Ah, the festive season. That time of year is once again upon us, people, where we forget all the silly, trivial nonsense that bothered use throughout the year and come together to focus on what truly matters: our ever-growing plot to bring about the fall of the capitalist machine and once and for all wipe out the population's dependency on consumerism...oh, shit. Wrong blog.
Ahem. Ah, the festive season. That time of year when we get together and forget all the silly, trivial nonsense that bothered us throughout the year and come together in the name of love and community. It's also that time of year when potato chip companies release super weird flavours that if they were realeased at any other time of year you'd assume the marketing department had been getting particularly good cocaine at the time of that meeting, but you just scarf 'em down, because Christmas. It's also that time of year when you'll receive countless boxes of assorted chocolates from numerous workmates and lesser relatives, the perfect reminder that they don't really give a shit about you.
"It's the thought that counts."
That phrase only applies when you actually put even a modicum of thought into the gift, Sharon. You prick.
Christmas is also the time for me to indulge in my own set of specific rituals. It's the only time of year that I feel it's appropriate to drink gingerbread flavoured coffee, so I drink it by the gallon. I blast 'Christmas in Hollis' by Run DMC every morning to remind my neighbours how wonderful Christmas is - quickly followed by 'No Love' by Death Grips to remind them that this feeling is fleeting and the rest of life is horrifying and confusing. I watch every Simpsons Christmas episode in a row and A Muppets Christmas Carol about fifty times or so, and I play all the video games that make me think of the most wonderful time of the year.
None of the games on this list are actually Christmas themed in any way. Instead, they're all games that I bought around about this time and when life was sort of going my way. As a result, they've got a special little place in my tiny little heart that is yet to swell up to three times its original size. I'm still a very bitter person, guys.
In third and fourth year of university, at least in Glasgow, you don't have to sit exams in December, so your academic year ends quite a few weeks earlier than in first and second year. This meant that I spent a bit of extra time doing...stuff that I'm not going to detail here. It also meant I could go home for the holidays earlier, and I got fed at home without paying for it. This meant I had an entire month's worth of student loan to spend irresponsibly.
Now, due to me being a child of divorce (don't worry, I'm fine, we were actually surprised it took them that long) I also got extra money for whatever reason. This meant I could afford one of two things. a) an Xbox One or b) a lot of...stuff. I opted for an Xbox One and my health thanks me for it.
I could afford one game and, thanks to Outside Xbox, I opted for Sunset Overdrive. When it arrived, I played for hours. Sunset Overdrive holds a special place in my heart simply because of how much goddamn fun that game was. I didn't know that the apocalypse could be bright and colourful and fun. The humour was ridiculous and meta, Buzz Osbourne was in it AND my favourite band were included in the soundtrack (FIDLAR, for the record).
I played Sunset Overdrive halfway through my final year of university, back before I realised that university is a scam, and at that time I was becoming increasingly anxious and unsure of my future and what it held for me and what it was that I wanted to do. I credit Sunset Overdrive with me realising that what I wanted to do with my life was write about video games and from that point on I tried my hardest to achieve that dream.
So, every Christmas, I fire up Sunset Overdrive and shoot some mutants with a gun shaped like a dick to remind myself of a time when I still had hope. Oh shit, that was a bit of a downer ending. Sorry. Onwards!
I got Fallout 4 the day that it was released, or I should have done if the goddamn Royal Mail had done their job properly, but I'm getting off topic.
I was beyond excited for the release of Fallout 4 ever since its reveal at E3 2015. I'm all about science fiction, I always have been, and even more so when it involves a nuclear apocalypse. Although I've found that the upcoming one is far less appealing due to it being very real.
Now, if I'm being honest, Fallout 4 just doesn't stand up to either Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas in terms of quality or depth. For one thing, I didn't really appreciate the fact that it completely lacked the option of an all-out evil playthrough. I mean, I never would have done that anyway because I'm a good/slightly delusional person and I get worried that the little pixel people might actually exist in some alternate universe and that's not nice.
Despite this, I really needed Fallout 4 when it came out. I'd graduated a few months beforehand and in that short time I'd quickly realised that things weren't going to turn out quite as I had dreamed or expected - or how I had been told they could turn out if I got a university education. Chances are I wasn't going to be the next David Foster Wallace. In fact, the chances of my even getting published were slim as the rejection letters from both publishers and gaming magazines and sites I wanted to write for kept piling up in my inbox and the bar job I considered a temporary money maker became steadily permanent.
So after the long - so goddamn long - installation, it felt like being welcomed by an old friend during tough times. I played religiously up to and past Christmas. I have several saves preserved from my original playthrough and now, every Christmas, I revisit those saves and wander through the Commonwealth.
Hey, if nothing else, it's going to be good training for the future. What do you guys reckon we have left? Like, four years? Merry nuclear winter, one and all!
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
This is a funny one because technically it's new to this list, but two of them have been on there since I was ten. It was pretty lovely that Reignited was released so close to the holiday season because it took me back to a place I really needed to be this year.
When I was younger I was very awkward, very weird, had atrocious anxiety problems and zero friends...don't sound too shocked or anything. On my tenth Christmas, i unwrapped a mystery present from Santa and saw the tellatale logo. That old guy - who really shouldn't be subsisting solely on cookies - had listened to my whining over the years and found it in his heart to bless me with a PlayStation, despite the fact that I'm fairly certain I'd acted like a little dickhead a number of times that year.
Alongside that magical little grey box were two more gifts: Spyro: Gateway to Glimmer (That's what it's called over here) and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. I was so excited by my PlayStation that I actually repeatedly repackaged it so I could un-box it again. I was a really lame kid, alright? I played Gateway to Glimmer into the early hours of Boxing Day morning and felt complete and utter joy.
Getting to add these games to my Christmas ritual feels wonderful for a number of reasons. The first is because, back when I was ten, they provided me with my first real respite from being an awkward, lonely - and admittedly quite annoying - kid for a little while.
The second reason is this: we didn't have a bunch of money growing up, but when you're a kid you're not aware of this. Children don't understand financial stress. Now, I understand it to a painful degree because the economy is horrible. I also understand now that my parents must have scrimped and saved for an incredible amount of time to get me the present I had wanted desperately for so long, and I imagine it pained them to be unable to provide it and even more that I lacked the empathy and self awareness to appreciate it.
Now I appreciate it, and now I think of the hard work and long hours they put in whilst I play those games again today. And I adore being able to revisit those Christmas memories today.
Merry Christmas, guys. Run the Yules.