Specially-designed video games help encourage young people with cancer to take their medications more consistently, according to a recent study by nonprofit organization HopeLab and published today in the medical journal Pediatrics.
The study's aim was to provide evidence in support of the potential of video games to improve human health. Said HopeLab vice president of research Dr. Steve Cole, "This study shows that a strategically designed video game can be a powerful new tool to enhance the impact of medical treatment by motivating healthy behavior in the patient."
Study participants played a HopeLab-developed game called Re-Mission
, in which players pilot a microscopic robot named Roxie through the bodies of fictional patients to attack cancer cells and combat the side effects of treatment.
Those who played the game, the study found, had higher blood levels of chemotherapy and took their antibiotics more consistently than those who did not, and also demonstrated a higher rate of cancer-related information learning.
The randomized, controlled study followed 375 teens and young adults with cancer at 34 medical centers in the United States, Canada and Australia during three months of cancer treatment.
HopeLab has also distributed more than 125,000 free copies of Re-Mission in 80 countries since its release in April 2006.
"We now know that games can induce positive changes in the way individuals manage their health," said Dr. Cole. "The game not only motivates positive health behavior; it also gives players a greater sense of power and control over their disease -- in fact, that seems to be its key ingredient."