If laughter is the best medicine, are there also benefits to immersive play ? The new documentary project “WoW MoM” explores how video games and cosplay (dressing in costume as a game character) can add up to a life-affirming way of combatting cancer, while also shining light on an often misdiagnosed cancer, Neuroendocrine Tumors (NET) - the carcinoids/cancerous tumors that ultimately claimed the life of Apple icon Steve Jobs. At least 115,000 people in the US are living with NET and the average time from symptoms to diagnosis exceeds 5 years.
"WoW MoM" is being delivered with a heavy dose of humor, as the director Andie Bolt is a talented comic who is not afraid to skewer the dark subject matter.
Bolt's incredibly personal story resonates on a broad scale. Her mother Terry Bolt was facing a life threatening diagnosis and needed several surgeries to remove tumors.
Terry's once active lifestyle on a ranch in California’s central valley was curtailed and she faced constant medical intervention. What came next was unexpected. Terry became an active online player of “World of Warcraft,” (daughter Andie credits the amazing WiFi at Cedars-Sinai hospital) and was soon immersed in that community.
“People expect you to be there; they expect you to show up,” explains Bolt of the online gaming world. Her mother found two healing benefits while playing: she could talk to her new friends about her illness without holding back and she could live virtually in a healthy body. “She will say things in the game she won’t say in real life; there’s something really empowering about the game,” Bolt finds. In turn, the online community is incredibly supportive. “I’m a big believer in positive energy, and people sending you positive energy from around the world really touches you,” Bolt believes.
“Making the film is a healing process for my family,” she adds. Though once she accumulated almost 150 hours of footage, she realized she needed help in finishing the film. (The working title, “Road to Azeroth,” was one change.) Enter Los Angeles-based documentary producer Lauren Fash. “One of reasons I signed on, is I felt we could reach a massive audience because gaming and cancer resonate with millions of people,” explains Fash. “And the subject matter and message are very strong,” which appealed to Fash as she often works on social issue/social justice documentaries.
Although Bolt is chronicling her mother’s experience, it’s opened the “floodgates to people in similar situations,” says Fash. The time element is crucial and the Kickstarter campaign is to raise funds for editing and post-production. “The film needs to be finished ASAP so people can see it; there is a time stamp,” Fash adds. The goal to have the film completed for by August 2015 so it can be submitted for 2016 film festivals (all important to documentary filmmakers). “The film will shed a positive light on gaming as a therapeutic tool,” Fash says. In reality, more than just kids in basements play “World of Warcraft.” The film will present a different perspective, one that demonstrates how cancer patients, including the grandmother in the film, utilize it as a coping mechanism.
Fash acknowledges that cancer can be a tough and depressing subject for a documentary. Bolt, who has performed stand-up since age 14, uses comedy as a tool to break down the stigma surrounding the disease. “You have to joke about heavy shit,” she explains and she not only covers her mom’s first foray into stand-up at a cancer benefit but also interviews numerous comics in the film. “I ask comics serious questions; is it ok? What is off limits?” Her main intent is to do the participants justice and do right by their story. Bolt concludes, “I want the film to be as good as it can be as it’s become apparent it’s not just my project but for the community.”
Take a look at the official Kickstarter video call to action:
For more, check out WoWMomTheMovie.