In honour of the Christmas holidays and in true Dickensian style, this week I’m writing about my Games of Christmas Past, hopefully with less ghosts…and bad Disney adaptations starring Jim Carrey.
One of my earliest festive gaming memories was on Christmas morning of 1990. My sister was four months old at this point and I remember feeling bored of her existence and thoroughly ignored. I was whole five years older than her and had been used to being on my own, plus I had decided that babies were icky, annoying and cried too much. My parents, clearly sensing my disappointment and sibling apathy, made a decision that year to buy me my very first console.
My dad already owned a ZX Spectrum (which incidentally, was how he had first taught me to play chess) but that fateful morning in December 1990, I unwrapped a Sega Master System and my joy was so intense that I didn’t want to open up any of my other presents, fervently insisting that my parents set it up for me immediately.
Really at this point, all other presents and my crying baby sister were irrelevant. It came with rules however, for instance I could only play it if I behaved well and was nice to my baby sister. Like any other five year old I didn’t care for the rules but I followed them anyway because I was happy to have my very own console. Naturally, I became a teacher’s pet in school, did all of my homework, tolerated my sister and became a polite, well-mannered young girl.
I quickly became obsessed with the in-built game, Alex Kidd in Miracle World. The game had no save system so I spent countless hours playing through it, learning when to jump, how to dodge at the correct time, what rocks to break and most importantly, work out whether to choose rock, paper or scissors in the duels at the end of certain stages. It went on to become the first game I ever completed and thus began my love of gaming.
The following Christmas, realising how much I had adored my Master System the previous year, my main gift was a Game Boy complete with Tetris and Super Mario Land. I could now take my games outside, on car journeys or to boring family gatherings and let me tell you, as a six year old in the early nineties at the time where mobile phones weren’t a thing yet, this was absolutely mind blowing.
A year later, I had another surprise. It was Christmas 1992 and there was a large box at the back of the tree without a tag on it. After we were done unwrapping our gifts, being a curious child I asked about the unlabelled present abandoned at the base of our tree, but my parents feigned ignorance, shrugging their shoulders and keeping up the pretence.
Oh well, my seven year old brain deduced, maybe Father Christmas left it here by mistake?
So, it was left to sit under the tree…until after dinner. At which point, my dad began rustling around behind it, conveniently finding the tag like a magician. Of course it had my name on it and I was ecstatic.
I’d barely finished my trifle (and believe me, I never leave trifle) but I dashed to the tree and began tearing off the paper excitedly. I’d only revealed part of the box but it was enough to stop me in my tracks. I froze…I had only recognised the “Se” of the Sega logo but I knew. It had been completely unexpected and I began jumping around the living room almost knocking over the tree and tripping over our dog, Sandy who was always somewhat confused by Christmas but enjoyed chewing on the gift wrap anyway.
That evening, I played Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on my new Mega Drive (Genesis) until I had to go to bed and to this day, it still remains one of my favourite Christmas gifts and is probably the console I get most nostalgic for. I didn’t have many games at first, but over next few years I had played through Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Revenge of the Shinobi, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, Aladdin, Streets of Rage II, The Little Mermaid and Ecco the Dolphin. We used to rent games from the local video shop and I’d try out a new game every month.
I never considered it back then, but I realise now that I was extremely lucky that my parents could afford to support my love of gaming. I know many other people who didn’t own consoles until their teenage years and know that I as definitely one of the rare ones.
So, I raise my glass (damn right, I’m drinking mulled wine right now) to my parents, my childhood and to gaming Christmases of old,
Of course, as well as those past Christmases, I also want to pay homage to games of Present and Future as I look towards 2018!
These days, I can afford to support my own gaming habits and am often playing through three or four games at any one time, as well as dipping into various mobile games. At present, I’m re-playing Skyrim because it’s what feels most appropriate to play in Winter and has become my mandatory game for the festive season.
I’m also playing through the remastered version of The Last of Us in preparation for Part II out next year and I’m still taking my sweet time with Fallout 4 because I love the universe and am obsessed with it. I’ve recently downloaded Animal Crossing Pocket Camp which has been a nice change of pace, it’s a game I tend to play on a lunch break to pass the time.
I’m currently also enjoying Purrfect Date, a very funny visual novel dating game where you date cats and uncover mysteries on Cat Island. I’m really enjoying visual novel games right now despite the fact I’d never previously been interested in them in the past.
Other than Skyrim, none of these games are particularly festive but then neither is Sonic the Hedgehog 2. My point is, the games you play during the holidays can sometimes end up defining your fondest memories.
And as I look forward to 2018, there’s plenty on the horizon to look forward to. I’m still quite excited to play the dystopian A Clockwork Orange looking, Orwell inspired survival game, We Happy Few. It looks similar in tone to the BioShock series and its release was pushed back to 2018, which hopefully means developers, Compulsion, have had more time to work their magic on it.
Speaking of BioShock, the remake of System Shock is also due to be released next year, which if you haven’t played is excellent and BioShock wouldn’t exist without it.
Inspired heavily by Blade Runner, Odd Tales’ The Last Night is set for an Xbox exclusive release next year, this beautifully pixelated cinematic platformer looks to be one of the most interesting titles released next year.
Also due for release in 2018 is Kingdom Hearts III, a sequel that fans have been waiting 13 years for.
However, the one game I’m most excited for in 2018 was one that was originally due to be released this year and that’s Red Dead Redemption 2. I enjoyed its predecessor 8 years ago in 2010 and have longed for sequel.
What are your fondest gaming memories at Christmas? And what games are you most excited for in 2017? Let us know in the comments below.
Until next time, have an excellent festive period and may your days be merry!