The gamer’s 12 days of Christmas

Did you know that the list of items in the famous 12 Days of Christmas carol are actually major symbols of Christianity? It’s true! “My true love” really represents the Christian God, and all the strange things like turtle doves and milking maids represent the stuff Christians believe he gave to them.

I wanted to do a cutesy 12 days of gamer Christmas post until the above factoid made me think about the subject with a bit more seriousness. Not to say that liking videogames is equivalent to being part of a religion, but it is kind of a way of life. We give up our time, money and energy to keep up with the hobby. We play, discuss, and even hold gigantic conventions, all for games. The mere fact that videogames exist has given us so many wonderful things.

In the Gamer’s 12 Days of Christmas, “my true love” represents gaming, and all the strange things represent the stuff gamers believe their little hobby has given the world.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Twelve drummers drumming

These represent the 12 different ways we get around inside of a videogame: walking, running, jumping, crawling, sliding, flying/gliding, climbing, shimmying, hanging, swinging, riding/driving and swimming. No matter what type of game you play, it’s almost certain that the actions your in-game persona performs when you press a button will be one or more of these.

Step back and think about it for a moment. You’ve probably done so much of this stuff by now that it’s old hat, but these gifts are almost like being granted superpowers; double-jumping and having the strength to hang off a ledge indefinitely are things no mere human can do. Once you enter the body of the hero, you gain complete control of their power. It’s really quite amazing, and only one of the many gifts videogames have given us.


On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Eleven pipers piping

These represent the wide variety of videogame genres we have to choose from: action, adventure, fighting, simulation, RPG, strategy, racing, puzzle, shooting, rhythm/music and sports. Some of these have combined with others to create all-new sub-genres, and there are many other, smaller labels for games (casual, indie, FPS), but these 11 make up the foundation.

One of the most wonderful things about videogames is that there is a game for pretty much every taste. Some prefer certain genres over others, but all of them have their place in the world. There is no one type that doesn’t deserve to be made, nor any that do not deserve to be played.


On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Ten lords a-leaping

These represent ten of the great male characters videogames have given us throughout the years: Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Solid Snake, Mega Man, Gordon Freeman, Pac-Man, Kratos, Guybrush Threepwood, and Master Chief.

These guys are more likely than not the first ones to come to mind any time games are mentioned; they are the most prolific, popular and influential. For example, Kratos proved that heroes don’t have to be sympathetic. Link and Gordon both proved that non-characterization can be a really powerful tool in making a character, from both third-person and first-person perspectives.

These ten lords of gaming are familiar faces that we are always happy to see. They are people that we can’t wait to experience the next story of. They are the men all other playable heroes aspire to be.


On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Nine ladies dancing

Like the ten lords, the nine ladies are the great female game characters we know and love: Samus, Jade, Jill Valentine, Zelda, April Ryan, Ms. Pac-Man, Alyx Vance, Peach and Elena Fisher.

Women like these come around a little less often than great male characters, but the ones we have are perhaps even more expertly crafted. They can all hold their own against the boys, given the chance, and prove that even the most delicate-looking lady can be deceptively strong-willed. Sadly, some of them are not playable, but it is still a joy to interact with them just because they are so well made. They are definitely a treasure.


On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Eight maids a-milking

These represent the eight game series that have been with us the longest: Tetris (1984-present), Mario (1983-present), Bomberman (1983-present), Mega Man (1987-present), Zelda (1986-present), Dragon Quest (1986-present), Castlevania (1986-present), and Final Fantasy (1987-present).

All nearly as old as the age of modern gaming, these series have had a new entry every four or five years since their conception. Along the way, some have spun off into other series to sell more games with the popularity of their name. Some have focused on just adding to the numbers of their main series, keeping the players happy with more of what they want. Some have changed drastically over the years, some have mostly stayed the same, and others have even reverted back to their roots.

No matter the direction any of these series have taken, their longevity still speaks volumes about their importance.

Note: The Metal Gear series (1987-present) nearly made the cut, but went eight years without a new game being made. Still, it’s lasted a long time too, and must be given its props!


On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Seven swans a-swimming

These represent the seven console generations we have seen so far. The first two occurred before the huge video game crash and introduced consoles like the Magnavox Odyssey and the Atari 2600. But most gamers only recognize gaming history from the third generation forward, as this was when the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System emerged and revitalized both the industry and peoples’ interest in playing videogames.

Each generation has improved upon the last in graphics, sound and game mechanics. As technology advanced, more could be done with videogames than ever before. However, some still enjoy or even prefer the simplicity of past generations. But it’s all just a matter of preference; in reality, pixels and polygons are just two different types of paint with which a game’s canvas can be painted. Arrangements of bleeps and boops are as lovely as fully orchestrated soundtracks. All of the generations should be appreciated, if not loved.


On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Six geese a-laying

These represent six of the most influential game designers in history: Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, John Carmack, Will Wright, Hideo Kojima, and Peter Molyneux.

These creators are responsible for pushing the medium forward. Their games have changed many different aspects of the industry, subsequently giving us even better things to play. These are people whom gamers admire and anticipate the projects of. It is safe to say that without them, videogames would not be what they are today, and without videogames, we would not have come to know the works of these great men.


On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Five golden rings

These represent the various shiny things that we lust after within a game. Objects like coins, rings, gems, stars and doodads (name may change from game to game).

Collecting items such as these have had a place in videogames for decades. After some took the idea a little too far in the fifth generation, most since have made their collection optional. But there are still tons of things to seek out in every single game you will play, if you have the desire to. And every once in a while, it is an integral part of the gameplay.

What is it that makes us want to collect all of these shiny things? Is it just the fact that they’re so alluring? Do we actually find it to be fun? The world may never know.


On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Four calling birds

These represent the former console makers: Sega, Atari, NEC, SNK and Panasonic.

Some, like Atari, were there at the very beginning; regardless of their established place, they were not able to keep up with the competition and stopped making consoles after the fifth generation. Others, like Sega, were able to keep up with competitors for several generations, even giving the other big names a run for their money. The rest are only responsible for one console each (not including CD add-ons): the PC-Engine/Turbografix-16, the Neo Geo and the 3DO.

Though the consoles these companies made have long been gone, they will always remain in our memories. They are important parts of gaming history. However, some of those memories may not be too fond. After all, there are a lot of good reasons why consoles like the Jaguar and 3DO did their makers in.


On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Three French hens

These represent the three console makers that are with us today: Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. There have been many others, but these are the ones we are currently stuck with, for better or for worse. Nintendo and Sony have been around for decades, and while Microsoft is a relative newcomer, it has held its own against its elders.

All things considering, they’ve done quite well during this generation, giving us things like accessible online gaming, high-quality downloadable titles, and a bunch of great games. Not only that, but these big guys are becoming more comfortable with letting new ideas and new blood in. Indie developers are welcomed with open arms, and games are becoming better and more varied than ever, if you look past all the space marine shooters. Sure, the consoles they have provided us with have their shortcomings, and they all have their share of shovelware, but what product doesn’t? It’s still a great time to be a gamer!

Who knows whether these three will always stay on top; history has shown that it is possible for even the most successful names (Atari, Sega) to fall. But until the seventh generation is over, they are what we’ve got. And you know what? That’s pretty awesome!


On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Two turtle doves

These represent the two different ways to play games: the console and the PC. In many ways, the experiences they provide are the same, as the two are blurring more and more into one another, but they still have many differences. The keyboard and mouse versus the controller. The monitor versus the television. More graphical power versus less graphical power. PC exclusives versus console exclusives.

Because of all these things, many a debate has been sparked as to which platform makes for the better gaming experience. Game makers even have their preferences as to which to develop for. But the true answer should be clear: they are both awesome in their own ways. Anyone who can should embrace both and all the things they each have to offer.


On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

A partridge in a pear tree

This represents the most important gift that the advent of gaming has given: the games themselves.

Without videogames, none of us would be where we are today. Where might that be? Lands that are not of our world! Places where we can step inside the shoes of heroes or villains. Worlds where we can live out our fantasies, experience an emotionally engaging story through interactivity, or just plain have fun.

Without games, you wouldn’t be right here, gathered with other people like you on Destructoid.

Speaking of, there is one more thing that wouldn’t fit into the carol, but it is just as important a thing to mention as any other. One of the greatest gifts of all are the people who play the games.

When I was a young girl, I loved videogames. However, everyone else around me did not. I was an outcast at school because my love was considered nerdy and uncool. All I ever wanted was a group of people to share my love with. Now I find that I have that group: all of you.

Sure, gamers have their differences, just like any other group of human beings. And sometimes we let our preferences tear us apart. There is a lot of needless fighting among us. I’m not saying that we all think and feel the same, nor that a little friendly debate has no place in the discussion of videogames; I’m saying that we should never forget that despite all the details, we still share one love. It is through this love that we are united.

I hope that this modified Christmas carol reminds you of why we are here and brings you closer together with all other gamers, if for just one day. Happy holidays to you all, and may you receive even more games to play, share, and discuss.

Ashley Davis