TV Game

My Christmas Gaming Tradition

TV Game

Pretty sure that I’ve mentioned this before, but I have this weird love-hate thing with Christmas going on. I hate the commercialization and culture war bullshit surrounding it. I hate that I never really got to have a good Christmas as a kid, seeing as how I lived in a home with a violent alcoholic with a trigger temper that could cancel Christmas on a whim. I hate that a holiday that is expressly about treating one another better is also a time when everyone is at their meanest. At the same time though, I fucking love the idea of Christmas. Getting together with those you love under some pretty lights while the snow falls outside. I love Christmas music. I love that Mariah Carey song! I love the My Chemical Romance cover even more! I love the parody version about reading yaoi! When I played Stepmania as a teenager (because I didn’t have access to a DDR machine), I was always putting the Silent Hill Christmas song on the playlist in December. Gackt’s 12gatsu no Love Song is a track that stirs up genuine emotion in me when I listen to it on the right day. Paul McCartney’s dogshit Christmas song can fuck off and remain fucked off. I like the spirit of the season, even if I’m not super thrilled about the actual holiday itself.

I’ve mentioned how I like to spend a lot of time with Sonic Team games during this time of year. All the Saturn stuff I’ve written about before, but also the Christmas DLC in Sonic Adventure, and the annual Christmas event in Phantasy Star Online. But there’s something of a tradition I’ve had since I was a teenager, maybe 16-17: the week leading up to Christmas, and especially the night of Christmas Eve, I’m parked in front of my Playstation. During this time, I am playing the most non-Christmas games imaginable, like Tenchu or Silent Hill. I think it was originally just a way to pass the time until I had to go to bed, but it ended up becoming something I did every year, to the point that I have this strong holiday association with these games. Probably has a lot to do with how these games dealt with the Playstation’s technical limitations; games taking place at night or under cloudy weather, with constant snow falling as a way to provide a narrative cover for the system’s limited draw distance. Those technical limitations really put me in the right mood. A cold, dark world matching the very real Colorado weather I was living through.

tenchu is by no means a christmas game, but stage 5 has some of the best cold winter vibes.

After a day of being in school and coming home and essentially having to hide in my room waiting for an angry drunk to finally pass out, I would play these games, listen to the Christmas music, listen to the holiday specials the local radio stations would do every year, look at old anime fansites with Christmas themed art, read about how people a little older than me would celebrate their holidays by reading their sites/blogs, and just imagine a better holiday; what it could be rather than what it was. All that, while huddling under a blanket to keep warm, and simply escaping, I guess. A very lonely existence, for sure, but sometimes you have to take the small comforts of vicarious living. I never really stopped doing this, even though my life is significantly better than it was back then, and I actually have people to celebrate the holiday with. I guess it’s like I said earlier, I just want Christmas to be a better holiday.

And despite everything, I still stay up late on Christmas Eve, hanging out in my room, playing games with ninja or the supernatural or aliens or cavemen or something weird that has nothing to do with December 25th. I cannot separate the association of the Playstation with Christmas in my mind. No other console does this for me; not the NES, the Genesis, the Dreamcast, or the Playstation 2, all of which I would have gotten at Christmas. The Playstation is the most Christmas console as far as I’m concerned. This is just how my brain works.

germs nerawareta machi is a surrealist adventure game involving an alien invasion. clearly the perfect game to play on december 24th.

I should probably actually mention more games I like to play at this time of year. There’s the previously mentioned Tenchu and Silent Hill. Then there’s Tail of the Sun, there’s Bushido Blade, there’s Hermie fucking Hopperhead for some reason, there’s GERMS Nerawareta Machi. Then there’s Mizzurna Falls and Parasite Eve, but those are actually thematically appropriate. I stay up late playing weird games while the rest of the world waits for Santa Claus to arrive. But most of these all fit into that particular Playstation aesthetic of being dark with heavy snowfalls. It is oddly comforting.

Anyways, the reason I sat down to write all of this is because in the chaos of 2023, I very nearly forgot to actually take part in this tradition up until last night! I realized at 10:30 PM on the 23rd that I did not have a Playstation or a Playstation emulator powered on. As foolish as it may sound, I got a little sad about that. That’s kind of my thing, you know? Hanging out, playing Tenchu at midnight, thinking about the year that’s been. This hasn’t been the best year, but I’ve been very thankful to have a close group of friends to spend it with. There are also a couple out there that I’m missing dearly. As juvenile as it may sound, playing these games at Christmas time is a comfort for me, and I felt like writing about it because of that. All that being said, I hope everyone here has a happy holiday, whichever one you celebrate. Let’s all try and be nicer to each other in the new year.


  1. wren says:

    having your own little rituals like that is very fulfilling. thank you for sharing.