Joel Green, the 5-year-old son of developer Ryan Green and the inspiration for the emotional adventure game, That Dragon, Cancer, died this morning after battling terminal cancer for four years. Ryan shared the news on the That Dragon, Cancer blog with the above photo.

That Dragon, Cancer chronicles the intense emotional journey of Ryan and his family as they deal with Joel's diagnosis. It incorporates poetry, somber music and voiceovers in a point-and-click format, with low-poly, pastel, 3D graphics. It's a powerful game that asks players to pause and reflect on the fragility of life and love. That Dragon, Cancer is due out on Ouya this year, with other platforms to follow.

We spoke with Ryan at the IndieCade booth at E3 last year, and asked how he ended up turning his pain into a game.

"I don't know what else I'd do," he said. "I'm a creative and that's what I want to do, and that's how I process things. My wife and I, we've made a short film and we wrote a book; I'm a video game developer by trade, and so that seemed like a natural fit. There's something special about video games that you don't find in other media. I want people to love my son the way I love my son, and to love my son you have to meet my son. A video game gives the opportunity to meet my son and meet our family, and kind of walk with us in our shoes, but from a safe place."

Now, Joel is in a safe place of his own. Our deepest sympathies to the Green family at this time.
[Image: Ryan Green]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.