Why would anyone play, “That Dragon, Cancer”?
The game is about the developer, Ryan Green’s son, Joel, who died in 2014 at the age of 5 after battling cancer for four years. We experience what they went through. Green said the game gives players “the opportunity to meet my son and meet our family, and kind of walk with us in our shoes, but from a safe place.”
As a father of a toddler myself, it was difficult to get past the first minute of the 3-minute trailer. It’s tough seeing a child with cancer, but I kept picturing my son’s face on the faceless toddler in the video. I don’t know if I could play through an entire game like this.
But that, really, is why I should play this game.
We play games for escape. To live fantasies, to experience an alternate reality, to forget about our bosses and bills and all the crappiness of life. We don’t play games to experience pain…right?
Now, I don’t think “That Dragon, Cancer” is a game about pain. Based on the trailer, I see a game about joy, and the Christianity in it tells me there’s a story of hope. It’s also about time. We often play games to kill time, to speed up the clock. “The Dragon, Cancer” reminds us to slow the heck down. When I see my kid growing at a million miles per hour, I want to do just that. If I knew he was dying, I would want to slow it down even more. The game is slow-paced, poetic, and often dives into a child’s imagination. All things that we need to do more of in our lives.
Based on Green’s reasons for making the game, it seems like he needed to do it for himself. Much like a writer needs to tell a story or an artist’s need to paint. Nothing wrong with that, but what’s in it for the player? Is this a game that needs to be played?
Yes, most definitely. A game like this is the ultimate escape. It will help us forget about our bosses, and the bills, and all the crappiness of life…AND help us to remember why we forget all those other inconsequential things.
“That Dragon, Cancer” is out January 12, 2016 on Steam, Windows, Mac, and Ouya.