Inspired by an eight-year-old-boy with a brain tumor named Charlie, Associate Professor Grzegorz Bulaj and several graduate students from the University of Utah have created a video game that strengthens the mind and body in the fight against cancer.

Running off of the "patient empowerment" theory--a theory that a good attitude full of hope can and will help patients overcome impossible odds--Bulaj and hematologist-oncologist Carol Bruggers thought that they could create a game that would help cancer patients fight their own villains. Their vision for the game was that it would create new neurological pathways that would connect the part of the brain that keeps people highly motivated with the part that controls movement. If they could make that connection, then each successful bout with evil on the screen would help them win more battles in their own war against cancer. The game revitalizes a sense of hope while strengthening the body.

Creating the game was a tricky process. Working with a team of specialists, U of U students pinpointed the most important elements they needed to target. These elements were carefully embedded into the story line of the game. An example of one of these elements is perseverance. Strong patients never give up, even when they are worn out. In the game, the hero becomes bigger and stronger the more he is worn down by his enemy. The creators hope patients will learn to emulate their hero's example and never give in to the cancer, no matter how tired of fighting they are. Every time they are knocked down, patients are to get stronger and healthier until they finally overcome the villain.

One of the best parts about this game is that no one dies. The bad guys the hero fights aren't even real. They are robotic creatures. There is no gore, no violence. Brugger felt these were extremely important elements for the game to be successful, although she does not go into detail as to why.

The game was unveiled on Friday, September 23rd and is currently being tested at Primary Children's Medical Center. There will be more news to come regarding this new medical procedure, hopefully nothing but praises. Those who are struggling against their own seemingly unbeatable monsters need the hope it brings.

Charlie is pictured here along with his family and a few of the researchers that made this game possible.