A Game About Cancer, A Game About Hope

By Drew Dixon

I will never forget the first time I played That Dragon Cancer, I was in the lobby of the Marriot Hotel in downtown San Francisco, surrounded by other game developers and journalists and yet I could not keep from weeping as I clicked around the melancholy hospital room in which the game’s current build was set. Ryan Green and Josh Larson promised me that the rest of the game wouldn’t be so intense, that there would be joyful moments, and that the overall message would be hopeful.

"At one point, he told me that he could go back in time and never have been diagnosed with cancer he wouldn’t."
I trust Larson and Green, not only because I had the opportunity to chat with them at GDC, but because in my short 10 minutes playing TDC, I was convinced that they were making a game that matters. As a 30 something father and pastor, I find myself having less and less time to give to videogames, consequently I find myself frustrated by how often games take more from me than they give–whether its time or energy or money, I have less patience for games that aren’t adding substance to my life through my time with them. In ten minutes, I knew That Dragon Cancer would be worth my time. That may seem generous of me as a critic, but I got a sense of what Green and Larson are trying to do and it is important.

If you haven’t read Rich’s story on the gameThat Dragon Cancer, is an adventure game about Ryan Green’s family and their real-life battle with cancer. At the age of 1, Ryan’s son Joel was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That was two and a half years ago, and Joel is now four years old. While Joel’s trial is far from over, its clear to me from talking with Ryan, that Joel’s story is one of hope, and its one worth telling.

There are very few people in this world who cancer has not touched. Just last year my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, initially his prognosis was not good. At one point, he told me that he could go back in time and never have been diagnosed with cancer he wouldn’t. His cancer had given him the opportunity to share the hope he has in Christ with many people and deepened his own hope in the gospel. Its an astonishing sentiment. I find what I have seen of That Dragon Cancer similarly astonishing and I am optimistic that it will also be strangely hopeful.

That Dragon Cancer is slated to release exclusively on Ouya some time in the second half of 2014.

Written by Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is editor-in-chief of Game Church. He also edits for Christ and Pop Culture and writes about videogames for Paste Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Bit Creature, and Think Christian.