Video games can provide more than just entertainment. With a large audience of users, video games have the potential to increase support, awareness, and education for different causes, including health conditions like cancer.
Over the past two decades, video games and other technologies have brought awareness to cancer in several different ways. Some video games have been designed to educate people – mainly kids and teens with cancer – about their condition. Additionally, the video game industry has been very generous in making donations to cancer foundations and increasing awareness of different types of cancer.
From diagnosis through treatment, cancer can be a long journey. Cancers like lymphoma – a cancer of the blood – may require many doctor visits, tests, treatments, and ongoing lifestyle changes. Lymphoma is also the third most common type of cancer in children, and it can be particularly helpful to have a tool like video games to help kids learn about cancer and cope with the physical and emotional burdens of treatment.
Gaming Powers up as a Tool for Cancer Education
Cancer can be a complex medical topic for anyone – let alone children. Having a basic understanding of cancer, its treatments, and the tests used to gauge treatment effectiveness – like lymphoma blood tests – can help people feel more at ease throughout their treatment journeys. Video games offer a unique way for kids and teens with cancer to learn what is happening in their bodies, and how treatments will work to help them get better.
Teaching kids about cancer through a video game makes it more fun and accessible. Re-Mission is a game for adolescents and young adults who’ve been diagnosed with cancer. The game’s goal: to improve cancer treatment compliance and outcomes. How? By racking up points fighting evil cancer cells, destroying tumors, and rescuing healthy cells from the “leukemia monster” with cancer-killing weaponry such as “chemo bombs.”
HopeLab, Re-Mission’s creator, conducted research that found teenagers and children with cancer who played Re-Mission showed an improvement in cancer-related knowledge. They also found that these kids were better about taking their medications and following treatment recommendations.
Gaming Helps Combat Feelings of Isolation During Cancer Treatment
As treatment for cancer often involves long hospital stays, video games can provide a source of entertainment and distraction while kids and teens with cancer are in hospitals or treatment centers for long periods of time. Video games can also help kids to stay in communication with their friends and classmates while they are away from their usual means of socialization.
A video game called Ben’s Game was inspired by a 12-year-old with leukemia. While in the hospital, Ben would use video games as a way to distract himself and cope with the pain and side effects of cancer treatment. He created the game to help other kids going through difficult cancer treatments.
The Gaming Community Shows Strong Support for Cancer Initiatives
In the past decade, video gamers, content creators, and gaming companies have raised more than $150 million for charities globally. There have been many different campaigns and initiatives for various cancer-related charities and foundations. Some include Gamers vs. Cancer and GamePink, which have generated a great deal of money and increased awareness.
In 2019, a gaming company called Retro-bit created a special pink game controller and donated ten percent of the controllers’ sales to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Another company, Schick, created a video game called Shave The Day. Sales from the video game amounted to a quarter-million dollar donation to St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research. Additionally, influential gamers contributed money individually and via their fans to Schick’s goal to raise even more money for St. Baldrick’s.
Engine Shop, a marketing agency, created the #TiltCancer campaign to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. #TiltCancer provided gamers and creators with a fundraising tool kit to use during live gaming sessions, which opened the opportunity for influential gamers to mobilize their fan bases and other people in the community to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
There’s an endless need for funds for research and programming to end cancer and support those living with it. Gaming has been a great tool to educate and raise awareness about cancer amongst a sizable and diverse audience.
About the author: Nyaka Mwanza is a freelance writer for MyHealthTeams. She completed a B.A. in Communications: Visual Media from American University and undertook post-baccalaureate studies in Health/Behavioral Communications and Marketing at Johns Hopkins University. Nyaka is a Zambian-born, E.U. citizen who was raised in sub-Saharan Africa and Jacksonville, N.C. However, she has called Washington, D.C., home for most of her life. For much of her career, Nyaka has worked with large global health nonprofits focused on improving health outcomes for women and children. Nyaka believes words hold immense power, and her job is to meet the reader where they are, when they’re there.
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