Game designer Amy Green will come to Oklahoma Christian University today to talk about how her son’s struggle with cancer inspired her to create the game “That Dragon, Cancer.”
The Department of Art and Design is promoting the event as part of the ARC Talks series. It will happen this evening in Judd Theater at 5:45 p.m.
Gaming and Animation instructor Ellie Kirkner is responsible for the creation of the ARC Talks.
“Dr. Tina Winn and I discussed the potential behind a visiting lecture series that could benefit our students,” Kirkner said. “We wanted to explore the intersections between the arts, religion and culture.”
Amy Green has a degree in technical journalism, and her husband, Ryan Green, always had an interest in creating video games. The process to create “That Dragon, Cancer” was a contribution shared between the two.
“We began developing a video game about our son Joel, and I cared so much about it that I found myself contributing more and more to the game design and the narrative,” Amy Green said.
Kirkner said she knew Amy Green from her past work and her viral TED Talk.
“In the game industry, women are still a minority, and her story had an impact socially, culturally, and spiritually,” Kirkner said. “As the ARC Talks began to take shape, Amy Green felt like a natural fit for this project.”
Amy Green said giving the TED Talk was an incredible experience.
“It was kind of a bucket list moment,” Amy Green said. “My husband and I have traveled the world speaking about [Joel]. It’s always a gift to me to be invited to speak his name.”
Amy Green said the idea of the game was to express what it was like for her family to have a son with a terminal cancer diagnosis. In the game, the players cannot win.
“We thought of the game mechanics as metaphors, so we would think about something we wanted to convey to the player,” Amy Green said. “It is hard to let go of your illusions of control. We wanted to win, but eventually, we had to surrender to the rest God offered us. It was a long hard lesson. We hope to convey a little of that process to the players.”
Kirkner said the event will be very beneficial for the students to understand the power games have to be a story-telling tool.
“A question I ask myself often is not only ‘How do I make good games?’ but more importantly, ‘How do I make games that make us better people?’ Kirkrner said. “As humans, we are very receptive to the influence of good art, and I’m a firm believer that games are [art]. I hope that students find themselves asking similar types of questions as they develop their work in their own fields.”
Amy Green said she is excited about coming to Oklahoma Christian.
“The content of the ARC Talk I’m giving at OC shares more of my heart in a really vulnerable way,” Amy Green said. “My talks have changed over the years as I have had time to learn, grow, and reflect back on this experience.”
While playing the game, it may not always be clear where you are or where you are going. But Ryan Green said Joel is always in the center
“Playing ‘That Dragon, Cancer’ is like exploring a garden that has been painted with memories of Joel,” Ryan Green said. “Sometimes the memories bleed into each other and you are not sure where or when you are, but Joel is always at the center. This is a place we built to remember our son, to tell you what he was like and how loving him changed us.”
Amy Green said to reproduce her son’s story into a video game was her way of honoring his life.
“We are all trying to make sure that our children’s lives mattered,” Amy Green said. “I wanted to watch Joel grow up and learn what he was passionate about. I wanted to see how he chose to love and serve people. I didn’t get that opportunity and it broke my heart. I think that’s why so many parents who have lost children to cancer go on to start foundations, or run 5Ks, or volunteer, or write books or create art.”
Ryan Green said the biggest accomplishment is the impact on other people.
“Art like this can uncover old wounds and new questions for those who have experienced similar loss,” Ryan Green said. “I am mindful that for anyone to approach our game, they risk their own emotions in the same way. When I think about how far this story of Joel has reached around the world, I am profoundly grateful that others were willing to sit with us a while and grieve together.”