Thank You for Playing is a 2015 documentary about the creation of the critically acclaimed indie game That Dragon, Cancer.
It begins with Ryan and Amy Green, a devoutly Christian married couple and parents of three, learning that their youngest Joel has been diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer at the age of twelve months and has only four left to live. Joel ends up surviving, but continues to live with the illness. His father, an indie game developer, decides to document his family's experience with raising a dying child in an autobiographical exploration game titled That Dragon, Cancer, named for a bedtime story about Joel that he and his wife would tell their children. What begins as a simple way for the Green's to cope with their impending loss soon becomes a poetic message about what we do for our loved ones and how the more difficult parts can sway our own beliefs.
The documentary follows the development of the game, it's creative process and the tolls it eventually takes on the Greens, up to it's eventual release, intercut with the Greens' days-to-day life as they continue to treat Joel's condition while still allowing him to have a happy childhood, fully aware that it could end at any minute.
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Tropes appearing in this documentary:
- Adult Fear: Learning that your barely-year-old-child is dying of cancer and slowly watching them get worse.
- Creator Couple: Ryan, an indie game developer, creates the game with his wife, a writer, supplying the script.
- Dude, Not Funny!: The Greens are occasionally accused of exploiting their son's illness for the sake of entertainment by creating a video game about it.
- Elephant in the Living Room: The Greens' clearly make an effort not to draw attention to Joel's cancer, wanting him to spend however much time he has left living a happy childhood with his brothers, and his many doctor's appointments and treatments are treated matter-of-factly. It isn't until Ryan has to do multiple takes of an especially emotional line in the game that we see the magnitude of the situation come crashing down on him and he breaks down crying.
- Happily Married: Throughout the emotional rollercoaster of caring for Joel while still raising two (eventually three) other children, Amy and Ryan are nothing but supportive of one another and are clearly deeply in love.
- Instant Index: Just Add Water!: One of the first shots of the movie is footage from the game of Ryan's character sitting on a couch in a flooding doctor's office after learning that his son has cancer, and there we're shown several shots from the game of him either drowning or swimming in deep water. The real Ryan later dives into a pool at the hotel where his family are staying as a way to relax. There are obvious parallels to baptism in the second one, as the Greens' Christianity is a major part of the story.
- Meaningful Name: That Dragon, Cancer comes from a bedtime story Ryan and Amy would tell their children in which Joel was a brave knight fighting off an evil dragon, which represents his illness.
- The Show Must Go On: The only reason that the game gets finished is that Ryan and his team feel that they owe it to Joel and his memory.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Ryan quickly realizes that, in creating the game for Joel, he's spending less of what little time he has with him. He makes up for this recording the two of them playing for the game, eventually abandoning it until Joel's death.