A story posted on Kotaku UK today about 17-year-old David Acott, an endearingly enthusiastic Dying Light fan who died of cancer earlier this year, is heartbreaking by any measure. But it's also uplifting, and even important, for what it says about the power of videogames to help people heal.
Alcott revealed that he had cancer on February 20, on his YouTube channel Bad Wolf Gaming. Less than two weeks later, he reported that his cancer had not responded to chemotherapy as expected, and that he would have to start taking stronger doses, which would keep him from making videos for awhile. He's obviously downcast and worried through the first half of the video, but he absolutely lights up around the midway point when he starts talking about Dying Light, a game he'd unboxed with great enthusiasm just a few days before.
That positivity in the face of such dreadful adversity led friends of his younger brother Howard to send a copy of the video to Techland in April, the month after David's death. The studio decided that it wanted to do something to honor David, but not before speaking to his parents. That led to contact with his mother, Janet, and ultimately the creation of a mural that was added to the game in May.
That was expected to be the end of it, but the response to the tribute was so strong that Janet and Howard took a trip to Poland to thank the people at Techland personally for their efforts, which proved to be a very positive experience for both of them. "I really feel for Howard," his mother said. "The whole dynamic of the house has changed. This has given him something, he feels part of that community. He’s now an only child. He’s lost his best friend, his big brother. But this has given him something."
It's a tremendously sad story, and watching Acott's final video, in which he expresses hope for a private room (so he can play Dying Light) and talks about his plans for a "zombie kill montage" video, is incredibly tough to watch. But it's also proof of what games can do, and even more, what a community can do. By any measure, that's an important point of light in a very dark time.
Read David's story in full at Kotaku UK.