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HopeLab: Providing Help Through Video Games

/ Sep 30th, 2013 No Comments


[adsense250itp]Video games are always viewed through the lens of entertainment, but they can also be used to improve the health and quality of life for someone facing a serious medical illness. Pam Omidyar started a non-profit company called HopeLab in 2001. The non-profit is located in Redwood City, California. She was a research assistant who watched cancer cells under a microscope and would spend her evenings playing video games with her husband Pierre Omidar, who founded eBay. Pam had the brilliant idea to create a video game with the goal to educate patients and make cancer treatments more successful.

Re-Mission was the first video game developed by HopeLab in 2008 and developed by Realtime Associates. It was designed specifically for teens and young adults dealing with the cancer process. The game was created from the HopeLab research by those who know it best, the patients and oncology teams. A study on Re-Mission in 2008 showed the game is successful in improving health and positive behavior for patients going through the cancer process.


A young girl enjoying one of HopeLab’s games.

The game is a third-person shooter, and the main character is a nanobot called “Roxxi”. The player controls Roxxi who is injected into the body of the patient and fights the cancer cells. Smitty, another character in the game is a nanobot as well, that communicates information from Roxxi to Dr. West (who is the in-game doctor). The game has 20 levels and diagnoses that provide information on the different treatments, functionality, and the importance of following protocol. Roxxi uses weapons consisting of a Chemoblaster, Radiation gun, and Antibiotic rocket in order to fight the cancer throughout the game.


Re-Mission 2

Recently, I visited HopeLab and had a chance to talk with their dedicated staff. HopeLab has released an updated version of the game, Re-Mission 2. The basic story is the same as Re-Mission, which was a great concept. Re-Mission 2 is a collection of smaller video games which include: Nanobot’s Revenge and Leukemia developed by Nerdook Productions, Nano DropBot and Feeding Frenzy developed by Tinime Games, Stem Cell Defender developed by Borne Games, and Special Ops developed by Novaleaf Game Studios. The great thing about Re-Mission 2 is that it has shorter games that provide variety and there is even an app for easy game access. Also, the controls are much more user friendly and the gameplay is smoother. Both Re-Mission and Re-mission 2 are free-to-play thanks to HopeLab and their financial supporters.


Various kids enjoying the games of HopeLab.

HopeLab focuses on cancer, obesity, sickle cell disease, major depressive disorder, and autism for their product development. Their newest venture is called the Zamzee, which tackles the issue of sedentary behavior (which leads to all kinds of chronic health conditions, including obesity). Zamzee is like a pedometer but even better because it measures physical activity and the intensity of the activity. The Zamzee meter is a tri-axis accelerometer that is carried in a pocket or clipped on to your clothes and then downloaded to the Zamzee website at the end of the day. On the Zamzee website, the user can see how many points they earned and the progress they are making with their physical activity. The more active they were during the day the more points are accumulated. It is a great way to get younger kids and their families to increase their physical activity. There are challenges and incentives to keep the player engaged. The user has a customizable avatar and the player can accumulate points to use on the avatar’s look or for prizes ranging from erasers to a Wii U console. I have been checking out the Zamzee and found it easy to use and a lot more fun than just keeping track of my steps on a pedometer. The Zamzee costs $29.95 per unit with no additional cost thereafter.

HopeLab has developed a winning combination of education and fun in their products. Also, the fact that both of the Re-Mission games are free-to-play shows the dedication to helping people. They are making a difference for patients and families going through difficult situations whether it is fighting obesity or cancer, they are a company that is really making a difference.

Ryan Scheller

Ryan Scheller

Associate Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan has a strong passion for video games and is a regular attendee at E3, ComicCon and BlizzCon. He graduated Loyola Marymount University 2012 in Multimedia Computer Graphics.
Ryan Scheller
Ryan Scheller

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