There’s a peculiar feeling of nostalgia around Christmas time for gamers. Many of our core memories of gaming as a medium are often generated around the “big Christmas gift” that many of us received growing up, whether that be a Super Nintendo or a PlayStation in the ’90s or a GameCube or PS2 in the 2000s, many of us share this collective appreciation for the holiday season as a gateway into a new console or even generation of gaming as a whole, here are some of our favourite memories of this magical season.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few Christmases where I was bestowed with a bounty of consoles and games from my family. Honourable mentions include the Xbox 360, Playstation 2, and Nintendo DS: those all came with an assortment of popular titles. However, as good as it was to get a console that one of my friends was using—or receive a game I had an eye on for a long time— the moment that sticks out the most in my head is the Christmas when I received my first console, the Gameboy Color.
Up until then, I had never played a video game, not even at arcades. I’ve watched tv and maybe read the occasional comic. The closest thing I had to interactive media was coloring books. Then, courtesy of my dad, I had access to a portable box that could transport me to places beyond the council flat in London I was growing up at. This might not have been such a big deal if it wasn’t for the particular game that came with the GBC: Pokemon Red.
Nothing really compares to unwrapping a present and looking at Ken Sugimori’s artwork of Charizard for the first time. My impressionable baby brain had already developed a taste for dinosaurs, dragons, and any other creature that radiated BDE. Charizard, years before it would oversaturate the franchise like a drama-murdering gag in a superhero movie, was dope. Unearthing that striking red cartridge from its cardboard confines and slotting it into the GBC like a Lego felt natural. And upon turning it on, I was greeted with a veritable feast for the senses. The opening cutscene of the Nidorino battling the Gengar was kinetic. The chirpy theme from pallet town on the way to Veridian forest was friendly, but promised adventure.
It was a simpler time, where my only obstacles in life were wondering how to preserve my progress (it took a while to figure out what “save” meant) and how I could activate the sprinklers in the gym battle against Brock without also killing my Charmander (young Dave really overestimated the processing power of the GBC, and the legitimacy of season 1 Ash Ketchum. That kid was a straight clown for most of Kanto). Most of all, it was a time when I didn’t have to confront the ethical ramifications of enslaving intelligent life for glory, fuck Pokémon, Digimon for life, eat it nerds!
Like Dave, I was fortunate enough to have been bestowed a number of memorable gifts over the festive period, from playing Wii Sports, Nintendogs and even Kameo Elements of Power – gaming has always been the centre piece to the occasion. We’d usually be up early, opening gifts, eating breakfast and then spending the day arranging our new toys and figures out trying to figure out which to play with first (usually it would be a combination of WWE wrestling figures having Pokémon battles on Skateboards, nothing too wild).
What would usually occur in our household is that we’d eat dinner, and then as we were settling to watch something on TV one of our parents would act utterly bewildered at the idea that a big secret gift had magically surfaced from nowhere and then we’d get like a bonus rush of serotonin at this completely unexpected circumstance (despite the fact it happened many years in a row). This gift would usually be the games console, and then the evening would be spent playing those games to our hearts content.
While I may not have played it a lot initially (due to not understanding how to leave Littleroot town), the year I had my first Game Boy, my own console that was not relegated to the family console that was just mine will be my cherished memory, I carried that system everywhere, even on family trips away and I was constantly playing the game I received that year too, Pokémon Sapphire. I was always in love with the series as a kid, but most of that exposure was through the Trading Card Game or the anime so having the ability to finally experience the origin of the creatures was magical to me.
I also hold fondly the Christmas I had my Nintendo DS system, we had the games given to us in the morning and our parents gave us this heartfelt conversation about the fact the systems were out of stock but they wanted to give us the games anyway so we had them ready for when they could get them, and that was fine with us but they pulled the same stunt of giving them to us right at the end of the day after I had probably read through the manual of Super Mario 64 DS 20 times, tortured by the fact I had the software but my poor little GBA just couldn’t handle it, truly chaotic evil of my parents to torture us in that way but still a memory I won’t soon forget.
Those were some of our cherished childhood memories of the season, can you relate to us at all or did you have a totally different experience? Let us know your experiences of this nostalgic time of year!