The heartbreaking iPhone game designed by a father to recreate his young son's final years as he battled the brain cancer that killed him aged five
- Ryan Green of Colorado created 'That Dragon, Cancer' for his son
- Joel was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid tumor just after he turned a year old
- Green began working on game in November 2012, when Joel was four
- The game, which gives players the chance to discover the 'overwhelming hope that can be found in the face of death', has been a huge hit
A father who created a moving video game which re-enacts the last years of his five-year-old son's life before he died of a terminal brain cancer has launched the game on the iPhone.
Ryan Green, 34, of Loveland, Colorado designed That Dragon, Cancer which gives players the opportunity to 'relive memories, share heartache and discover the overwhelming hope that can be found in the face of death'.
The game was a huge hit on the PC and Mac when it launched earlier this year and now users can play it on their iPhone for $4.99.
Joel was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT) at age one, but surprised doctors by outliving his bleak prognosis by more than three years.
In the years following his diagnosis there was a brain surgery, six weeks of radiation, intense chemotherapy, several tumor recurrences and a relocation to San Francisco to pursue a medical trial, which wasn't able to help Joel.
His parents Ryan and Amy hope the game will be a resource for other grieving parents.
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'A little glimpse into our lives': Ryan Green, 34, of Loveland, Colorado created That Dragon, Cancer (a scene from it is pictured above) which re-enacts the last years of his son Joel's life
Ryan and Amy (pictured above with Joel) said that through the video game they were able to do something proactive with their feelings of grief as they tell of their experience of raising their son
HOW TO BUY THE GAME
The game - which Green says is a 'video game composed of pain and hope, a script written day by day' - is not typical fare.
When it was announced for the PC last year, Green told Today: 'Usually you have a goal: running and jumping and killing enemies... You get high scores and are able to beat the game.
'What we're doing it different. Decisions you make don't change how the story ends because, ultimately, we are telling a true story. Joel doesn't survive.'
Amy, Ryan and Joel (second left) are pictured with Joel's three brothers. Amy said that during the game players are being a friend to them through their journey
A documentary, Thank You For Playing, chronicling the making of the video game premiered during the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17 last year, and will be shown in the US on PBS on October 24.
In a trailer for the film, Green describes why he created the game, saying: 'I wanted to crate a space for me to talk about my son. People ask 'isn't it kind of strange showing a game about terminal cancer?' and I'm thinking why is that so strange?
'Why are we all walking around anonymous and not talking about the things that shape the way we are.'
In a heartbreaking comment from the film, Green says: 'I feel this compulsion to just share it to talk about it to capture it because as soon as it's gone it'll be a shadow and I won't be able to remember it.'
In the same trailer, Mrs Green describes the game as 'a little glimpse into our lives'.
Green told Wired the idea to make a video game about Joel came to him 'in church, as he reflected on a harrowing evening a couple of years earlier when Joel was dehydrated and diarrheal, unable to drink anything without vomiting it back up, feverish, howling, and inconsolable'.
'There's a process you develop as a parent to keep your child from crying, and that night I couldn't calm Joel,' Green told the magazine. 'It made me think, 'This is like a game where the mechanics are subverted and don't work.'
Green and his co-designer Josh Larson then built a demo, which became a massive hit, and the game was born.
Joel was diagnosed with an Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT) at age one, but left doctors surprised after he outlived expectations by more than three years.
The video game is a memorial for Ryan Green's son, Joel, who was diagnosed with a terminal cancer and died in March 2014 (above Joel with his father)
Set in recreated scenes of the family's house and hospitals, the characters in the video game are faceless but remain entirely emotional, according to Today.
The game first takes place in a park where Joel is feeding ducks and his family's voices are heard explaining his condition in the background.
During the interactive retelling of the couple's experience raising their son, players can touch Joel's face as he lies in a hospital bed or push him in a swing.
At the end of the game, the family is standing on an island and the players are asked to let Joel go.
'He moves on and we can't,' Amy Green told Today.
She also said for her husband, the game was his way of mourning and also a way for them to do something proactive with their feelings of grief.
Ryan Green (above with Joel) said the video game is a story 'composed of pain and hope'
During Joel's battle against cancer, the couple were told many times that he had only a few weeks to live. Having moved to San Francisco to pursue a medical trial, in March 2014 they returned to Colorado where Joel died within days.
On the game's website, after his death, the family wrote: 'The days since Joel's death have been filled with more grace than seems possible, as the Green family remember Joel and miss him and wish things could have been different, but now must learn what it means to be a family without him.
'It turns out a memorial service is not the best time and place to remember a person. It's too fresh. Sometimes you don't even know yet what you will really miss the most about the person you are memorializing.
'It took me weeks to settle into a life without my son, to know that joy felt different without his laughter in the mix, and to realize that I was glad to have a little hole in my joy that could never be patched. It was a space reserved for Joel and I didn't want it filled.
'Not only do we want to keep talking about Joel, we want others to keep talking about the people who changed their lives, to celebrate the little spaces in their hearts that they don't want filled in either. '
Players go through the same events the family did as the game progresses
Green said he hopes the game will be a resource for other grieving parents
Amy Green, Joel's mother, said that during the video game, players are being a friend with them on their journey
The final scene of the game takes place in a virtual cathedral
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