There’s a million ways you might cope with news that your kid has a serious illness, but if you’re software designer Ryan Green — who learned just a few months shy of his son Joel’s first birthday that the boy had brain cancer — you quit your job to work full time on a video game to help you process what’s happening.
Green’s story is detailed in a gut-wrenching Wired feature about what came to be called That Dragon, Cancer. The immersive, narrative game looks a bit like standard RPG fare with a few key differences: You play a father whose son is dying of cancer, and your goal is to navigate a world that suddenly features a whole lot more hospitals and doctor’s offices while trying to keep your ill son alive and not suffering for as long as possible. Green explains on his website that he hopes to let players “share the heartache and discover the overwhelming hope that can be found in the face of death.”
That Dragon, Cancer
His story, like the game itself, doesn’t have a happy ending. Joel passed away while Green was still working on it, but the game isn’t ultimately about the outcome — it’s part of a larger trend toward narrative games that focus on experience rather than strategy and empathy rather than victory. To that end, funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign and the creators of the Ouya console, Green completed That Dragon, Cancer and it’s expected to be released this month for Ouya, Mac, and PC.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlKCJlhJwxU&feature=youtu.be expand=1]
It’s not likely to replace your regular Call Of Duty sessions but, as glimpse into what games can be about beyond simply gaming — not to mention the single biggest challenge any parent can face — it might just be worth your time.