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‘That Dragon, Cancer’ A video game that captures real life

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By Daniel Pinzon


We are now capable of simulating tragedies through technology.

Video games make the realistically impossible virtually possible. Video games enable people to create worlds where the imagination can roam free. However, not all video games nowadays are made to entertain.

“That Dragon, Cancer” is a memoir-style game developed by Ryan Green that simulates the experience of his infant son, Joel Green, who was diagnosed with cancer. The game itself has restrained controls, limiting the player on what they can manipulate and what decisions they can make.

Nevertheless, the point of this game is to tell Green’s story. Its intentions don’t align with the essence of escapism, which is what most games follow. With this unique take, the evolution of technology is being exploited through his video game, creating a more practical use of technology.

The game is also just as beneficial. It’s essential in the name of expression. Ultimately, this game is dedicated to Green’s son.

“We needed to find something we could do as Joel’s parents, since we could not heal him,” Green said to theguardian.com.

Video games do allow a degree of escapism for people, to distract oneself from the harsh reality. Escapism does benefit society, as life can get too hard and people need a distraction. However, “That Dragon, Cancer” strips video games’ association with escapism, revealing that video games aren’t solely forms of entertainment.

This game will be revolutionary as it’s capturing an emotional experience and reveals the true evil of cancer.

Admittedly, the overall concept of this game may seem overwhelming. Alyssa Hathaway, a psychology major at the University at Albany said, “[It’s] a little morbid, its intentions were good, its execution not so good… I feel like it’s a virtual reality, it’s making light of something serious, it’s not a joke, you don’t put yourself in that situation.”

It may seem as though the game is exploitive of cancer, however we can’t overlook its context.

“That Dragon, Cancer” is the closest experience to living with cancer or having a loved one with cancer anyone can get. It emphasizes the idea that life is intended to be amazing and one should not take any moment for granted. Some people are less fortunate than others.

These memoir games open the minds of people. It allows people to feel the epitome of empathy.

This game isn’t alone in its category. It is a breakthrough, but other memoir-like games exist. For instance, “Freshmen Year” by Nina Freeman creates the experience of a woman being sexually harassed while going to a bar. This genre of video games takes “stepping into someone else’s shoes” to the next level.

And even though no one is eager to simulate these types of scenarios, they weren’t created to be fun because they aren’t fun. Video games give people the opportunity to pose as characters that have no consequences. And it’s nice to make your character jump off a cliff, as it can respawn, but now video games are capable of creating real-life experiences.

They can broaden our understanding on certain experiences, experiences that people have to face in life. And unlike other games that treat death so loosely, this game takes death seriously. There is no respawning in real life.

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