257/365 – Meditation Games #257 – The Cancer Fight

Developer: Bertine van Hövell tot Westerflier

Launcher Quote: “This day I had to say goodbye to my longtime friend, partner and husband.

I tried to capture the experience of slowly seeing your partner move towards a state that is incomprehensible. And where effort can only prolong someone’s life, never save it.

A simple, straight forward gameplay mechanic can gain so much meaning with the right context. Did you hold on to life, or did you actively struggle? Both are valid ways to play this game. Both are valid ways to deal with cancer.”

This entry is closer to me than quite a few others, mostly because of the fact that I’ve had to deal with those who I’ve loved engaging in this very fight against cancer, one of the worst and most insidious diseases ever. The agony of choosing between two outcomes that aren’t particularly good in order to get to a chance, and only a chance, that it might be beaten forever, is one that I’ve felt a lot while going through some of the same things that the developer went through. In a series that is meant in part to elicit some kind of feeling from the people playing the games in it, this one was harder than most.

The presentation of the difficulties of the fight against cancer by its victims is shown by a simple mechanic – the choice about whether to let something happen or to choose to end things faster by means of the space bar. While the outcome in this case is generally the same, I was immediately drawn to ensuring that I would fight as hard as possible for as long as possible, which is why having that space bar, even if there was a lack of desire to employ it, was important. In the face of something where some of your choice is robbed, having the agency to make some kind of choice is important, which is I think of significance when fighting a disease that has claimed a lot of lives over the years like cancer.

This isn’t to say letting choices be made for you is inherently bad – it’s important to note, after all, that the choice I made was distinctly mine and for my reasons. But it is a way of showing that in some way, you can take back some of the power that’s lost to you when a disease comes into your life or the life of a loved one. It’s perhaps the most morbid and dark version of “journey not destination” that you can  put forth, but it is no less significant, if not stark, for what the game is trying to tell you.

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