This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Always


Yesterday saw the release of the most beautiful game I'll never play, That Dragon, Cancer. In 2010, game developers Amy and Ryan Green's son Joel was diagnosed with cancer. In 2014, Joel died, aged 5. One night, Ryan said, he and Joel were at the hospital. Joel was horribly sick from treatment, dehydrated, and crying inconsolably. Ryan walked him and bounced him and sang to him but nothing quieted him. Finally, exhausted, Ryan collapsed from exhaustion and prayed.
It was right around then that Ryan realized this experience needed to be a video game. 
Now, if this sounds absolutely appalling to you, you should know that the video game isn't what it used to be. The past several years have seen an explosion of games that are more art than game, in forms few ever imagined they'd take. 2013's Depression Quest is creator Zoe Quinn's memoir of her experience with clinical depression. 2015's Beyond Eyes tells the story of a newly sightless little girl interacting with her environment, in which sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings are visually represented with beautifully rendered watercolor-like graphics. That Dragon, Cancer is startlingly unique, but not nearly as weird as it may seem.
So far the reviews have been glowing, if tear-drenched, with many reviewers taking a moment to tell their own stories of losing loved ones to cancer. I find it quite beautiful that Ryan and Amy's memorial for their son touched off a thousand tiny digital vigils for other loved ones lost. 
I realize it's kind of weird to write about a game I'll probably never play, but I found it so remarkable and beautiful and heart-breakingly original that I thought you all should know about it. I don't plan to play it because I've had to take about six cry breaks just writing about it. 

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