That Cancer, Victim Complex

That Dragon, Cancer is a computer game about a couple whose young son is dying of cancer that has recently raised some controversy. One of the developer, Ryan Green, wrote an article on his blog how Let’s Play videos on Youtube and streams on Twitch are potentially harming the game developers financially. For those who do not know what Let’s Plays are, they are videos of people playing computer games online. The video is focused, mainly, on the game, not the player.


Let’s Play videos

The problem, according to the developer, is that the game is very linear, more an interactive movie, it seems, than a game and he states: “We have seen many people post our entire game on YouTube with little to no commentary.” The article hints that for this reason their  “studio has not yet seen a single dollar from sales“. If I wanted, I don’t think I’d have to go on further with this topic, as the issue is that the game is too linear and boring for people actually to spend time and money on, and the developer knows it. Ryan Green writes that Let’s Play “can especially benefit those who make competitive or sandbox games.  However, for a short, relatively linear experience like ours, for millions of viewers, Let’s Play recordings of our content satisfy their interest and they never go on to interact with the game in the personal way that we intended for it to be experienced. ” However, I do want to dig deeper into this topic.

Green’s article is fairly well-written and the tone isn’t simply that an entitled developer wants more money, but I’ve heard this argument on Let’s Plays before. Some developers, I think Nintendo is one such company, have sought to earn profit from other people’s videos. This idea is greedy and nonsensical, since a Let’s Play video is in effect either a work art or entertainment, or journalism. Watching a video of a game someone else is playing is vastly different to playing a game yourself. The game is a tool in the making of the video, an important tool, but a tool nonetheless.

Let’s say that I make a video of myself running in my local park wearing Nike-clothes, and I post it on Youtube. It becomes a hit and I make a lot of money on the ad-revenue. On the basis of the argument that a game developer deserves money from a Let’s Play of their game, then my local municipality would deserve a part of the profits since I use their park, Nike would deserve their share because of the clothes, the manufacturer of my camera should get something too, and why not give money to the factory that built the computer I use to upload the video as well. It’s the same thing. There are videos on Youtube of make-up artists making themselves look pretty, and recording the different steps in the process, and showing what sort of make-up they use. Shouldn’t the company just be happy for the free advertisement?

The difference between uploading a movie and video of gameplay is that the movie is the full product, and a game video should only be a sample of the product. Looking at a video of my new car is not the same as driving the car. The same goes for games. If your game is not interactive enough that it makes little difference whether you watch a video or play it, then the fault lies with the game. It is uninteresting. You cannot change reality by guilt-tripping people, or by legislation.


The Cancer itself

I’m a gamer, but I haven’t played That Dragon, Cancer. I noticed when it appeared on Steam a couple of months ago. It stood out by being different, but when I took a deeper look of it, it seemed like it wasn’t really a game, but an interactive movie designed to pull your heart strings. I hate stuff like that. If you like it, you’re free to do so, but I have no interest of buying or playing it.

Today I happened to see the first impressions game journalist Total Biscuit’s video on the topic, and then I checked out a couple of videos of the game. It seemed like I was right, the main purpose of the game is to pull your heart strings, and it’s a “game”, not a proper game that is about gameplay. Although technically there is a possibility that I might actually enjoy That Dragon, Cancer were I to try, but I seriously doubt it.

I find the motivation of the developers to even make that game somewhat questionable. Their child died of cancer. It’s a tragedy. I get it. So what? All of human existence has been, and will be, filled with tragedies. Why should I care about this one particular tragedy? Should we compare tragedies, is their tragedy greater than the one I’ve experienced, or how about the Yazidi-girl in Iraq who was raped by ISIS? Is her fate worse? I’m sick and tired of people trying to gain victimization points.

Since I haven’t played their game, I cannot be sure, but it seems like That Dragon, Cancer is about the inability of the parents to get over the death of their child. Tragic to be sure, but why air this out in public? Why make a commercial product of your child’s death? How about settling the issue with your family and friends, or a priest or psychiatrist? This sounds like a private matter.

My two cents on it are that the religion of the 21st century is the victim complex. Being a good victim is more valuable than gold. Social Justice Warriors complain how cishet White men have victimized everyone else, the Jews complain how Whites and Muslims have genocided them, the White men complain how the Jews and the Muslims are trying to genocide them. I don’t think the developers of That Dragon, Cancer are after money as much as they want attention. Making a good game wasn’t as important as showing how painful it all was. In the end, it’s only a celebration of death and weakness. And I’m sick of it.

If you really care about cancer, how about doing something positive to fight it? How about working to expose how the pharmaceutical industry can’t or won’t do anything to really cure cancer, only to alleviate its symptoms and make money. Chemotherapy does nothing. Look at the fruits of their labour, not their honeyed words. How about the alternative cures. Hemp oil allegedly can cure cancer. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard  it from several sources, so I’d say it’s worth looking into if you or someone you know has cancer. Look into other alternatives. If you really care, don’t just regurgitate your feelings of guilt and fear.

This advice should also apply to Total Biscuit, who is also dying of cancer; don’t trust the main stream of “medicine”. Look into alternatives.

When a tragedy happens, most people unaffected by it just like to throw money at it as they feel guilty they were not the victim. One example of this was when the tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident occurred in Japan five years ago, so many people in the West were willing to donate money to help them. Giving money to something is not the same as actually doing something, making an effort. It only serves to alleviate your sense of guilt. Like Martin Luther King, who may have been a communist but it does not change the factuality of his words, said: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

I read through some of the comments on Ryan Green’s blog. One particularly annoyed me:

Will North

This is the epitome of everything that is wrong with this world; this guy hasn’t played the game or seen videos, i.e. doesn’t really know what is going on, but he’s just going to give them some money because he feels bad. This is the attitude that is ruining the world. It is not the racist right-wingers who hate others, the greedy capitalists, or even dishonest politicians, but people who only act on their feelings of self-serving compassion.



In my view, the heart of this matter is the victim complex religion of our day. Everyone wants to advertise their traumas in public to garner points. This what “Je suis Charlie” was all about. This what making games about your dead child is all about. It’s not about money, it’s about attention.

There was one comment in the That Dragon, Cancer blog that I liked. It’s unnecessarily mean, but it’s also honest:


I’m a heartless bastard and proud of it.



On let’s plays:

That Dragon, Let’s Play [Strong Language]:




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