Monday, July 27, 2015

(Non)-Virtual Reality: A Video Game About Cancer

On Living Memory


That Dragon, Cancer: Parkin of The New Yorker writes: “For Green, in other words, the game is no longer just a way to invite others into the dreadful realm of terminal illness; it’s also a way to preserve, and to celebrate, the memory of his son’s life.”

Some articles are more touching than others, striking a personal chord that resonates loudly and deeply. This is the case of an an article, by Simon Parkin, in The New Yorker about a father using his professional skills as a video-game maker to deal with his infant son’s cancer and his succumbing to it when he was five. Is this mawkish or exploitation? No, I would argue that this is a way to deal with devastating grief and profound inexplicable sadness.

Film-makers David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall have made a documentary about it. In “A Father's Video Game About His Son’s Terminal Cancer” (July 22, 2015), Parkin writes:
The film “Thank You for Playing,” which premièred at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, follows a young father who is making a video game about his terminally ill child. Joel Green was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2010, at the age of one. By the time the film’s directors, David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, first met him, in early 2013, Joel’s young body had been subject to more than three years of surgery and chemotherapy. The tumors had left him partially deaf and blind. At one point, he had to relearn how to walk. Other families might document and express a similar experience through photographs, home videos, written diaries, or poems. But Joel’s father, Ryan Green, is a video-game developer, and he decided to bring narrative order to the devastating chaos of his son’s illness using the medium he knows best.
This makes sense to me; when you have cancer, your world is thrown into disorder. Order is one thing that you want, that you desire, using your diminished strength and tired mind to obtain some of what is lost. It is, after all is said and done, a losing effort, in the sense that something is lost when you have cancer. [see A Cancer Memoir.]

It is true that the losses vary among persons hit by cancer. What is universal is that your world is divided into two phases: Before Cancer (B.C.) and After Cancer (A.C.). This might not be done overtly; it is often done without conscious acknowledgment or awareness. You cannot return to the way things were B.C. and you have to adapt to the “new normal” of life A.C.

Cancer is no discriminator of persons; it is the master of disorder, and its success is no reflection of the human effort. Such is the way it is with a cruel and unrelenting disease; it is tricky and implacable foe, who uses deceit. Cancer makes the people it attacks feel alone, vulnerable and already defeated.

Joel Green was too young at age one to know what order is, and what he was facing, so it was up to his father to try to make sense of it all by taking an initiative and inviting others into his world, his humane battle, to do the same. “On March 14, 2014, in the early hours of the morning, Joel Green died,*” the article says. Yet, the little boy lives on, as a visual memory, in a video game and in a documentary. This provides a setback to cancer’s claim of victory, which provides to me some measure delight. It is not the same as having the presence of a flesh-and-blood son, to be sure, but it provides some sense of his being.

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For more, go to [TheNewYorker]

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I will return in a few weeks with more posts.

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