"The Day I Faced That Dragon:" A call for visual stories.

The bustle of PAX Prime is upon us.  It is hard to believe it has been a year already.  I am grateful that in the Indie MEGABOOTH this year, we were assigned the same booth location.  There is a small storage area in that corner of the floor.  

I will use it again to hide.  

It will be my refuge when my throat gets too tight.  For when I have to explain yet again that Joel is no longer with us.  For when I tire of the latest overheard and flippant joke of “what’s dragon cancer?” and the sea of faces and funny hats becomes too stormy to remain afloat in the life raft of hugs and tears that surround our booth.

I am grateful.

To have a space to memorialize Joel.  We get to tell our story.  I get to tell the world why MY son mattered.  Why should I get to do that?  Why me and not someone else.  Because he was MY son.  And he mattered to ME.  And I miss him.

I am not alone.

And I know that there is a deluge of tears shed every day for the soul that inhabited that room; that car seat; that pair of pants; that bit of air that was filled with his laughter or her voice.

So we want to make space for your story.

"The Day I Faced That Dragon."

What do you miss the most? How did it change you? Where do you find hope? What do you do with your anger? Maybe guilt? Where is joy to be found?

Bottle it up, pour it into a cup.  Make something beautiful.  Make Art. We’ll serve it at PAX on your behalf.  This year we’re raising money.  This time with Extra Life.  They love games, you love games.  They love kids, they raise money for children’s hospitals.

Here’s what we’re asking for: 

  • Create a work of art that can be printed.
  • Email us about the day you faced “that dragon” in what ever form it came it does not have to be cancer.  Any “dragon” will suffice.
  • Attach your art, send it via email to info@thatdragoncancer.com
  • Do this by Monday, August 25th, 2014 9am pacific time.
  • We’ll curate the work and get posters and postcards printed at our expense.
  • All submissions will be posted on-line with your story.

These posters and postcards will be given out for free as thank you’s for folks who donate directly to Extra Life at PAX Prime, we don’t take the money, folks who donate will just show us the receipt.

We’ll provide a donation “kiosk” at our booth.

That’s it.  Tell us your story, we’ll tell it to others and raise money for hospitals that save children’s lives.  

Because the ones we loved matter to us.

-Ryan

Here is my submission:

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"The sun still rose in spite of my strong recommendation it not." - Ryan Green - August 19, 2014

Written March 13, 2014 - joelevangreen.com

Amy and I did not get much sleep last night. As the hours flew by faster than I could catch them, we prayed, we grieved, I cuddled my sweet son as tightly as I dared, examining his face and hands and toes and belly button, taking pictures of us that I will never show anyone else, and sweeping the hair across his forehead over and over again.

Joel fell asleep at home. Surrounded by his family and friends, only hours after we had filled our home with songs of worship to our God and prayers for mercy and healing for Joel and for ourselves from the voices of our church and friends and family.

As I awoke this morning after an hour of sleep, I lingered in the early morning light of our room, his body cradled, as always, in the crook of my arm. Except instead of the sweet sighs of comfort and the warmth of his little body against mine, the moors of death had tightened, leaving Joel’s earthly tent, cold and breathless.

And so now we mourn, and we weep, we rage and we argue with the God who knows how the story will end. And we laugh with our family and friends, and sob in the quiet moments, and wrap ourselves in his blankets and wrap ourselves in His peace. The kind that passes all understanding as we make the decisions that will lay Joel to rest.

On Sound Design and Goodwill

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While working on an upcoming scene, we discovered a need for a classic ‘Spin n’ Say’ toy to be created, with which the player will interact. It’s been a while since I played with this kind of toy, and after a brief search around the house I remembered how few of my sons’ toys make noise (you gotta do what you can to stay sane). A few seconds on the internet later, I was well-reminded of how this toy works: pull a lever, a dial spins, and delightful low-fi narration and animal noises ensue. In our toy’s case, there’s also some buttons and an extra lever.


Some of these sounds are simple to make, basically put a microphone in front of something and press record. A few edits and minimal processing, and there you have it. So, I figured I’d head to the thrift store and see what they had. At first I saw nothing like what I needed - almost everything was digital with very few mechanics (no buttons, no moving lever, etc). I was about to leave when I threw some toys to the side in frustration, and the perfect toy was revealed. Lever…check. Spinning dial…check. Unbelievably annoying sounds coming from a tiny speaker inside a cheap plastic case with a happy farmer on it…CHECK.


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Once back at the studio, my first priority was to get the batteries out of this thing. I’d need to be able to pull the lever and isolate the mechanical sounds I wanted. A few minutes of recording and editing later, and that work was done. I then wondered how to approach making our own narration and animal sounds, and most importantly how to make them sound like the toy. I have lots of tricks up my sleeves (ie; effect plug-ins and hardware), but was concerned with the time it might take to mimic the toy via processing,  and my declining mental health over that course of time.


Glancing down at the toy, which was face down with its guts hanging out the back, I realized I could probably add an audio input without much fuss. Then, mimicking the toy would be as easy as pressing play and putting a microphone in front of it. Thanks to the general state of things in my studio, my soldering iron/hacking tools were already out and ready to go. About 10-15 minutes later, I sent out a recording of a team-favorite track made through the toy. After a few very silly late-night voiceover sessions with Mike, we had our toy fully-realized in the game.

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With all the fancy tools we have these days, I often forget about more organic, natural approaches. I’d probably still be tweaking some knob on an EQ, or auditioning impulse responses, if I hadn’t have just hacked that toy. Now I have a new tool on the shelf for whenever I need that ‘awesome’ sound again, and the world can rejoice in having one less Farmer whatever-his-name-is toys in circulation.

 

Thank You For Playing - Teaser from Thank You For Playing on Vimeo.

We haven’t talked about it publicly, but back in June of 2013, we were contacted by a documentary film director who had seen a one-liner mention of our game on killscreen, and was interested in finding out if we’d be open to letting them come out and visit our family in order that he and his partner might produce a documentary about the making of the game.

Thus began the production of the film “Thank You For Playing.”

You wouldn’t think it so, since our family has been so public and in the news about sharing the game, and we’ve been part of a web-based documentary before, but letting a film crew in to our personal, creative and professional lives was a little scary.  We are not the producers of this film.  It is independent of us.  Before this project, we did not know David and Malika, but we decided It was important that people see the parts of our lives in-between the scenes of the game.  Life happens in the middle and so does death.  David and Malika were with our family the three days leading up to Joel’s passing.

They recently posted a teaser trailer announcing the film, and have set up a facebook and web site to promote their project.  We hope you’ll support them.

-Ryan

On Work, Joy and Love.

In the midst of all of the struggle and pain in this last year, our family experienced a lot of joy.  I think that would likely be one of the most surprising aspects of our family life to one outside looking in.  

Joel’s illness often tethered us to our home for long stretches of time.  While I went to work, Amy would often spend many consecutive days driving more than an hour each way to Denver and back from Children’s Hospital; spending most of each day with Joel and one or more of our children in a tiny treatment room while Joel received chemo or waited for tests.

So when we received good news or had breaks in treatment, we loved to take long road trips as a family. 

One of the longer trips we took lasted two weeks and took us from Colorado to Washington, down the Coast of California to San Diego and back through Arizona.  I will always treasure our road trips, eating pizza in swim trunks at the local hotel; all six of us sleeping in a room with narrow; hard beds; driving for hours at a time through redwood forests and snowy mountain roads in van that smelled of 4 very messy boys, their toys and fast food wrappers, and dance parties.

One of the other blessings that has been mixed into my life is the ability to support my family and the cost of treatment through work on “That Dragon Cancer” as a full time job.  When I started this project with Josh, I had plenty of code experience, but very limited 3d artistic ability.

As you see from this picture, the uncanny valley is very real, and I was slipping from the ledge.  Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of throwing myself fully into work as an artist for the first time.  Working with Josh and Nat and Ryan, and learning and experimenting,  writing and drawing and sharing our story with the world has been tremendously fulfilling.

 And I’m grateful, that even though my skill does not yet match my taste, that we have the opportunity to honor Joel through this project, as well as the time and resources to create something beautiful and that gets more beautiful the longer we work on it.  This is especially vital to me now as we grieve; having the chance to throw all of my ability, and love, into work that matters to me has never been more important to my health and the health of my family.

I hope that this post encourages you, first that choosing work that matters too much to let yourself fail and choosing to go after it even when your skill doesn’t match your taste, is work worth completing.

This isn’t just my art, this is our art, and I think that is an important distinction.

It’s built on the experiences we choose to share together, and the beauty we choose to make together.

Create with each other, Learn from each other, Love one another.  It’s worth it.