That Dragon, Cancer: the video game that takes death seriously

A grieving father’s heartbreaking memorial for his son demonstrates that the genre can be about more than entertainment

Video games have long enjoyed making entertainment out of conflict, but mainly from the infantilisation and the belittling of what is at its heart. As Simon Parkin explored in his recent book Death by Video Game, gaming barely acknowledges death, despite how central it is to so many titles, let alone lingers on it, or considers the grief in its aftermath.

Entertainment is what drives the industry. But it need not define the medium and that it can be more is evident in the recently released That Dragon, Cancer, a title with an uncomfortable subject at its heart. It is a game made by parents Ryan and Amy Green about their son Joel, who was diagnosed with brain cancer at 12 months old.

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