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Unhappy New Year: That Dragon, Cancer Out January

That Dragon, Cancer [official site] is a biographical game, the documentary of a brief life translated into a series of “poetic, imaginative” interactive sequences. It tells the story of Joel Green, who was diagnosed with an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor aged 12 months and died age five. Doctors had expected Joel to live around four months after the diagnosis and the game explores the experiences of his parents (father Ryan is the programmer of the game, mother Amy is the writer) as he undergoes treatment and lives his too-short life.

After years in development and a Kickstarter campaign, the game is ready for launch and will be available January 12th on Windows and Mac.

The game has been at a few events I’ve visited over the years but I never much fancied playing it in public, with the developers and passers-by near enough to read my reactions. In the comfort of home, I’ll certainly find time to play.

I’m interested in the game as much because it’s a documentary of the creators’ lives as because of the specific circumstances of those lives. It’s impossible to separate That Dragon, Cancer from its subject matter, of course, but in a broader sense, I’d like to see more developers “creating what they know” in the way that generations of creative writing students have been told to “write what they know”. Obviously, it’s terrible advice when applied as a concrete rule but I’d love to see more biographies, auto and otherwise, in games.

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Adam Smith

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