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On Your Radar: Thank You for Playing
by Kathryn Loggins

Directed by David Osit, Malika Zouhali-Worrall

How do you cope with a terminally ill child? Who knows the right things to say? Where do you turn for support? How do you channel your feelings of hurt? There may not be a right answer to any of these questions, but one game designer decided to take a somewhat unconventional approach.

Thank You for Playing is a heart-breaking story of Ryan Green and his family wrestling with the terminal cancer diagnosis of their infant son. As a designer, Green used his passion for gaming to create a platform that could not only help him and his family deal with their tragedy, but also potentially help others around the world who may be suffering the same fate. He started furiously and tirelessly working on a game that would ask the tough questions and give players simulated experiences of what it’s like to live with a terminal illness within your family. The result of the work is a game called That Dragon, Cancer, which was introduced to the public at a gaming convention. The game features Green’s son as a protagonist, with the disease Cancer being the villain. Green’s game play design is more exploratory than action-based, but it does take the player through the multiple stages of dealing with his son’s illness, from the diagnosis to letting go. The documentary shows how people reacted to playing the game at the convention and many people were deeply moved, even shedding tears and profusely thanking Green for his contribution to the gaming world.

The film points out that That Dragon, Cancer is in stark contrast to the many violent and action-packed games that are saturating the market, but it makes the case that this type of game is an important addition to the gaming community. Video games may be seen as a medium purely for entertainment purposes, but this film shows the Green family and all of their supporters paving the way for games to move us emotionally and help enrich our lives, even in the face of tragedy. This moving and beautifully told little story provides a glimpse into what can be accomplished when people use their field of expertise, passion and love to help one another through hardships.