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You'll Need a Prescription to Play Ubisoft's Newest Game

Yahoo Tech

(Thinkstock)

While your parents might insist that too many video games are bad for your eyes, one particular game might be just what your pupils are looking for.

Two years after a landmark study showing that video games could be beneficial in treating patients with lazy eye, game maker Ubisoft has partnered with medical developer Amblyotech and Montreal’s McGill University to create Dig Rush, a game designed to help people suffering from the disorder.

Clinically known as amblyopia, lazy eye involves the loss of vision in one eye that otherwise appears normal. The disorder affects between 1 percent and 5 percent of the population.

Traditional therapy for amblyopia over the past two centuries has required extensive use of eye patches, but its effectiveness has been questioned by the scientific community. Video games have proven to have great potential in this field, and indeed, that seems to be the case with Dig Rush

Researchers say that patients who played the game for four to six weeks showed rapid improvement with minimal relapse. The game is also particularly effective in treating adults, who historically have been ineligible for patch treatment. Out of 200 patients in the initial tests, 90 percent showed improvement after playing the game.

Dig Rush (Ubisoft/McGill University)

Speaking at an event at the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, officials at McGill and Ubisoft said the next steps for Dig Rush include a complete clinical development of the title as well as seeking regulatory clearance. As a medical regime, the game will have to be “administered through a physician.” In other words, you’ll need a prescription to play it.

But Dig Rush isn’t the sort of thing that would wow hardcore gamers. It’s a platformer with rudimentary controls. Players are miners tasked with filling carts with gold. Eventually players will have to navigate enemies and elevators to fill the carts.

The game uses different levels of red and blue and is viewed through 3D glasses, which forces players to use both eyes. Playing one hour per day for six weeks trains the players’ brains to let them see in three dimensions, something most of us take for granted. Longer periods of play improve the effects on vision.

Dig Rush was born out of a 2013 study at McGill detailing the positive relationship between games and the treatment of lazy eye. While early tests were done on a Tetris-like game, McGill officials say Dig Rush is much more effective.

“The development of Dig Rush was a great opportunity for us to contribute our knowledge and skills in video game development to help materialize a breakthrough, novel medical treatment,” said Mathieu Ferland, senior producer at Ubisoft. “The team from Ubisoft Montreal has been able to create a more engaging and enjoyable experience for patients being treated for Amblyopia, and we’re proud to be involved in such a positive illustration of the impact of video-game technology.” 

Dig Rush isn’t the only video game out there targeting lazy-eye patients. Diplopia, a virtual reality game designed to treat both amblyopia and strabismus (crossed eyes), is due out by the end of the year. 

Follow Chris Morris on Twitter.