That Dragon, Cancer

"That Dragon, Cancer" is as difficult yet as straightforward a game as you will ever play.

That Dragon, Cancer is as difficult yet as straightforward a game as you will ever play. The purpose is not to gain points or earn badges or compete with friends, but to grapple with hard matters, to consider life and death, to consider mortality and eternity.


Oh my. I had no idea. I had heard of it and even read reviews praising it and describing it as exceptional. But I didn’t know it would be this good, this powerful. I opened it up on my iPad during a long flight over the Atlantic, then sat physically transfixed and emotionally moved as it played out. It was unlike anything else I’ve ever tried or experienced. It was amazing.

It’s called That Dragon, Cancer. Some say it’s a video game, but that’s not quite right. As it comes to the end it says, “Thanks for Playing,” but you haven’t really played it, not in the way you might play Tetris or Angry Birds. Is it an app? A simulation? An experience? Maybe it’s all of them. Whatever it is, it’s powerful and exceptional.

Let me back up. In 2014, little Joel Green died of cancer at just 5 years of age. It was a tragedy that came after a long battle full of advances, retreats, and, at last, the terrible words, “It’s fatal.” He left behind heartbroken siblings and parents. In their sorrow, many grieving parents have taken up the pen to write books, blogs, or articles about their experiences. Some have written songs or poems. There must be something therapeutic in this kind of self-expression, this sharing of grief. Ryan and Amy Green did something different. They created That Dragon, Cancer.

They speak words of hope, they pray prayers of confidence, they sing hymns of faith.

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