That Dragon, Cancer will debut on Ouya in 2014, showcasing an intense, emotional game on the big screen, in living rooms and just as developers Ryan Green and Josh Larson intended.
That Dragon, Cancer tells a raw story of Green's real life – his 4-year-old son, Joel, has cancer and is fighting his eighth tumor, and the game chronicles his family's struggles, mimicking events and emotions that Green is experiencing himself. It's a breathtaking, interactive poem disguised as a low-poly point-and-click adventure.
"Part of the reason we're creating this game is to create a safe space to talk about hard things," Green told Joystiq. "We want people to share their own experiences about life and death and hope and grace with each other .... It's an experience that we're designing for players that have an hour or two to spend with us. And while it's certainly a personal experience, my hope is that it will be a shared experience."
Green and Larson will self-publish That Dragon, Cancer through their studios, Media Greenhouse and God at Play, with an investment from Ouya. Kellee Santiago, head of developer relations at Ouya, said that investment was "enough so Ryan and Josh and their team [could] make this game a reality without the added burden of struggling financially to do so."
After crafting the ideal living room experience, the developers will "eventually" bring the game to other platforms.
Green and Larson have shown That Dragon, Cancer at a number of gaming conventions – including E3, when we spoke with Green on-camera – but recently, they brought it to Gamescape, a branch of Baltimore's arts festival, Artscape. The crowd there wasn't a typical gaming audience, and the developers noticed that often, couples would stop and sit together or watch each other play the demo.
Santiago felt this same human connection within the game, after playing just a very early prototype, she said.
"The 'winning' state of That Dragon, Cancer is really in the conversations players will hopefully have after they play it," Santiago said. "It will draw in other members of the household and lead families and friends to share this experience, and their own personal experiences, together."