That Dragon, cancer, the heartbreaking video game of a family with a terminal child

The Cancer. How to explain? If adults find it hard to accept that a close relative is suffering from that damn disease that is cancer, How to make the children understand? How to make them understand if the one who is suffering is his little brother? To explain this very painful situation, a family resorted to a story: the little one in the house was fighting a dragon.

Little Joel would have turned seven in January 2016, but his dragon won the battle: he did not survive cancer. Now, thanks to the work of his father and a small studio, he lives forever in his own videogame: 'That Dragon, Cancer', where the player puts himself in the shoes of Ryan and Amy Green, Joel's parents, and lives with them how the family faces the cancer of the little one.


The fight against the dragon

The title of the video game comes from the metaphor used by Joel's father to explain to the brothers what happened to the child: Joel's illness forced Ryan and Amy to explain to their children what death was, for which they used the example of a dragon that Joel was fighting.

In fact, this metaphor is one of the passages of the video game: the one in which you can see little Joel dressed in armor and trying to battle against a great dragonas big as that cancer he was fighting. Doctors diagnosed the disease when he was only twelve months old Against all the pessimistic diagnoses of the doctors, who always warned of imminent death, this child struggled and survived for four years, overcame surgery and numerous sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. But it was not enough.


In the life of a family

The game follows a linear structure but what stands out most is that the player will not see weapons, enemies, or puzzles to solve. Probably never have played something similar, as reviewed in The Guardian. In addition, it has its own aspect: it is made using polygons that blur the faces of Ryan and Amy to let every player can put on their skin. Nor is there any recognizable feature of little Joel, although their cries and laughter are present throughout the game.

One of the game's programmers, Josh Larsson, tells Kotaku in an interview how they created the game and how the idea was changed, especially when the child died. "We wanted to take the players by the hand to tell them: 'Look at everything we've been through and we're still here'", he says, while clarifying that, after the death of the child, "That idea was not so convincing"Therefore, the goal of the game changed:" We wanted to show what it was like to live with Joel. "


Hard experiences in the video game

One of the harsh scenes of the video game Amy stars: "This is a tragedy." It is their reaction to knowing that Joel's disease has entered a terminal phase and that, therefore, they can not do anything but try to mitigate the pain and discomfort suffered by the child.

Not all moments are so difficult to pass. At long and painful journeyIn the hospital, other Joel's daily life is also joined, like the one where he is in a pond and throws pieces of bread to a duck. The user can also play with the child in the park as if he were their father: you can swing, push down the slide, and so on.

If there is an overwhelming scene in the game, which lasts only 100 minutes, it is one based on a real event: One night, the boy was getting dehydrated but, because of his illness, he could not drink. The player suffers just as the father did, who does not know what to do while his son cries. "It was one of the darkest nights I lived with Joel, you're his father but you're not in a place where you have no control or any power over the situation and you only have despair", recalls the parent to Forbes magazine.

A song to hope

Joel left, but he will never leave completely. So it will be thanks to the video game, but especially because he will always be with his parents and his family. Precisely for this reason, coinciding with the launch of the videogame, the mother of the child wrote in December 2015 asking everyone to eat pancakes for his birthday. "Seeing people from all over the world eating pancakes will be a great gift for his family, who still miss him." He and his syrupy face, "we'll eat pancakes." Joel would have liked it. "

Angela R. Bonachera

Video: That Dragon, Cancer


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