU, Channel 2, a Fox affiliate in Oakland, CA, https://www.ktvu.com/video/9000624/detail.html, April 24, 2006.

Sramana Mitra Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 1:38 PM PT

Sramana, thanks for responding. I had not picked on your response until now.
The neopet would certainly solve the hairs on the rug issue. I may have to test this one out with my kids

Thanks again,
Mark Dowds

Mark Dowds Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 1:49 PM PT

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