Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics, Vol. 5, No. 2, April-June, 2009, pp. 67-68
Gaining from gaming
Huilgol Nagraj G, Huilgol Nachiket N
Dr Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, S.V. Road Vile Parle (W), Mumbai-400 056
Code Number: cr09020
It is hard to precisely define game and gaming. But Games have always been cultural self of civilized men. Mayans kicked around the decapitated heads of the vanquished. Till recently hunting animals was an approved game of the British royals. Ludwig Wiltingstein in philosophical investigation demonstrated that the elements of games such as play, rules and competition all fail to comprehensively describe what games are. He suggested that idea of ′game′ needs services of definitions that share a family resemblance to one another.
Roger Collins, a French Sociologist has characterized games as events with elements of fun, competition, rules, uncertain outcome and non-productive but, with an awareness of a different reality. Games can be surrogates for war or any other conflict. Games that are played for pleasure are generally zero sum games.
The Beginning of digital gaming started with a Scholarly thesis written by A.S.Douglas in 1952. The game design of noughts and crosses was digitised by him. It was played on the Cambridge University computer called ′Electronic delay automatic storage calculator′. Further development in digital gaming was seen with developments in technology. William Higginbothams who previously was part of the team which built first the atomic bomb was the first American to invent ′interactive game′ Tennis for Two !. He was a scientist at Brookhaven National laboratory in Uptown. In 1972 the first home game console was designed by Rauph Baer. It was Magnavox Odyssey, also called Brown Box.
The revolution in digital gaming has now had its beginning. It was no more a curiosity or a hobby of scientists, atom bomb makers or mathematicians. Playstation, Xbox360, Nintendo, Motion sensor games (Nintendo ′Wii′) are now a part of our cultural existence. Games vary and come under various genres from First Person Shooters (FPS), Role Playing Games (RPG), Adventure, Racing, Puzzle and Party games just to name a few. Playing games with multiple levels is more interactive than passive watching of cinema or television. The involvement of players with virtual reality can sometimes be total.
Using video games as a medium to train or inform a group of individuals has been toyed around with in the recent past. Take a look at recent games such as America′s Army.
America′s Army (also known as AA or Army Game Project) is a video game developed by the United States Army and released as a global public relations initiative to help with recruitment. The Army Game Project was conceived by Colonel Casey Wardynski and is managed by the U.S. Army′s Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis (OEMA) at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. Wardynski envisioned "using computer game technology to provide the public a virtual Soldier experience that was engaging, informative and entertaining."
The Game Project has "grown in ways its originators couldn′t have imagined". Dozens of government training and simulation applications have been developed to train and educate U.S. Army Soldiers using the America′s Army platform. The Game has also been used to deliver interactive, virtual Soldiering experiences to participants at events, such as air shows, amusement parks, sporting events around the country.
In 1992 the movie Toys had a memorable scene where Robin Williams enters a computer lab in his nemesis′s toy factory to find a group of 20 or so teenagers sitting next to each other banging away at the keyboard and playing a military sim game in order to get a high score. Speaking to them the teenagers inform him that this is their training session for a battle in the near future.
Also, video games under different genres give the player alternate ways to interact with a virtual world. War is not the only subject matter. For example; Games such as The Sims or Simcity by game designer Will Wright introduced the player to a sandbox-esque world where the players don′t have to rack up the highest score but preserve the functioning of the system with their own decision. Simcity allows players to create sprawling cities, villages etc but also tasks you with maintaining various other subsystems that support the main hub such as power stations, water filters, waste management and so on. The Sims is a virtual dollhouse where players can basically interact with virtual characters and guide them from birth to death. The characters behave similarly to their real world human counterparts requiring attention, food, a steady income and even the time to sit back and relax in front of a television. The players also have to maintain the house in which the character lives in making sure that is doesn′t get too messy or remain unrepaired in certain scenarios.
Hopelab has found a new application for games. Re-mission is a Third person shooter (TPS) game in which players guide a nanobot named Roxxi as she travels through the bodies of fictional cancer patients killing cancer cells , eliminating infections and overcoming side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment. Pamela Oidyar the founder and board chair of Hope lab was a group leader who motivated the project. It took six years for the team of animators, cell biologists, cancer experts, psychologists the patients with cancer to create this game. The game was tested on 375 patients, both male and female aged between 13 and 29. It was a multicentric randomised trial.
Patients were assigned to play PC′s preloaded with a popular video game or that same game control video and, Remission. Results published in the August issue of Paediatrics 2006 showed a definite increase in quality of life, self efficiency cancer related knowledge for adolescents and young adults with cancer. Patients who were assigned were to play Re-mission showed Lighter serum levels of chemotherapy and higher rate of utilization of antibiotics suggesting an increased adherence to cancer chemotherapy regimens. Those who played Re-mission went through their treatment with a better knowledge and understanding of cancer and related therapeutics. Any third person shooter game perhaps s may not impact on the patient′s treatment and outcome. For more on Hopelab, visit (www.hopelab.org) and (www.re-mission.net)
Planet prostrate is another 5 level game designed by Prostrate Cancer Charity in Uk. It is part of ′Secrete sexglass campaign. Sammy the cartoon sperm is the hero. (It is available on http://planetprostate.com/). The impact of this game has not been scientifically tested. Sammy starts in to reach the rocket for ejaculations. Sammy however has to wade through twin planets of testes, and Vas deferns worm tunnels. Sammy has to overcome enemies like alcohol, excessive television and other distractions before he can reach the rocket. The Game is informative.
Mary Jane Zennata reports through MSNBC as to how she regained strength and ability after playing Wii sports, bowling, golf, and tennis to aid her recovery . In Chicago, the Hines Veterans affairs hospital has installed a Wii for their spiral injury unit. Installing Wii for physical rehabilitation following various surgical procedures without tears for head and neck and breast cancer or soft tissues sarcoma of the limbs can assist in a physical rehabilitation.
Emotional and psychological impact of playing can be immense. It has been suggested that playing games can sharpen neuro-motor co-ordination and thinking. Passions are aroused while discussing the pros and cons of playing video games with people divided equally on either side of the line. Time will decide the winner of this argument.
Cancer is an insidious, insolent and indolent disease which devours in mind and body of the patient. It is the reminder of imminent mortality. Consequences of cancer are well beyond the individual patient. Fear of loss of bodily function deformity due to treatment, indignity of incontinence and depersonalization are some of the existential faced by patients. Games to be effective in assisting patients to cope with catastrophe would need to address the above issues. It is not enough to inform or educate the person with cancer.
Pain is a universal emotion but, response and expression to pain are culture specific. It needs to be seen if games like Remission will be effective across cultural divide. Wii, making physical rehab, entertaining definitely, will have a bright immediate future.
Game designers need to be alive to the possibility of helping cancer patients to feel and get better by uniquely designed games. Re-mission is only the beginning.
Copyright 2009 - Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics