The short sword doesn’t fall far from the weapons rack

And now for something completely different.  Regular programming will resume shortly.

I’m sitting in my living room on a Saturday night and I’m listening to my son tell me about Pathfinder.  Pathfinder is one of the most recent iterations of the Dungeons and Dragons franchise, and is described in many heavy, rather expensive books that lay out all the rules, characters, classes, spells, monsters, treasures, and other things that make up this flavor of fantasy role-playing.

“I’m going to be a sorcerer,” he’s telling me, “and since I’m also going to be Dungeon Master, I’m going to make a rule that any character who wants to have more than one class and wants to be a sorcerer for one of them has to start out as a sorcerer.  Because otherwise it doesn’t make sense.”

Believe it or not, the phrase “doesn’t make sense” has probably been uttered more often in the context of fantasy role-playing games than in all the articles about the government shutdown combined.  This is because D&D is all about internal consistency, about creating a world, about figuring out why orcs are so grumpy, why gnomes are without doubt the best character race, why only magic swords glow and not magic maces.  This is also because D&D is played, largely, by geeks who love to argue about esoteric things.

As my son continues telling me his theory about how the initial appearance of a sorcerer’s powers would have to occur before a character starts adventuring, I find I’m only half listening.  And that’s because I’m remembering back to when I started playing D&D, when I was his age, growing up in Hawaii. Continue reading

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Gaming to help beat cancer

All opinions my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

Plants versus Zombies 2: It’s About Time just came out.  My son spent a significant fraction of his weekend playing it on my iPad.  Okay, fine, I did too.  It’s a lot of fun, it challenges (but not too much) and it teaches you facts like, uh, like that Egyptian society in the past had a real fascination with pyramids.

So it’s not the most educational of games.

Which is why I was stoked to see the writeup of Re-Mission 2 in FierceBiotechIT.  This game takes elements of cancer treatment and places them in the context of a game that both educates patients undergoing cancer treatment as well as provides them a way to feel more in control of their situation.  Version 2 also builds on the impact of the first Re-Mission game, which showed success in improving adherence of patients to their treatment regimens.  Adherence is an important element of medical treatment and trying to make sure people take their medicines is an ongoing problem as we try to improve the efficiency of our healthcare systems.

In addition to behavioral metrics being changed by Re-Mission, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) also showed that playing the game activated brain areas associated with motivation–again, tying gameplay to elements of adherence.  Some brain region activations also correlated with subject described positive and improved attitudes towards chemotherapy after gameplay. Continue reading