Re-Mission: Where It All Began
Re-Mission, Hopelab’s founding project, came to life when co-founder Pam Omidyar was inspired to create a video game that might help young cancer patients with treatment compliance. At a time when many of these patients were dying from treatable leukemia, our first team of researchers brought together the principles of motivational psychology and innovative design in an attempt to co-create a new kind of intervention with measurable impact. Unfettered by the constraints of traditional research grants, we ended up designing a revolutionary, game-based approach inspired by hope and realized by science.
What we learned through the process of creating Re-Mission (and its follow-up, Re-Mission 2) would not only teach us a lot about how behavior affects physical health at the molecular level; it would also form the foundation of our working approach going forward. Even as we refine and modify the way we work, Re-Mission remains an important part of our legacy of helping positively impact the health and well-being of teens and young adults.
2001–2006: Press Start. Choose Players.
At the outset of developing Re-Mission, we weren’t yet thinking about distinct phases to our approach, but these early days could accurately be called a “discover” phase. We knew we wanted to design a video game that would help young cancer patients stay compliant with their treatments, but we weren’t entirely sure what it would look like, how it would be played, or even who the final demographic might be. Using user-centered design techniques, we interacted directly with young cancer patients to find out what might draw them into playing. We learned they wanted drama, complex organic environments, lots of feedback, and clear, achievable goals. And they wanted a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that it’s possible to win. This is where we discovered that it’s sometimes necessary to move back and forth between discovery and design, a learning that would later influence the dynamic movements in our development approach. In fact, we spent five years in an intense cycle of prototyping, gameplay refinement, and empirical testing similar to traditional clinical trials, using learnings from each workstream to inform the others.
Our final iteration of Re-Mission was a third-person shooter game with the look and feel of some of the most popular video games at the time of it release. The player controls a nanobot that travels through a patient’s body, “killing” cancer cells and other infections while reporting symptoms to an in-game “Dr. West.” During game play, the player is exposed to information about cancer treatments—including chemotherapy—and the critical need for compliance to those treatments.