Gaming Stations are Bringing Joy to Hospitalized Kids

Nintendo and Starlight bring the latest gaming console to hospitalized children.

A boy in the hospital plays Nintendo.

Photo from Starlight by Jay Gunning

A partnership between Nintendo and the Starlight Foundation has brought smiles to many children’s faces. Nintendo Switch, the popular gaming console that flew off store shelves, has arrived in many North American hospitals, bringing joy and hours of fun to children and teens.

The Nintendo Switch is one of the most popular gaming consoles of all time, with over 70 million units sold since its debut in 2017, according to Statista. Due to many children being at home during the pandemic, for most of 2020, the Switch was sold out at all major retailers in the US, as reported by Business Insider. This sparked intense bidding wars on third party platforms with resellers raising prices to meet the demand.

But hospitalized kids and teenagers at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington, were able to get their hands on the latest edition of the Nintendo Switch last December, courtesy of the Starlight foundation’s portable gaming stations.

Founded in 1982 to support pediatric care in hospitals, the organization launched a gaming program in 1992, partnering with Nintendo of America. The goal is to offer healing to children via the power of play. According to Starlight, 7,200 gaming stations have provided hours of fun to over 11.6 million hospitalized children.

The Starlight gaming system came complete with 25 preloaded games including Nintendo classics such as Super Mario Party and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, according to CNNPatients are able to play to their hearts’ delight, enjoying a few hours of visiting virtual worlds beyond the walls of the hospital.

The station itself comes in four bright designs, decorated with the images of the well-known Nintendo characters Mario, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach, and Yoshi, according to Starlight. Most importantly, the gaming station can roll anywhere which is especially important as many play rooms have been closed due to COVID-19. The gaming stations are designed for easy disinfection and cleaning between uses.

In a Starlight press release, child life supervisor at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital Julie Hertzog said the stations were crucial in helping hospitalized kids cope with challenging circumstances. “The gaming stations are important distraction tools that normalize the healthcare environment and help kids through difficult experiences,” she said. “They provide choices for kids, motivate them, and give them the opportunity to have fun when it is needed most.”

Lexi Little spoke to CNN about Starlight’s initiative for patients at her hospital in Shreveport. She said, “Starlight gaming has been a great aid in helping patients cope with hospitalization. We cannot thank Starlight enough for impacting the lives of our patients, families, and staff members on a daily basis.”

Hospitals offering the Starlight gaming system are helping kids be kids, even if just for a few hours. Hospitalization is a difficult experience at any age, but it’s especially challenging for kids and teenagers. Playing video games can provide a much-needed mental break and an important reminder that there’s life beyond the hardships of the moment.

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