What It's Like To Lose A Child To Cancer

Photo: Courtesy That Dragon, Cancer.
When you think of video games, first-person shooters, high-speed car maneuvering, and puzzle solving may come to mind. But one father used the interactive medium to teach an important, touching lesson: What it's like to live with a child diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Profiled in The New Yorker and chronicled in the film Thank You for Playing, video game developer Ryan Green built “That Dragon, Cancer" to illustrate the devastation of his young son Joel's battle. Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2010 when he was only one year old, and finally succumbed to his illness at the age of five.

"I’m not trying to create rules for people to follow when dealing with cancer, or some potentially damaging platitude," Green told The New Yorker. "This game is just a reflection of how I see the world, of my story."

Green began work on the game in late 2012. The problems you confront are hauntingly real, and difficult (if impossible) to solve. In one scene, for example, the player is sitting in a quiet hospital room. Here, the rendition of a baby Joel starts crying, and you try to calm him in vain. Other times are happier, like a scene where you can push Joel in a swing at a playground. You can linger there and relish the moment, listening to the child laugh. The game is impressionistic, the character of Joel is faceless: He's your own loved one, anyone's loved one.

That Dragon, Cancer isn't the first time video games have been used to portray difficult real-life experiences. Depression Quest is an award-winning, interactive fiction game created by video game developer, Zoe Quinn. It animates the experience of depression so that those without the illness can gain insight into what it's like, and those with depression can better understand that they're not alone. The game evolves depending on your level of depression, illustrating increasing feelings by sucking the color out of its virtual world, and adding glitchy music.

Other games like I'm Not Drunk and Guardian Angel tackle the tough issues of DUI and alcoholism. In these games, you can see the consequences of possible actions, and learn the right way to handle difficult situations. Players can make mistakes, and grow from them, without the consequences of making those choices in real life.

As for That Dragon, Cancer, it's not just a lesson in what it's like to slowly lose a loved one (and a child, at that). It's a memoriam, a window into the life of Green's son Joel. Green's powerful hope: That after playing the game, others might care about his son the way he does.

The game is set to release this fall.

More from Tech

Pokémon Go was this year's biggest app sensation. Within 24 hours of its launch, the game became a mega hit and has since seen users walking billions of ...
For the second time this month, earthlings of the Western Hemisphere will experience a special event involving our moon. Earlier this month, we got our ...
If you want to look up information about your favorite celebrities, your first instinct is probably to google them. But depending on who you're curious ...
GENERATION STARTUP presents Women In Tech, an episode of an exclusive web series with footage left on the cutting room floor. The feature documentary ...
Complaining today is much easier than it used to be. Lost luggage, bad service, extra charges, broken products — you used to have to put a letter in the ...
It's Google's 18th birthday which means it can finally see all the porn it serves up
Tonight marks the first of three presidential debates between candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Because of the debate's close proximity to New...
(Paid Content) Refinery29 is now on Versy, a messaging and content-sharing app made for busy people like us
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) developed a phone app that will assist you in recording and reporting police conduct. The app, Mobile Justice, ...
If you aren't registered to vote, don't panic. As a matter of fact, thanks to Snapchat, you can now do it in just one minute, reports Time. The social-...
You may start to notice your Uber drivers snapping a lot of selfies, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you're riding with an Instagram addict. Your ...
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel announced that the company has developed new video-enabled sunglasses, called Spectacles, and will subsequently be rebranding ...
You're at 20,000 feet, and you realize your flight doesn’t have WiFi — which wouldn't be a big deal, except you forgot your book at home, and none of your ...
It's a sad but true fact that a bad commute — one where you just miss the bus or subway — has the power to ruin your day. More often than not, these near...