Once upon a time, (many, many moons ago) the 5-year-old LightningEllen was rushed to her local children’s hospital by ambulance, a terrifying ride she vaguely recalls to this day. A very bad ear infection was spreading to her brain, and she almost died. After many surgeries, including one that removed the infected mastoid bone behind her ear, she was saved. But she had to spend 6 weeks in the hospital during the ordeal. Those 6 weeks happened to fall over Christmas and her birthday… She didn’t even know who her own parents were for the first two weeks. I remember her pleading to go home every time nurses carted her off to an operating room, and screaming in terror every time an IV needed to be hooked up.
The whole experience is mostly an awful blur of memories in this now 29-year-old LightningEllen’s mind. In the middle of all that agony, however, I discovered something truly magical that remains a critical coping mechanism for me to this very day: glorious video games.
My clearest memory of that hospital stay was observing the little girl in the bed next to mine. She had a weird controller device in her hand and was blissfully staring at a new-at-the-time CRT TV on a wheely cart at the foot of her bed. She saw me gawking in wonder and invited me over to play my very first video game: Taz-Mania on the SNES. It was freaking amazing and I remember we had a blast playing it together before the day she was gone.
Taz-Mania for the SNES! Not to be confused with the very different Taz-Mania for the Sega Genesis.
When my buddy left, my mom (who stayed by my side the entire time while my dad looked after the house) booked the hospital SNES for me as much as she could. I remember getting lost in games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario World. Those games just captivated me, pulled me in, and gave me badly needed comfort and joy by making me forget about the hospital room I was trapped in.
I was never able to get past this part as a kid. But damn, I could play A Link to the Past’s awesome opening over and over without ever getting sick of it.
When Christmas day rolled around, I awoke in my room with glee when I discovered Santa left a TON of gifts on the empty hospital bed next to mine. I ripped open a badass Lego pirate ship and other cool toys before I finally got handed a bigger box. My jaw dropped when I found out it was a SNES with a copy of Super Mario World. I remember grinning when my dad told me he’d take it home and hook it up for me to play when I got to go home soon. When I was at last released, it was waiting for me as promised in our living room.
Every Christmas since then my parents… I mean, “Santa” has gifted me with the latest cool video game related things. Looking back, the holiday season holds so many happy gaming memories for me, and I’m truly grateful for those. I have since told Santa to stop gifting me with games, though. He was disappointed but backlog problems. You know how it goes.
I’m pretty sure video games will always have a very special place in my heart. They really are the ultimate escape from life’s drama, giving you the ability to live different lives and be a part of worlds you can save (or sometimes destroy… mwahaha). I’ve been touched by so many games on this shaky journey through life. I can definitely credit a different game for helping me overcome each miserable obstacle the universe has thrown at me along my path across this lifetime. And my undying love for gaming all started with that SNES Mr. Santa was nice enough to drop off for young me during a time of need.
The Livid Lightning Mage is a wannabe writer and staunch supporter of anything relating to the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy (especially her shero Lightning Farron). You can find her talking trash on Twitter under the name @LightningEllen or endlessly babbling about games on her blog: lividlightning.com
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