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That Dragon, Cancer developer shares grace through game design

Josh Larson exhorted fellow developers to think of games as a form of communication between themselves and their players in a talk given today at the 12th annual Games for Change festival.
Josh Larson is working with Ryan Green and others to develop That Dragon, Cancer, and he tapped that experience to give a talk today at the Games for Change Festival about the value of expressing concepts like grace through game design. During his talk, which was broadcast on the Games For Change Livestream page, Larson suggested that, by coding virtual game worlds, developers are responsible for pushing worldviews on the player. “What players learn when they play our games says something about who we are as people,” said Larson. “Playing a video game we create is like having a conversation with us — the player asks a question, and we provide an answer.” Larson went on to explain that the theme of That Dragon, Cancer is grace — the feeling that a moment is more meaningful than the sum of its parts. It’s a feeling that fellow That Dragon, Cancer creators Ryan and Amy Green felt often while caring for their son Joel, who passed away recently at the age of five after a long battle with cancer. Larson explained that That Dragon, Cancer includes chapters like “Dehydration” that attempt to convey the moments of grace Amy and Ryan Green experienced while caring for Joel. Larson specifically called out Ryan’s experience of grace when Joel slipped into peaceful slumber as Ryan began praying for him, shortly after exhausting all other means of comforting his suffering son. Playing through that experience during a recent demo event caused a complete stranger — an older man from a different age, a different faith and a different socio-economic background — to break down in tears, an experience Larson highlighted as an example of how game developers can -- and should -- affect others through mindful practice of their art. Larson's talk should eventually be archived on the Games for Change Livestream page, which will continue to broadcast talks from this year's roster of speakers -- including Jenova Chen, Jane McGonigal and more -- through the rest of the week.

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