Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sharing the ultra-personal, autobiographical

Heartbreaking video game about 5-year-old's fatal brain cancer depicts real-life tragedy

Interactive video games people play now, rather than emphasizing violence, have become ultra-personal.

Autobiographical, in fact.

Joel Green as depicted in video game
Like one created over an 18-month period by Ryan and Amy Green, who share the heartbreaking real-life tale of their son, Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at 12 months and died four years later in 2014.

Their game is called "That Dragon, Cancer."

Players, according to a feature story this week in The New York Times, "are inspired to intimately share their own stories of battling illness and coping with loss."

The Times piece detailed the Green's story along with those of two other video developers, Matt Gilgenbach ("Neverending Nightmares," about obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression) and Anna Anthropy ("Dys4ia," about the transgender experiences and hormone replacement therapy).

The aim of new games like "That Dragon, Cancer" is not to win, the story indicates, "but to share personal experiences from the creator's life as a work of creative, interactive nonfiction."

Not everyone loves the concept, however.

Among the comments on the Times website is one from Dan Stackhouse, who says his reason "for playing is as an escape from the annoyances and mundanities of life…My mom just passed away from cancer, and it was a depressing and painful time, I'm still getting over it. Why on earth would I want to immerse myself in the experience of having a child die of cancer? I'm fully aware of how agonizing and bleak it is, no need to go through it again with a game."

In contrast, successful real-life experiences battling cancer can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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