Ryan and Amy’s story begins in 2011 when their son Joel was diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT). Treatments that are not recommended for children under 3 needed to be administered immediately to resect the tumor. Following the brain surgery and radiation, their son was given only 9 months to live.
Miraculously Joel was in remission and survived past the 9 months. The harrowing experience gave Ryan an idea to make a game portraying a parent’s struggle to care for a sick child. Being a software engineer by trade, Ryan sought out to find funding for this new venture. With the support of Amy, they organized a team to create ‘That Dragon, Cancer’ which was released in January 2016.
The game is about Joel, and the story is told through a series of vignettes exploring various moments in his life. The locations are both physical and emotional, playing out like dream sequences. Narratives are revealed through voice recordings and letters read out loud that is accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful musical score. ‘That Dragon, Cancer’ is unlike any other game anybody has ever played.
It only takes about a few hours to complete, but many reviewers have already expressed that it’s left a lasting impression. Simulating the life of a parent with a dying child is not what anyone would consider a euphoric experience.
Although Joel was in remission he would ended up getting many more tumors. Sadly he passed away in 2014 at the age of 4. The life he lived was short, but he touched the lives of many people all over the world and now he’ll always be remembered.
‘That Dragon, Cancer’ is available for both PC and Mac via steam. You can find more information on their website.