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Kickstarter Weekly: That Dragon, Cancer and When You’re Gone

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Video games have covered almost ever seemingly conceivable idea no matter how abstract. In this regard, video games have lived up to their reputation to being the medium that can be about anything, and yet they continue to shy away from more realistic themes compared to saving the world. Fortunately, Kickstarter is a breeding grounds for new ideas regardless of how good or bad backers perceive them. That Dragon, Cancer and When You’re Gone, for instance, stray from traditional adventure game mechanics in order to tell poignant tales about loss and loneliness. They won’t be fun in the traditional sense, but they’ll hopefully prove to be engaging.

What themes would you like to see developers explore in video games, let alone Kickstarter?

That Dragon, Cancer

By: Ryan Green and Josh Larson

Goal: $85,000

Current Funds: $46,934

End: December 12, 2014

When I was 18, I lost my father after his impressive 4-round bout with Melanoma, a vicious type of skin cancer. For some, like Ryan and Amy Green, the roles are reversed; as parents, they lost their son to a type of brain cancer–slightly different with, unfortunately, the same results.

A few years ago, That Dragon, Cancer made the rounds across various gaming sites while the developer’s son, Joel Green, was still alive. Ryan, the father and sole developer apart from musician Josh Larson,  originally intended the game to celebrate each of the miraculous victories the little tyke would win against cancer . Like my dad, the child staved off death far longer than the time frame the doctors had originally given him; however, some can only battle the ferocious dragon, so to speak, for so long before they grow weary.

Despite the tragic loss of their son,  Kyle admirably refuses to deviate from his original hopeful message as he allows players to explore Joel’s life via the adventure game genre. In some cases, players experience the more heart-warming moments in Joel’s life such as when he feeds the ducks, plays on the playground, and everything else a toddler loves to do. Kyle isn’t afraid to also depict the despairing, yet tender moments such as when he holds his son who is hooked up to an IV. The warm, cubist art style and haunting piano pieces complement the varying, tumultuous emotions that cancer patients, their friends, and their families may experience while they face this ordeal.

I realize That Dragon, Cancer doesn’t sound like a traditional game, but it does represent the connections that developers can build with players. Even I, who does not share the same religious views as Ryan, Amy, and Josh am able to relate to their struggle, and I’d wager those who know cancer victims would be able to engage with this game on some level.

I hope, in the long run, That Dragon, Cancer sparks a trend in which video game developers take to Kickstarter in order to fund games that tackle more of humanity’s metaphorical dragons, not just the ones in Skyrim.

When You’re Gone


By: Winteractive

Goal: $180,000

Current Funds: $44,175

End: November 30, 2014

While perhaps not as tragic as losing a family or loved one to death, a breakup can provide a major shock to your system. Sure, one might have more freedom once he or she has been dumped by his or her significant other, but they also have more time than they can handle, and they no longer have a routine to distract themselves from their feelings of loss and loneliness. Thankfully, as demonstrated in  Winteractive’s When You’re Gone, no one is alone in sharing such universal feelings.

The game is essentially a love story that covers the entire lifespan of a relationship: the good, the bad, and everything in between. In this case, we have Sam and Emma, although the story is told through the former’s perspective. More accurately, Sam, as his older self explores his own, distorted memories from when he was young and in love, so that he can “remember Emma as she deserves to be remembered.”

As with That Dragon, Cancer, When You’re Gone isn’t an adventure game in the traditional sense where players solve puzzles in order to progress the story; rather, it’s more interested in relaying universal themes to the player via a more interactive medium than books or television. The levels are based on Sam’s key memories from his and Emma’s relationship, and scenes utilize a motion-comic cutscenes to drive the story. Seeing as the game takes place within Sam’s mind, it makes sense that the presentation takes on a more abstract form–I’m reminded of Van Gogh crossed with Psychonauts–in order to draw us into the secrets behind the relationship.

The two key things that might draw a backer’s attention is the universal theme and the stylish presentation. A gamer might be familiar with heartbreak as he or she is with a first-person shooter, but it’s not often that players get to play games that explore these relatable themes. If only Winteractive had included more details about the game, I’m sure they could have easily garnered more interest and funding for When You’re Gone. For now, these details are as enigmatic as the events that lead to the inevitable breakup.

Other Projects

Have you seen any interesting projects on Kickstarter that you think deserve mention? Are you a developer who is currently running a Kickstarter campaign? Let us know in the comments section, or send an email to

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