While every year new films come into our lives and stir up our emotions, rarely can they affect us in such a raw, uninhibited way. Even from the very first line of its synopsis, you know “Thank You for Playing” is that rare breed of film that you accept is going to unapologetically leave you stunned. Think back to the most personal tragedy of your life. Really dig deep into that grief. Now, imagine going back to that moment and…making a video game about it. Yes, a video game. Bizarre, sure, but there’s one couple out there that did just that. As parents of a young boy with terminal cancer, not only did they live with that pain every single day until the inevitable happened, they also transformed their situation by opening themselves up to a creative outlet. What a film like “Thank You for Playing” teaches us is that the absurdity of creating a game about cancer only lasts for a brief moment before it turns into something transcendental - something more. Watching this film introduces us to the fact that creation can become a new coping mechanism, bringing us a beautiful new way of understanding and immortalising a life. Filmmaking duo David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall wanted to chronicle the behind the scenes work that went into the video game “The Dragon, Cancer”, created by parents Ryan and Amy Green, as a way to understand and show others how it was to care for terminally ill child, Joel, in his final years. Cutting between scenes of the video game process and footage of home, hospital and family life, viewers fall deep into a strange yet beautiful rabbit hole of emotion. One must wonder, why did the filmmakers make such a personal, private film in the first place? But just like inquiries into the existence of the game itself, it only takes watching a little bit of the film to understand the necessity of telling this story. “Thank You for Playing” is a documentary that goes beyond the constraints of so many video game films before it. That’s the ironic nature of its success - its fiction is real. Though it’s a film that doesn’t beat around the bush in terms of its inevitable outcome, don’t be scared of that brutal conclusion. The film brings many other moral questions to light: can art really be a therapeutic outlet? Are creative endeavours for the sake of healing just exploitation of an otherwise private situation? Though I believe you need to watch the film to truly decide that for yourself, there’s no denying the honesty exuding from this film, scene to scene to scene.
“Thank You for Playing” was released via various VOD outlets this past March and is absolutely worth the watch. While it chronicles both the creative and mourning process, this film also memorialises the short but profound life of a young child that left behind a legacy far greater than he could have ever imagined.