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.

Comments

  1. hmmm, Christmas and gaming... not sure I have any stories for that one. It sounds like you've had quite the time on Christmas. Mine are mostly open gifts than watch a movie for a bit before heading off to see family and doing whatever, next thing I know its like 11 or 12 at night and I just wanna sleep, lol. and if I do game at all on Christmas its alone and for a short period of time so not much to tell.
    I will be looking forward to Skyriming it up when I get home this year but other than that it will probably be the same deal as always, lol.
    I hope you have a very marry Christmas and get everything you wish for. oh and I don't think we will be doing a podcast this week but we will be back to it around the 30 to the 1st so if you can join us that would be sweet. Marry Christmas dude

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  2. i would have to say my best christmas gaming memory would have to be either 2001 or 2002. can't remember which. i had all but quit playing games and when i opened my presents i got grand theft auto 3 and metal gear solid 2. which was weird because i didn't have a ps2. i thought my mom screwed up and didn't know the difference between ps1 and ps2 so i acted all happy because i didn't want to hurt her feelings but then she brought out the big box. the funny thing is the same thing happened when the ps3 came out. quit playing games again and then for the christmas i got resistance and a shiny new ps3.

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  3. @ daydream D - When I was a kid I'd always managed to get an hour or so with my console on the living room TV and try to convince other family members to join in. I'd usually fail!

    30th couldbe good for the podcast. Let me know nearer the time and have a great christmas.

    @ superfriar - That was a good ps2 haul. Your mum did well! have a great Christmas

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  4. This was great, Matt. I love it when game writers talk about gaming, as opposed to games. It feels like reading.

    I often spend Christmas in an mmo. There's something fascinating about watching the Christmas autopilot in people's heads collide with an mmo, which is itself a form of autopilot after the first couple of weeks. I don't have one this year. None of my candidates panned out.

    Toe Jam and Earl would be my first pick for a Christmas game. It's full of presents and has Santa in it. Plus it's one of those rare co-op games that almost everyone in the world will play with you from start to finish. Sega at their finest!

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  5. Glad you enjoyed it. Always difficult to find a balance between personal memories and things that others can relate to/enjoy reading.

    Toe Jam & Earl! That brings back memories. The current generation could do with a helping of alien rappers.

    Hope you have a great Christmas and New Year

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  6. Now that I'm grown, Christmas is spent cooking, cleaning, and driving everyone around. Lol. It was still a great Christmas this year, and I'm glad to see your having a good one too. Work will be slowing down soon and I'll be getting some time off. I'm hoping to cut down on that growing pile of shame a bit...

    Merry Belated Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  7. A belated Merry Christmas to you too! Hope you had a good one.

    Now we are back in England, we spend 25th-26th with my parents which means no gaming, as all my consoles remain at home. Fortunately, I got a 3DS this year so xmas wasn't entirely video game free :)

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