‘Harrowing,’ Unwinnable Video Game Points People to the Hope of Easter

ChurchLeaders | 4/9/2019 | Staff
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In a new series of YouTube videos, U.K. ministry Speak Life tells the story of Amy and Ryan Green, who created the game That Dragon, Cancer, to memorialize their son who died from a brain tumor at age five. The game, which explicitly depicts the Greens wrestling with their faith in God, has not only been highly impactful to players but has also been well-received by critics, who have called it “really intense,” “harrowing,” and “crushingly intimate.”

“This game…is upsetting, from the beginning to the end. It is challenging, enriching and devastating. I think it might have changed me in some way that I’m yet to fully understand,” said Colin Campbell in a review for gaming website Polygon. “This is a game that shows us the symbols of its church, that tries to explain the spiritual joy of belief, but it ought not be accused of being too preachy because it also acknowledges doubt, limitations and powerlessness.”

Greens - Son - Joel - Brain - Tumor

The Greens’ third son, Joel, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was one year old, and shortly before Joel turned two, the Greens learned that his cancer was terminal. At that time, doctors gave Joel four months to live. However, he ended up responding to treatments well so that the Greens got more time with him than they expected. Amy Green says this extra time gave them an opportunity to consider how they might share Joel’s story with other people, which they ended up doing through a video game. Ryan says, “Amy and I are creative people, and this is they way we express the things that we’re going through.”

When they began working on the game in 2013 (while Joel was still alive), the goal was to win, as it would be with any other video game. Amy says, “I think most people...
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