Farmooo For Cancer Kids

[Team Project] Farmooo, a virtual reality farm simulation game designed for cancer pediatric patients to distract their pain during chemotherapy treatment. As a final directed studies project, two undergraduate students (Janice Ng and Henry Lo) partnered with my lab, and BC Children’s Hospital to deliver this game to give back to the hospital, as these two students been treated there regularly when they were sick kids. I was invited to be their mentor for guiding them in the design and development of the game. I also worked with them on the ethics application and conducted the research study together.

[My Role] Mentor, and Researcher

This project has also been recognized across various press releases, at the Canadian Pain Society 2017 conference, and the two undergraduate students were awarded a Surrey’s Top 25 Under 25 by the Surrey Board of Trade.


For nearly two decades, immersive VR has been used as a form of pain distraction and management for acute, chronic and cancer pain. Moreover, in numerous studies, VR games and virtual environments (VEs) have been shown to be effective during chemotherapy treatment for reducing pain and anxiety. However, amongst all of these research studies, few have focused on pediatric patients who are undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Furthermore, most of the research studies used commercial video games which were neither specifically tailored for immersive VR environments nor for pediatric patients.


After implementing a minimal viable product, we presented the idea to the Oncology director at BC Children’s Hospital to get approval for user testing. Ethics documents were compiled and we gathered 6 teenagers to help us test the game and give feedback.To understand the potential of using this VR game in clinical settings, a 2.25-hour Focus Group was conducted with 6 Outpatients. Outpatients were selected for their comparatively risk-free potential. The study session consisted of three sections; a presentation about the design of Farmooo, then the game was tested by each patient, and lastly a post-test questionnaire and a discussion circle.


The main findings from the coded questionnaires were then organized into four consistent themes: virtual reality content, gameplay, VR input and interaction controls and drawbacks. Participants expressed deep appreciation that a VR game was built specifically for them. However, some concerns on interaction arose, including mobility when a patient is attached to an IV, those with cold hands decreased accuracy for gesture detection and a need for more challenging gameplay. Most of the participants enjoyed the form of the game, particularly the experience of feeling immersed in the three-dimensional, interactive VR environment. They all showed high interest and positive attitudes about using a more robust VR game if they were still undergoing chemotherapy. Notably, most participants reported that they would like to be notified after additional game content is added to Farmooo, and would like to be the first to try out the upgraded and polished game


In this paper, we introduce the design inspirations, rationale and procedures, as well as the game mechanics of the VR game we specifically built for this application, entitled Farmooo. Our goal was to design and test a VR pain distraction game that will enable our future participants to immerse themselves in the game world and thereby help to distract them from their pain and discomfort during and after chemotherapy. Results from our pilot Focus Group study with pediatric outpatients showed the great potential of the VR game, Farmooo, as a distraction tool.


Ng, J., Lo, H., Tong, X., Gromala, D., & Jin, W. (2018). Farmooo, a Virtual Reality Farm Simulation Game Designed for Cancer Pediatric Patients to Distract their Pain during Chemotherapy Treatment. Electronic Imaging, 2018(3), 432-1.




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