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Patient turns fighting cancer into video game

When the Make-A-Wish Foundation contacted Ben Duskin, he requested a video game be made that helps fellow cancer sufferers take their mind off the painful side effects of chemotherapy.
Ben Duskin, 9, sits in his home June 24 in Greenbrae, Calif. Ben, a former leukemia patient, created a video game with the help of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and LucasArts, in which the hero kills cancer cells.Chris Stewart / San Francisco Chronicle
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ben Duskin has helped turn fighting cancer into a game.

When the 9-year-old former leukemia patient was asked if he had an unrequited wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ben requested a video game be made that fellow cancer sufferers could play to take their mind of the painful side effects of chemotherapy.

“I really like video games,” Duskin said Tuesday. “And I wanted to do something special, something more than going on a Disney cruise and stuff like that.”

Enter Eric Johnston, a software engineer for LucasArts who helped create such games as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Loom” and “The Secret of Monkey Island.”

Johnston agreed to volunteer his time to help Ben achieve his wish. Johnston persuaded his bosses to donate LucasArts facilities after hours and met with Ben once a week for six months as they developed “Ben’s Game.”

'This is his game'
The game’s central character, modeled after Ben, zooms around the screen on a skateboard, zapping mutated cells and collecting seven shields to protect against common side effects of chemotherapy, which include nausea, hair loss and fevers.

“We spent a long time discussing what he wanted this game to look like,” Johnston said at the game’s unveiling at the University of California, San Francisco Pediatric Treatment Center. “This is his game.”

Duskin’s leukemia is in remission and he is on summer break between fourth and fifth grades. UCSF officials said “Ben’s Game” is now a staple in the children’s chemotherapy ward.

“I feel really good in my heart that lots of people are playing it,” Ben said.

The game can be downloaded for free at