I will discuss same parts of this game so please put a couple of hours aside and play this game before you read on.
I sat down to play this game with an open mind and didn’t take any of the good and bad press surrounding the game when it was released to judge it for myself.
That Dragon Cancer is a game about how a family comes to term with their youngest child being diagnosed with cancer. I was concerned how this game would make me feel and I would say that this game took me a while to get to playing know that there would a ride of emotions. I come at the game with the thinking that I would be an observer into this scenario but I was surprise how this this game achieved and how it dashed this expectation. I also went into this personal experience game with how can I explain an experience like this to a player, what ways will this be shown to the player and by what methods.
For a game that is about a child with cancer I was glad to see that this game wasn’t a sad experience from go to woe, the game balanced touching and happy moment with the harsh reality of what this family went through of physically and emotionally.
Having the player move around environment that are stages in the time line of what these people experienced. Set up a dynamic of a family experiencing every day thing that you would. What the aesthetic of faceless people was the way the game made you focus on the dialog audio of a family feed a duck at a lake, having a young child asking question to his parents about his sick younger brother and about why his is different. Straight away this game hits the feel button as the parent explain this deep subject with a young child and a way they understand. How do you do that and not make a child scare of what is happening is one thing, but how do you play this. At this point in time you are a spectator to the dialog but instead of a floating camera angle you take the form of a duck on the lake eating bread that the sick child is throwing in to the water and laughing with excitement when you as the duck eat the bread.
So really the game play is for the play to feel like they are doing something and not feeling like they are doing nothing, as this game play is simple players will do this and focus on the audio and the powerful message that it is. These elements I feel would fall down if they were just on their own, this way the personal story is centre and acknowledged by players.
However, the hole game doesn’t place you in the spectator seat. In another scene it places you on a coach in a room with the Mother, Father and two doctors. and you are sitting on the with the child and looking at a “See and Say”. As you look around the room the player is guided to the “See and Say” when they look at the child as an indication to what is next.
As you spin the “See and say” the answer with the different thing the it lands on are not what is normal for one of these. Instead of the duck says “Quack” it says “The ducks like to go for a morning run” which the child will laugh at not knowing why it’s funny, this sets up the feel for the vibe of the rest of the activity in the room. The doctor begins to tell the parents that the child’s condition is now at a point that they have done all that the can and now they would be looking at better life care instead of a cure. This is heavy and depressing but the way that is handled make it feel nevi and innocent.
After a while the “See and Say” changes to display the face of all the people in the room and when you spin the wheel is plays out what each person is thinking in that stage of the conversation with you able to play the hole conversation through from each person’s point of view in the room. This is a crazy way to demonstrate the feel of a powerful moment in the game, it tells the story in a way that players and interact with in a playable scene.
The way that is player makes you care about things is not by have you sit and listen to endless cut scene after cut scene to get their story across. By having this story as a back drop to a simple mechanic it is over taking by this backing story in a good way. The game play help the player keep their finger busy so the backing can have an impact. I’m hoping that the focus on audio and sound effect can have player feeling what they are meant to in each section of our game.
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