How Nintendo Helps People Through Tough Times



As a form of entertainment, video games can be just as inspirational as reading a book, listening to music, or watching a movie.  They can inspire many people to become artists, software engineers, programmers, game designers, music composers, or writers.  In many cases, some games can get gamers through some of their real life problems such as disease or the loss of a family member/friend.

There are plenty of great gaming stories out there, but I wanted to focus specifically on how Nintendo has helped people.  I understand that Sony and Microsoft have had great games and innovations over the last few generations, and Nintendo isn’t the only one responsible for contributing positive things to the industry.  So why is this article focusing on Nintendo?  Well, for one, this article would become an encyclopedia if I focused on everyone.  More importantly, Nintendo has been making gaming consoles/handhelds for longer than any other gaming company.  They have had a very positive impact on gaming for almost three decades.

With that said, I hope this article will end your weekend on a positive note:


Mario in the DNA

On February 2011, 30 year old Andrea Rowe describes her experience of her son introducing her to the Wii.  According to her profile, she is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed cancer three times before she was thirty.

“Last fall, my six year old son went through a stage of wanting a Nintendo Wii game system. His desire for the game system was so strong his first grade teacher caught him crying on the playground. ”I want a Nintendo Wii.” A couple of weeks later my sister stepped in and gave him the Wii they previously used at her in-laws home. Owen was in heaven,” says Rowe.

Andrea begins to explain her childhood and how she associated video games with chemotherapy.

“I am not a gamer. When going through chemotherapy as a child, I used the original Nintendo Entertainment System and played Super Mario Bros. 3 continuously. My mom once stated playing Mario was what kept me sane during the experience. She was likely correct.  Following treatment however, I ceased to play video games. The video games reminded me of being ill and I wanted nothing to do with them,” she says.

Interestingly enough, Owen wanting a Wii would help reverse Andrea’s past psychological damage from her experiences as a child.

“The funny thing about having children is it makes you forget yourself. Within one month of Owen having his Wii, I began trying to learn how to use the controller. Games have come a long way since 1992-1993! For the first week I could not understand how to use the game controller well enough to click on the disc reader. Who am I kidding? The first week saw me putting the game in backward half the time,” says Rowe.

Although she found the Wii confusing to operate (remember, she hasn’t played games since the early 90′s) she eventually got the hang of the system.

Andrea says, “By week three I was bowling with both my husband and Owen. Hannah is five and a half and doesn’t think much of video games. By one month of owning the system, my husband tired of bowling and purchased Super Mario Wii for Owen’s birthday. Even Hannah loves Super Mario Wii.  I think my time of playing Mario during chemotherapy must have sunk down to the level of the DNA in my egg cells. Both of my children could play the game for hours on end except we inevitably get angry with each other over causing the accidental deaths of our characters (I said I began playing video games again-not that I am good at playing such games).”

Andrea feels she ended up learning new things about herself thanks to her son.  Although video games had helped her get through chemotherapy as a child, she didn’t want anything to do with them because they reminded her of cancer.  Her son wanting a Wii forced her to reverse traumatic experiences from her childhood related to gaming.

She continues, “It is incredible how children can change preconceived ideas, reverse psychological damage, and generally make us forget ourselves. I am grateful my son received a Wii-not just for him but also for me. For us “Wii” now means “we”. ”


Sometimes happy, peaceful, colorful games can help adults.

Fishing in the ocean

I found this to be a very interesting article.  Now I’ve seen some gamers who will label Animal Crossing  as something only children could enjoy.  But when you’re going through traumatic experiences, sometimes a happy, peaceful, colorful game can get you through them better than a dark, depressing, apocalyptic shooter.  In a way, it’s no different than movies.  Sometimes you need a good laugh, so you’ll watch a comedy.  Other days, you might desire a film that creates an adrenaline rush or thought provoking ideas.

The author of the article writes:

“I was home alone every day with a deadly disease ravaging my body and trying to take my life from me.  My children were in school, my disabled parents were unable to visit me, my wife was at work – providing me the insurance that was saving my life, my brother was working every day, and my sister was living in Europe.

Every day I would wake up, drive myself to my radiation treatments, then come home to an empty house. Every day I would sit and look at myself in the mirror as my disease slowly took its toll on my body. Every day, the hearts of my wife and children broke as they had to leave me, but there was no other option.”

He later talks about being introduced to “Animal Crossing”:

“My wife, a month before I was diagnosed with my cancer, had purchased the game “Animal Crossing: City Folk” for the Wii.  It’s a silly game, with no levels, no competition, no goals other than what you set for yourself. Your avatar lives in a virtual world shaking trees or hitting rocks for money, fishing, hunting bugs, collecting furniture, and interacting with other NPCs in the game.”

The reader explains how the game is the “Seinfeld” of video games because there’s no overall goal or purpose, but it has a very addicting, entertaining atmosphere that he felt attached to.

Building a snowman in Sparksty

“The thing is, it’s seriously addicting.  It’s a happy game.  Everything about the game is happy – from the virtual world colors, the characters, the interactions, and the music.  You can spend, literally, hours at a time exploring your town, building your house, and visiting the city,” says the writer.

He continues, “In my lonely hours every day, I immersed myself in my Animal Crossing avatar – his name is Dude.  He lives in a town called Sparksty.  I would sit in my easy chair, connected to the machine that fed my feeding tube , and played Animal Crossing as the soft whirring of the machine pumped food directly into my belly. And I was happy, because the game was so innocent and happy.  It quite literally helped me achieve a better state of mind, helped me fend off depression, and gave me a sense of well-being and accomplishment - exactly what I needed as I sat alone with my disease every day.”

The writer has advice for people who underestimate video games as a good healing device.

“Don’t underestimate the healing power of a good video game.  I really, really hope Nintendo makes another version of Animal Crossing – I really think this game helped save my life.”


 How Brain Training and Nintendogs helped a woman get her voice back.


Back on January 3rd, 2012, there was a story about a 48-year-old grandmother named Linda who had suffered a major stroke and it basically made it difficult for her to speak/communicate.

Her husband Kelvin explained, “I wanted to give her something to do, find some way to bring her back to life. Every year I buy her a rose for our anniversary and take her out for a meal, but that year I bought the Nintendo DS just for a bit of fun really,” Kelvin explained.  “She used to dance all the time, she was so energetic before the stroke and I wanted to find some way of making her feel that again.”

Linda would play games such as Brain Training and Nintendogs And Cats for multiple hours every day.  These games involved self-help puzzle games, and this lead her on an incredible recovery which gave her back the ability to speak.

“The Nintendo DS gave me my life back,” Linda told the Yorkshire Post last week.  “It helped me to talk again because some of my games I have to interact with in order for them to work. I have to give instructions verbally and if I don’t say things correctly it doesn’t understand.”

The last thing Kelvin expected was that the Nintendo DS would help her gain the ability to speak again.

“It’s the best present I’ve ever got her,” said Kelvin.

On late January 2012, Andriasang (via Nintendolife) had reported that a major communications company was collaborating with Nintendo on the development of speech recognition software.  The software would assist disabled children in their education by converting a teacher’s speech into text.  Not only that, but the information could be access by the student at any time.


How 3DS helps a young boy during car trips to the hospital.

Here’s the story of Frank, a young boy who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in the summer of 2011.  Frequent and very aggressive treatments were required for his diagnosis, and it involved him traveling to the hospital for five days every week.  The actual trip driving to the hospital was over three hours long.  Due to the length of the trips (over 3 hours to drive to the hospital), this made Frank’s anxiety increase even more.

Frank had wished for a Nintendo 3DS and some games because it would help pass the time between trips to the hospital for his treatments.  It would also keep his mind off of worrying about his health, and it made Frank’s mother happy to see Frank smiling again.  An organization named EndureToCure donated a 3DS gift to Frank through Bear Necessities.

Franks Mom stated, “Thank you and a huge hug to everyone that supports Bear Necessities. Frank was so happy to receive the 3DS gift, and surprised by all the games/accessories included.”


In the past, Nintendo had teamed up with foundations such as the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation to put “Fun Centers” into hospitals across North America (U.S. and Canada)  These “Fun Centers” included Wii consoles, and Nintendo installed more than 1,250 for the total first run back in 2008.  Today in 2012, there are over 7,000 fun centers inside hospitals across North America. There are many hospitals with GameCube Fun Centers provided by Nintendo as well.  These fun centers allow thousands of kids to play Wii or Gamecube while taking treatments during hospitalizations.  Some of the great games provided to hospitalized children include Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Sports, and Mario Party 8.  Children’s Hospital Los Angeles had received two units at a Galaxy-themed launch event from Nintendo.



Nintendo has worked with Starbright Children’s Foundation for over sixteen years, and many hospital staff/doctors have praised the fun centers for boosting morale and reducing negative feelings of isolation/fear of sick children.

On 2011, Nintendo dedicated a new Starbright Fun Center to Miller Children’s Hospital where actress/celebrity Jamie Lee Curtis was on hand to cut the ribbon.  Jamie Lee Curtis talked about a child with a ruptured spleen who was able to get his mind off the very painful treatments due to his excitement to play the new Wii unit.

“The nurses made it possible for him to play games by putting a splint lower on his hand so he could move the controller.  Because of that, he was able to play the game.  When we walked into the ICU, he saw…[the] mobile unit and his eyes lit up.  He said, ‘Can I play that?’  I said to him you have to have one more needle and then you can… He weathered all of that and then was able to play with the game system.”

Nintendo Australia had invited sick children to their Pokemon Anniversary event to give them something to look forward to.  The event hosted many Pokemon battles and Trivia challenges for the children to participate in.  “Anything we can do to help entertain, amuse, and bring some joy to their lives is especially rewarding for all of us at Nintendo,” says Nintendo Australia’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Rose Lappin.

Let’s talk about another organization called Core Gaming.

Core Gaming is a representative of Nintendo in South Africa.  Core Gaming donated six Nintendo DS Lite handheld consoles with copies of the game Professor Layton and the Curious Village to the haematology ward of South Africa’s Groote Schuur Hospital.  The donations were an effort to help cancer patients pass the time with entertainment while taking chemotherapy treatments.  These bone marrow transplant patients are forced to spend at least six weeks (the average) in an isolation room to prevent infection.  The only thing they have to stare at is a television.  You can imagine that isolation causes a lack of mental stimulation which later leads to depression.  Because patients are normally from out of town, the visits from friends and family during the six week isolation period are normally infrequent.  With the Nintendo DS donations (and Professor Layton), they can pass the time keeping their mind off of negative thoughts with some great interactive entertainment.

Nintendo GrooteSchuur Handover


Core Gaming’s general manager Matthew Grose said, “When we heard about the plight of the patients in Groote Schuur’s Haematology ward, we immediately thought of the Nintendo DS Lite game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, which is guaranteed to keep players entertained for hours at a time.  We have decided to donate six Nintendo DS Lite consoles, along with the game to the hospital – a console for each isolation room within the ward – so there will always be something fun and stimulating for the patients to do.”

Niven Keen - GSH Patient Test Drives Nintendo DS Lite

Eldré Strydom had also shown excitement over the donations:

“Eldre continued, “I also believe that by giving the patients something with which to pass the time, these games could greatly improve their cancer journey in terms of their mental alertness, psychological wellbeing and the ability to stay positive.”

Hiroshi Yamauchi, was the former president of Nintendo between 1949 to 2002.  Yamauchi passed the torch to Satoru Iwata, and it was under Iwata where the Wii/DS gave Nintendo good fortunate.  Interestingly enough, Nintendo’s biggest shareholder is still Hiroshi Yamauchi.  Yamauchi is considered one of the richest men in the world.

In an act of kindness and generosity, Yamauchi donated almost 7.5 billion yen (about $83 million) to build a new cancer hospital in Kyoto, Japan where Nintendo’s headquarters are located.  On May 18th, 2010 the hospital opened its door.


Final Thoughts


The reason Nintendo fans are attached to Nintendo is because they feel Nintendo has had a major positive impact on their life.  It is easy to call Nintendo fans a bunch of Mario loving zombies, but the truth is, Nintendo wouldn’t have such a legion of loyal fans if they didn’t contribute something extremely positive to society.  Nintendo gains a legion of fans because they give us timeless characters, unforgettable memories, gaming innovations, and things for us to look forward to every E3.

Heck, Nintendo accidentally gave us PlayStation.

Most people forget that behind every game, there are people working around the clock under deadlines to create something that will put a smile on your face or brighten up your day.  That goes for any game whether it is from Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Sega, THQ, Warner Bros, Rockstar, etc.  Sadly, this becomes forgotten too quickly since the gaming media is so focused on console wars and overall power/performance of gaming hardware.

Some analysts believe Nintendo should stop making hardware and stick to software.  I would respectfully disagree because I believe Nintendo’s hardware has done more good for the industry and society than anyone likes to pretend.  If Nintendo bailed out of the hardware business, it would be one of the saddest days in gaming.

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19 Comments to How Nintendo Helps People Through Tough Times
      • ddddd
      • As if the name of the site didnt give it away…

        Besides, is it wrong to have a multiconsole site that doesnt crap on Nintendo? If you want unprofessional biased anti-nintendo journalism, there are plenty of sites out there.

      • Emily Rogers
      • @ lxfbn

        This site is a multi-console site, but we skewer a bit toward Nintendo.

        I’ve done interviews with people like the character designer of Parappa the Rapper, and I’m hoping to do more interviews with people related to Xbox/PlayStation projects in the future.

      • Kevin
      • C’mon man. With all these great stories of people using video games to help them cope with the bad stuff in their life you had to post this? Unless you’re just being silly and didn’t mean for your comment to sound off-topic and truly uncaring.

      • Chris Tansley
      • You know what else is biased towards Nintendo? The gaming industry. Consumers. Wii and DS are the most popular systems in the world, it’s not a strange thing that Nintendo would be a highlight on a gaming website. This “accusation” needs a reality check.

        Nintendo has definitely been a big light in my life. The GameCube got me through some very difficult periods. Nobody I knew owned one, but I didn’t care. It created a world for me, free of agendas and demands.

    • Tayllor Masi
    • Loved this, i had problens with my dad while i was a kid, he was addicted to drougs, and mom had to work from 9am to 8pm my only friend growing up was Mario, my only gateway to a better place was Hyrule, i have not enought words to say how IMPORTANT Nintendo is to me.

    • Sylverstone Khandr
    • Very nice article, Emily! I will chip in and say that Nintendo has helped me in more ways than one: finding great friends through StreetPass NYC thanks to the Nintendo 3DS is only the tip of that iceberg. ^_^

    • Hisiru
    • I am happy for the guy talking about Animal Crossing. I hope he will enjoy his time with Animal Crossing 3DS. Linda also had an amazing story. This was an INCREDIBLE read, little Emy! Thanks!

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