It wasn't until after Darrel's treatments were underway at the Hospital for Sick Children that he discovered the joys of video games. I had an old Sega Genesis system in the house before that, but the majority of the selection of the games I had were not the kind to appeal to a 5 year old. At Sick Kids, especially on the patients on the 8th Floor, this was not the case. With several Nintendo GameCube FunCentres and selection of games available, it made each hospital visit (whether it be long or short) a bit easier to deal with. It didn't seem to matter if he was having a good or bad day, the challenges of the video games seemed to take his mind ( and ours too) to a diiferent place, far away from the unpleasant surroundings we found ourselves in, at least for a short period of time anyways.
Soon we would have a GameCube system and every game Darrel and his sisters wanted at our home (with the help of the Children's Wish Foundation). Darrel became quite attached to playing Zedla (with Mommy) and MarioKart (with Daddy). Memory Cards made it possible for our adventures and high scores to be saved, and travel with him to Sick Kids or Grand River Hospital in Kitchener. With his GameBoy, and later DS, he would always have something available to him whenever he wanted to play. The joys and frustrations he experienced while
enjoying these games played a big part in the two years he battled his cancer. To this day, I can not play a video game without thinking back to the times I got to experience them with my son.
This past Christmas, with the purchase of the Nintendo Wii, remembering those times were unavoidable. I made sure we bought the new version of MarioKart, as it seemed only natural that it was here. I was happily surprised that the game consists not only some new courses, but also several from each of the old Nintendo sytems. Since I had previously played most of them with Darrel, there feels like a connection to him from both the past and present. I'm still not the greatest with the new way of controlling the action, but then again, Darrel never liked to lose, so it's just as well I haven't mastered yet.
Though I like the advances of the Wii, I sometimes wonder how the kids currently at Sick Kids are making out with the system (if the hospital is switching over to it)? Nintendo seems to have been the choice for the FunCentres that the Starlight Foundation puts into children's hospitals for quite some time, so I figure it will happen eventually. With most games
requiring some kind of physical interaction, will they be able to still be able to get the same kind of release from it that Darrel did? I'd hate to think that playing a video game would become too much of a burden or hinderance to a child who has enough upsetting things going on in their lives already. I'm sure this has been taken into consideration, and the appropriate actions will be taken as needed.
The Wii also is set up to play the GameCube games, so our extensive collection can still be used from time to time. Darrel's memory cards are still here, with his gaming achievements and high scores still preserved. Never to be beaten, but unfortunately never to be imporved on either. For me, video games, particularly Zelda and MarioKart, will always mean something different, something more, and something special. Like Darrel, they will remain a part of me forever.