‘That Dragon, Cancer’: Grieving Father Creates Heartbreaking Narrative Video Game, Retelling Son Joel’s Cancer Story

One grieving father has memorialized his son Joel’s short life by creating a narrative video game that retells his son’s battle with cancer. Ryan Green, 34, says that his son only lived for just five short years but had a huge impact on those around him.

Parents Ryan and Amy Green say that although Joel eventually died from the cancer that ravaged his body, they never want to stop talking about him. They wanted others to be able to experience Joel’s short life and hope that the video game will encourage others to continue talking about the people who changed their lives.

Today reports that a heartbreaking new narrative video game called That Dragon, Cancer will go on sale January 12, 2016. The video game was designed by Ryan Green to allow others to experience the “emotional intensity” of living with a dying child. The game is an immersive narrative video game that lasts about two hours but does not just focus on Joel’s death, but rather his life.

“An immersive narrative video game that retells Joel Green’s 4-year fight against cancer through about two hours of poetic, imaginative gameplay that explores faith, hope and love.”

It is noted that all of the characters in the video game are based on real-life people in Joel Green’s life, with the game taking place in a variety of settings from the family’s house to hospitals. Although the characters are faceless, they are filled with emotion and the dialogue that goes along with the game combines all the emotions that the family has felt over the years as they experienced joy, pain, and grief alongside their son Joel.

Ryan notes that he initially began the video game as a means to remember Joel. He says that his greatest fear was that he would forget Joel and never wanted that to happen. Therefore, he began using his video gaming skills to recreate Joel’s short life by saving it to a virtual world. The result was an inspiring, faith-filled video masterpiece that gives players the ability to be a part of the Green’s short time with Joel.

Amy, Joel’s mother, says that the video game allows others to “be a friend” with them during Joel’s battle with cancer. Throughout the video game, players will be given the opportunity to interact with Joel and his family. From pushing Joel on a swing to holding his hand or touching his face as he lays in the hospital bed, players can fully immerse themselves in the setting. Ryan says that the players are there as a friend, but that ultimately no matter what the player does, the ending will always be the same. Joel always dies.

The family says that there is significance in releasing That Dragon, Cancer on January 12, 2016, as it would have been Joel’s seventh birthday. Although Joel cannot be present for the celebration of the game release, the family says they will be eating pancakes in his honor and encourage everyone else who orders That Dragon, Cancer to do the same.

“When we release the video game we made about Joel on January 12th, we’re going to eat pancakes. He would have liked that. We hope you’ll eat pancakes for dinner too. January 12th is Joel’s birthday.”

You can pre-order the game here. Although it is a video game, That Dragon, Cancer is also considered a living painting, a poem, and an interactive retelling of Ryan and Amy Green’s experience raising their late son Joel.

What do you think about Ryan Green’s memorial video game for his son? Do you think the video game market should feature more emotional, narrative games like That Dragon, Cancer?

[Image via That Dragon, Cancer/YouTube]