Walking in a winter gamin’ land
[Header art by MeanderBot.]
If you’re reading this today, you’re probably on the toilet, trying to duck away from that weird cousin/uncle/stranger who always shows up on Christmas. I feel you, I’m there too.
Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine (and drink the spiked egg nog when you get out). But before you get back up, why not take a trip down memory lane/34th street with us?
I don’t get to see my best buddy as often as I’d like. We went to different colleges and usually had heavy workloads when winter came around. Tripwire Interactive started the Twisted Christmas events for Killing Floor in 2010 (the same year I moved away, making spending time with one another more difficult), where the enemies would be replaced by gingerbread men, elves, and reindeer. The timing was perfect, because we had been itching to get back to killing floors at the time, and now there was a festive theme for us to enjoy.
Many nights were spent basking in both the glow of Christmas lights and my computer screen, laughing, catching up, and rekindling our relationship as the air became chillier. Now every year we look forward to whatever weirdness Killing Floor would bring next Christmas. I’m beyond bummed that they aren’t doing it this year with the sequel, but next year should herald a glorious return.
I’ll never forget being blown away by the graphics of Super Mario 64 along with my family the Christmas I received the recently released Nintendo 64. At the time I only owned a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis, so the jump in graphics was mind blowing for my eight-year-old mind, not to mention the awkwardly shaped controller with my first ever analog stick. You never forget your first.
Whenever I ask for video games for Christmas, my parents and other family members usually just get whatever’s on my list. It’s a very rare occasion when my family buys a game I didn’t ask for, which is probably a good idea on their part.
One year, though, they got me two games for the PlayStation: Spyro the Dragon, which I had asked for, and Rayman, which I had never even heard of. I was super excited about Spyro (advertisements really influenced my choices back then), but when I opened Rayman I had to feign my enthusiasm a bit. The cover showed some goofy-looking dude with weird hair and no limbs, and the screenshots on the back of the case all looked to be in 2D. This was the PlayStation, and I expected everything on it to be 3D for some reason.
I tore through Spyro first, of course, and I really enjoyed it. Once I was done with the spunky little dragon, I decided I might as well try out Rayman to see what he was all about. And to my surprise, I ended up liking it even more than Spyro! The strange world of Rayman was so unexpected and creative in the best ways and I quickly fell in love with it, and Rayman himself was actually pretty awesome. His dance moves and silly faces cracked me up. It’s still one of my favorite series to this day, whereas I’ve mostly forgotten about Spyro the Dragon. I guess my parents were pretty good at picking games out after all!
I’ve shared this memory a few times before, but the morning that my mom gifted me Toxic Crusaders for the NES sticks out. I would always save up all of my holiday money for a “console fund,” that way whenever a new system would come out, I could buy it on my own.
As I grew, this translated into shoveling snow in the neighborhood for money, doing odd jobs, and getting a part-time job (full-time during the summer) of my own at 15 years old. My parents couldn’t afford a whole lot, but they could get me used or cheap games, which often allowed me to experience titles that I would have never otherwise looked for on my own. I still play Toxic Crusaders to this day and remember the thoughtfulness of my mother.
When I was four, we were poor. Some of our cheese came from Ronald Reagan, and most of our Christmas presents were donations or hand-me-downs. We didn’t mind though, because it had always been that way.
Still, my mom found a way to buy me and my brother a video game console that year. This was back when multi-game consoles were even more ridiculously expensive than they are now, and your average video game fan was often satisfied with playing just 3 or 4 different games a year. This allowed single game “Mini Arcade Cabinet” consoles to be big sellers. That’s part of how we ended up with a Galaxy II. No, not the phone, the Galaxian clone.
I’m sure my Mom made some noble sacrifice in order to afford the game, but her then four-year-old son and his ten-year-old brother were not so morally advanced. We somehow discovered the game hidden in mom’s closet sometime in October, and would sneak it out of the box and play it non-stop most weekdays between the hours of 3:30pm (when we got home from school) and 5:00pm (when she got home from work). There were some close calls, but we’d always get it wrapped back up and re-hidden well before she got home. We were always terrified that we’d get caught, but in retrospect, that was probably half the fun.
You’d think we’d have gotten sick of the game by the time we actually got it for Christmas, but being able to play Galaxy II any time we wanted instead of just during our daily, unsupervised afternoons was a gift onto itself. We played that game until our fingers bled. It was the winter of ’81.
I went to the Nintendo World Championships back in 1989, lost brutally. I also couldn’t figure out a way to get out of the toilet in Déjà Vu, which wasn’t the Shadowgate sequel I was hoping for. Emo! It wasn’t a total loss: I fell in love with Dr. Mario and asked for it that year for Christmas. Much later when school had let out and my parents found me horribly bored around the house, so they suggested that I could open one gift that year. They weren’t incredibly creative with wrapping and my spider sense detected which one it might be, and I was right. I played it till my fingers were bleeding and diseased.
This one’s a little more recent because I’m the youngest video boy in the world — The year was 2004, and your ol’ buddy Myles was a shitty snot-nosed ten year old who really wanted that sweet sweet Nintendo DS (really just a Metroid Prime: Hunters machine) from the big man in red. I got a dart board instead. Later on, as we lit a fire, a large mysterious package was discovered in the fireplace with big sloppy handwriting on it: “Looks like I forgot a present!” Inside was a DS with a demo copy of Hunters, as well as a few assorted launch titles. Don’t think I ended up sleeping for three days. Santa Claus has awfully similar handwriting to my father’s.
Bonus story: Around the time Super Smash Bros. for the N64 was released, I elevator pitched the game to the mall-Santa whilst on his lap. “You press A to smash,” I squeaked, in utter amazement and disbelief that the A button could be used for anything other than “jump”.
Okay, so the year is 1997, the year after the N64 released. I wanted one game incredibly badly: NFL Quartback Club ’98. I’m honestly not sure why I wanted this game so badly, but the front cover is etched into my brain forever. I shall forever remember Brett Favre just about to throw a pass, in that exact pose. I’m not even a Packers fan, but damn do I love that cover.
I was eight years old, so this is still a time where I’m not really sure if asking for a present really guarantees me that present or not. I remember writing it on the top of each of my Christmas lists (that’s how you know it was important). Sure enough, NFL Quarterback Club ’98 was under the tree that year, and I was super stoked to open that gift. Thanks, Santa.
Mini-story: I also remember asking for a GameCube one year and, since we opened presents at random, opening a GameCube controller before the actual system. It was the most excited I’ve ever been to see a controller, since it had gigantic implications!
1989. My dad gave me the most amazing present ever: The NES. It came with RC Pro Am and Super Mario 3. Now we all know that SMB3 is an amazing game (and the best of the series), but RC Pro Am captured my 8 year old heart in a way it had never been captured before. Hell, my Dad would even join me sometimes, and he only played flight sims! I played the ever loving fuck out of that game. It’s the reason I rally raced down the side of a mountain when I was 19, why I tricked out my ’93 S-10 SS, and why I love racing games (and racing) to this day.
It is also a game I have begun to play every Christmas (four years running). My Dad passed four years ago, and the first Christmas without him was pretty shit. I don’t know what made me fire up the game, but once I did, I started feeling instantly better. It makes me feel close to my Dad again. Now please excuse me, I have to make a dick joke somewhere, before I cry.
[Thanks to MeanderBot for the header image! I was a Grinch and forgot to thank him. Check out the full unofficial Christmas card here.]