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That Dragon, Cancer | Game Shows the Struggle of a Family with a Sick Child

Many games are released every year, but the 2016 project from Numinous Games was unlike any other before or since. That Dragon, Cancer told the story of a family trying to navigate the difficult waters of having a child with severe illness. It takes players through the trials and tribulations from the perspective of the young boy’s father as he struggles to keep himself and his family together. What makes That Dragon, Cancer different from anything else in games, and a must-play for those looking to understand what goes on in Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, is that That Dragon, Cancer was created by the people who lived that difficult journey.

Ryan and Amy Green’s son, Joel, was born in 2009 to two loving parents and two siblings. However, the Green’s quickly realized that Joel wasn’t developing like their other children had. In 2010, doctors diagnosed Joel with an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, a rare type of cancer that causes abnormal growths in the brain. His physicians estimated that Joel would have four months to live, but Joel fought tooth and nail for as much time as he could get. Joel endured chemo, constant trips to the hospital, and experimental treatments all under the watchful and worried eyes of Amy and Ryan.

In 2012, Ryan approached family friend Josh Larson and, along with Amy, they began developing a game about Joel. The creation of the game served as a way for the two parents to cope with Joel’s situation and share his fight with the world. Joel passed away in 2014, shortly after his fifth birthday. From there, the project became a way for the Green’s to let the world know that their son had lived – and that in their memories of joy with him would live on for the world to know and share.

That Dragon, Cancer walks players through surreal landscapes and concrete moments throughout Joel’s life. We hear Joel laugh, his real laugh, and cry. We are invited into this story of struggle and granted glimpses into some of the most intimate moments a family can go through. No other artistic work can do a better job helping others to know what it is like to go through a situation inside a hospital like this. No book, no movie can even come close to That Dragon, Cancer.

If That Dragon, Cancer seems like an impossible work of art, it’s definitely worth watching the documentary covering its development. Thank You for Playing follows Joel and the Green’s through an emotional journey full of doubt and hope, loss and joy. The film provides fascinating and indispensable, providing context for the game and its artistic statements.

When fundraising for Extra Life, it can be easy to think about the numbers and events. This can be especially true for people who have never been through traumatic times in the hospital when they or someone they loved needed care. That Dragon, Cancer provides an excellent way to share what going through that process can be like. At the end of the day, we are raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the United States and Canada so that children have more time with their parents, more moments of laughter and more smiles. Give That Dragon, Cancer a look, and get to know Joel through its unforgettable artistry.

Don’t forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!