Gaming at Christmas
Video games are as much a part of Christmas as loosened belts, mince pies and family brawls over a round of Trivial Pursuit. They have long been an integral part of present wish-lists and just thinking about the games of Christmas past puts me in the most festive of moods. These games have rarely been Christmas themed - Christmas NIGHTS is the only worthwhile xmas game - but they will forever be linked to this time of year by association and my desire for nostalgia.
My very first console came at Christmas, back in the early nineties. The Mega Drive was for the older boys and was a bit too expensive, but I was happy to settle for a Master System II bundled with Sonic the Hedgehog, a black carry case that I quickly filled with plastic guns and turned into my special agent briefcase, and a built-in copy of Alex Kidd in Miracle World. To this day, I can still remember settling down to my first session of Sonic and stumbling upon a chaos emerald nestled behind a false wall.
The Mega Drive would arrive a couple of Christmases later and my Master System was automatically passed down to my younger brother; video game hand-me-downs became standard in our house, as I succeeded in convincing my parents that my brother just wasn't old enough to handle the power of 32 bit. As warring brothers, we never quite got the hang of sharing consoles and had very separate collections, and I remained a generation ahead until our teenage years.
The mid Nineties brought Christmases of joy and heartache, with the Saturn disappearing no sooner than it had arrived. Across two Christmases I scored a number of games that I still hold dear, including Sega Rally and Virtua Cop 2. Playing Sega's classic racer one Christmas morning, I suffered a gaming humiliation at the hands of my Grandma who, playing a video game for the first time, wiped the floor with me. I would fare better with Virtua Cop 2, and even got into the habit playing two player on my lonesome whilst brandishing a light-gun in either hand - the crowning achievement for any antisocial child.
As I got older, Christmas consoles became more of a rarity as my interest waned and I discovered a love of music and film. They would still make the odd appearance - Nintendo's Game Boy Advance SP bundled with Final Fantasy Tactics Advance marked one memorable year - and I took pleasure in sending my mum in search of hard to find or yet to be released games, then listening to her complain about our local game shops smelling of "piss and B.O.", which they did. Thank god for the rise of online shopping.
A move to Japan in 2005 saw a spike in my interest in video games from which I am yet to recover, as well as a return to consoles for Christmas. Sworn into a pact of geekery, my housemate bought a Sega Saturn and I purchased a SNES as gifts to one another. Our house was suddenly flush with retro games, much to the bemusement of my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, who had the misfortune of attending the gift giving session so early on in our relationship, yet resisted the urge to run as far and as fast as she could. From that moment on, I knew she was the one for me (I'm referring to my wife, not the Saturn).
This year it's a 3DS and a couple of PS3 titles that are sat under the tree, ready to continue a tradition that first started with a hedgehog and a chaos emerald one Christmas morning, twenty years ago. I'm already looking forward to dipping into Ocarina of Time and attempting to reign in my excitement for the Dark Souls special edition; by far the most festive of dungeon crawlers.
Do you have any games that stir-up Christmas memories?
I’ll be back next week with my best and worst of 2011, where I shall celebrate some of the most memorable and forgettable games of the year across a range categories, some more unusual than others. In the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays.