HopeLab is a nonprofit that creates innovative products with a health-improvement target goal, like video game 'Re-Mission', which has been shown to improve the attitude and healthy behaviors of teens with cancer.
Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., is the author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family and creator of MojoMom.com.
At first glance, Re-Mission comes across as a stylishly produced, anime-influenced video game. But the targets in question are cancer cells, which the character Roxxi the nanobot blasts with the Chemoblaster, the Radiation Gun, and the Antibiotic Rocket.
Re-Mission is specifically designed as a health improvement intervention for teens and young adults who have cancer. Game producers at HopeLab start with a desired health outcome, and then reverse engineer a game that encourages positive behaviors, adding motivation and fun into something as scary as a kid's battle against cancer.
HopeLab Vice President Ellen LaPointe spoke at the Sandbox Summit conference on Tuesday, and I was amazed to learn that the game producers actually test the effectiveness of their games through controlled clinical research studies. HopeLab followed 374 kids with cancer, at 34 hospitals in several countries, playing the game in English, Spanish, and French. The kids who played Re-Mission showed measurable improvements in their attitude (sense of self-efficacy) and healthy behavior (taking medications as prescribed).
It's interesting to see a nonprofit with a health-improvement mission embrace video games in this new way. It is crucial that Re-Mission looks as well-designed as any game out there on the market. Deborah Manchester of the kids' science Web site Zula, another panelist at the Sandbox Summit, said that one pitfall of educational media is that we can get stuck in a rut trying to put the same boring content into a digital format. Re-Mission shows what can be accomplished when designers break out of that box to create a product based on what kids and teens really enjoy playing.
What's next for HopeLab? Ruckus Nation, whose underlying goal is to look for new solutions to childhood obesity. Students from all over the world entered Ruckus Nation's online competition for new product designs that are cool and fun enough to get kids moving.
HopeLabs will support the development and testing of winning products, providing a real opportunity for kids to not only win a contest, but to see their innovative ideas come to life.