The game follows the real-life story of Joel Green, a young boy diagnosed with cancer, and his family trying to cope with the rigorous treatment process. There really aren’t any puzzles to solve or princesses to save; the game simply follows the lives of a family doing everything it can to help Joel. Sadly, Joel passed away earlier this year at the age of 5.
— Ryan (@ryangreen8) March 13, 2014
I had a chance to play That Dragon, Cancer earlier this year at SXSW. It was an incredibly intimate experience that affected me emotionally unlike anything else. The game was very upfront and blunt, to the point where it was unsympathetic about how the player would feel, and that’s what made it so raw. You play as Joel’s father, Ryan. In it you can hear all of his thoughts and sorrow as he tries desperately to help his son. It’s really heartbreaking.
Jessica Conditt from Joystiq interviewed Ryan Green to see how the game had changed in the past few months.
“When we evaluated which scenes would make the cut in the game, we asked ourselves, ‘Does this scene help the player love Joel more?’ And if it didn’t directly contribute to that, we cut it or we rewrote it to make sure that Joel became an integral part of the scene…”
“The act of telling and retelling his story and choosing to love people, extend comfort and share our pain in the midst of our grief as people experience the game can give use a small glimpse of the greater good that is possible in the shadow of our loss.”
That Dragon, Cancer will be released next year on Ouya, PC, Mac, and Steam.