That Dragon, Cancer a different breed of storytelling and gaming

By Chris Hayes - Game Review

Published 23/01/2016 | 00:00

Where exactly was it that gaming transcended to something more than just visual entertainment that softened the blow of actual reality?

Somewhere along the way, the concepts, narratives and agendas of video games began to cross over into the realm of tangible emotion and relatable experiences.

There are now games that cause us to question moral and ethical values and even ponder on the finer points of our existence. Games like Heavy Rain, Her Story, The Last of Us and Papo & Yo are all fine examples of games that take important and sometimes taboo issues by the horns.

To call That Dragon, Cancer a 'game' seems almost crass, considering the vast weight of emotional burden that it conveys througout its intimate storyline. Written and developed by Ryan and Amy Green, That Dragon, Cancer is an autobiographical game that tell of their terminally ill child Joel and his battle with cancer. There is no winning in this game, and there is no losing either. There isn't anything much in the way of puzzles to solve and you don't level up.

What you do get, however, is a touching perspective on the unfolding of a family tragedy that would have felt almost invasive if it weren't for the strange warmth that envelopes this game - a warmth that pleads with you to see the gut-wrenching story through to its conclusion.

The full gamut of human emotion incurred through prolonged grief is visible in this game. From Amy's naive optimisim to Ryan's fatherly instinct, it is surprising that That Dragon, Cancer doesn't feel like anything overly mournful, but rather a celebration of Joel.

Unfortunately, the poignant nature nature of the title that serves as its main source of momentum gives way a little in the end to rather ham-fisted symbolism and flights of fancy that somewhat undo the great measures in subtlety excercised by the preceeding chapters of the game.

While gaming has come a long way in terms of what the consumer expects to get out of a game, it is still quite clear that developers are still struggling to escape the shakles of traditional gaming tropes, but That Dragon, Cancer does an admirable job of doing just that.

In the great tapestry of interactive entertainment, this game will be remembered for laying down the paving for a different breed of both immersive storytelling and gaming.


That Dragon, Cancer


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