Sway featured story #2—“That Dragon, Cancer”

Last month, we kicked off our featured story series with our Sway on Nathan Sawaya. Nathan’s inventive use of LEGO blocks to create works of art strongly embodies Sway’s mission to provide an adaptable medium that empowers everyone to tell their stories in unique, innovative and delightful ways.

Our second piece features the profoundly moving story of the family behind the video game “That Dragon, Cancer” and the film “Thank You for Playing.” Ryan and Amy are the parents of Joel Green, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just a year old. Ryan, a game designer, first began developing the game to express his feelings about their family’s struggles. Over time, it became the couple’s way to broaden the conversation about cancer, uncertainty and death. Amy notes that people almost never talk about these things, but they universally touch us all.

As a testament to the authenticity of their work, “That Dragon, Cancer” resonated strongly with people who had also experienced struggle and loss. They would come up to the couple and hug them or start talking about their personal battles. The gaming community picked it up and critics hailed it as “the most important game ever developed.” Players said it had just the opposite effect of other games, as it re-sensitized them to human emotions.

As admirers of the Greens’ works and generosity, we feel honored to have their permission to tell the story behind the making of “That Dragon, Cancer.” Readers will witness the couple’s journey from the very start of their struggles to where they are now. And it touches upon the many existential questions they grappled with while developing the game. We hope our medium does justice to its sights, sounds and motions, as well as the complexity of Ryan and Amy’s thoughts and emotions, and puts our viewers in the shoes of this remarkable and resilient family.