A Game About Sickle Cell Disease

Zoo Rush is a running adventure game that seeks to raise awareness, destigmatize and create empathy for people with sickle cell disease. In the game, you take on the role of a zookeeper with sickle cell disease. It’s your first day on the job and all of the animals have escaped. Due to your condition you must avoid infections, hydrate often, check in with your physician, and take your medication to deal with chronic pain and potential crises. With your net in hand, it’s up to you to save the day.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder, causing red blood cells to be abnormally shaped (or “sickle-shaped,” meaning the red blood cells are shaped like a crescent). The “sickling” of the cells occurs because of a mutation in the hemoglobin gene.

Normal red blood cells move easily through blood vessels and carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and organs. However, sickle cells contain abnormal hemoglobin which causes the cells to change shape and become stiff and sticky, blocking blood flow through the blood vessels. This means red blood cells and oxygen can’t flow to some parts of the body, raising the risk of infection, and causing pain and organ damage. The two primary symptoms of sickle cell disease are anemia and pain. Pain is usually experienced in unexpected/unpredictable episodes that range in severity.

In the United States, 90,000 to 100,000 thousand Americans are estimated to be affected by sickle cell disease. More than 3 million people around the United States carry the sickle cell gene which allows them to potentially pass the disease on to their children.There is no known cure for sickle cell disease. However, treatments may lower complications and help with the symptoms of the disease, in both children and adults.