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9/12/2014
09:06 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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Geekend: Gaming For Cancer With Will Ferrell

Want to play video games with Will Ferrell while helping young cancer patients get access to therapeutic video games? Join the SuperMegaBlastMax Gamer Challenge.



 Apple's Next Chapter: 10 Key Issues
Apple's Next Chapter: 10 Key Issues
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If there's one person in the world you'd like to play video games with, who would it be?

I'd probably pick Kate Upton, but also high on my list would be Will Ferrell. And though it's a safe bet Kate won't be playing video games with me anytime soon, there's a chance I can get Will. The Saturday Night Live alum who never grew up (and we're thankful for that) is participating in a charity event called SuperMegaBlastMax Gamer Challenge, in which people who donate $10 or more through Indiegogo will be entered in a drawing for the chance to play video games with Ferrell live on Twitch.

The challenge, which hopes to raise at least $375,000, will give its proceeds to two great charities. The first is Donate Games, which collects secondhand video games for sick kids. The other is Cancer for College, which offers college scholarships to kids who have survived cancer or an amputation. Clearly both are worthy causes, and since the event is sponsored by Xbox and Amazon and featured on Twitch, you can bet it will actually happen (unlike some other crowdfunded events). If the charities haven't convinced you to join in, maybe this video will get you pumped to game with Will Ferrell himself.

I dare whoever wins this to show up in a diaper over their pants and demand to play Will at Asteroids.

[A little fear never hurt anyone. Read Geekend: Scare Yourself For Health.]

If you're willing to shell out a little extra money, Ferrell has provided more great perks. My favorite: For $500, you can get a personally autographed cowbell. Unfortunately, that offer is sold out, but I'm hoping Ferrell will open it up again. Come on, Will. I need more cowbell.

According to the event's organizers, one of the reasons they're doing this is that they've seen how video games can help kids with cancer. "I think some of the biggest struggles [when you're sick with cancer] are the social isolation you feel and just the lack of power in your life, and I think that video games truly were a medicine for that," Taylor Carol, a two-time cancer survivor and son of Donate Games founder Jim Carol, told GameSpot. "You'll be isolated in a room for several months, but you can get on Xbox Live and still talk to your friends. You can laugh; you can feel, even for a moment, some semblance of normalcy in your life. Video games truly are a godsend for the kids who are going through these health struggles."

That's a great sentiment, and since this is the Geekend, I'll back it up with some research: Video games have been proven time and again to help kids and adults recover from illness. A 2012 study cited 38 peer-reviewed papers showing the positive effects of video games on health.

One straightforward health advantage has been seen in the effect of the game Bejeweled II on patients suffering from chronic diseases, including anxiety and diabetes. The study, conducted at East Carolina University, used EEG to test for changes in brain function while patients played Bejeweled II (a three-in-a-row game similar to Candy Crush, Jewel Quest, and many others). Patients showed "enhanced mood and engagement" and lower stress, specifically indicated by a change in alpha waves in the brain. Reducing stress has long been associated with better outcomes for those suffering from mood disorders, as well as from diseases with chronic elements, such as diabetes.

I have to admit, though, that I'm not sure this would work for me. I tend to get a little stressed playing video games, even ones like Bejeweled. I think the makers of Candy Crush still owe me for that smartphone-shaped hole in my wall. But it is important to pair the game with the disease.

For instance, a game called Re-mission 2 has had wonderful results with people aged 13-29. Younger cancer patients sometimes have difficulty sticking to a routine and fully understanding how their medicine is helping. So a group called HopeLab designed Re-Mission 2 to show what the body is going through when it's fighting cancer, resulting in reduced hospital stays and improved outcomes. Here's a look at how the game works.

Video games have also been shown to help kids with autism, Parkinson's disease sufferers, and those recovering from a stroke. Basically, they're simply good for the brain.

I hope I've convinced you to contribute to these charities and help sick kids and adults get more access to video games. Will you try to win a chance to game with Will Ferrell? If so, what would you like to play? Who else would you pay to game with, and what would you play? Tell us in the comments.

Do you need a deeper leadership bench? Send your most promising leaders to our InformationWeek Leadership Summit, Sept. 30 in New York City, for a day of peer learning and strategic speakers.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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