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Some Games You Just Can’t Win: Crowdfunded Memorialisation, Grief and That Dragon, Cancer

Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead

ISBN: 978-1-83909-038-7, eISBN: 978-1-83909-037-0

Publication date: 20 August 2020


January 2016 saw the final release of Numinous Games’ crowdfunded linear adventure game That Dragon, Cancer. An impactful independent title which subverts many of gaming’s traditional and valued norms. In less than two hours of abstracted adventure, players are transported through a series of vignettes documenting one family’s struggle with cancer, and the battle faced by their terminally ill child, Joel. Digital memorialisation has been documented by scholars since the late 1990s. This has come in the form of sites specifically created for memorialisation, social networking sites repurposed by their users for memorialisation (MySpace and more recently Facebook), and online virtual worlds (Second Life and World of Warcraft). However, within That Dragon, Cancer the productive nature of grief has created and envisioned a gaming experience purpose-built for memorialisation. This chapter begins by documenting memorialisation within virtual environments. From here, the author turns to consider the way in which That Dragon, Cancer provides a purpose-built space for grief, memorialisation and understanding, focussing on key stylistic and mechanic-based decisions undertaken in the games design. Finally, the author considers the way in which That Dragon, Cancer, through the use of crowdfunding in late 2014, transformed from a project memorialising one child to the memorialisation of many across the globe.



Coward-Gibbs, M. (2020), "Some Games You Just Can’t Win: Crowdfunded Memorialisation, Grief and That Dragon, Cancer", Coward-Gibbs, M. (Ed.) Death, Culture & Leisure: Playing Dead (Emerald Studies in Death and Culture), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 173-188.



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Copyright © 2020 Matt Coward-Gibbs