Small Talk: Holiday Gaming Reminiscence

by Tim Turi on Dec 24, 2009 at 04:00 AM

We’ve played a lot of games over the course of our lives. When you play a ton of games eventually you’re going to associate memories with particular titles, or even particular times of year. With the holidays upon us there is no better time to dive into the nostalgia-cortex of Game Informer’s editors. From holiday wishlists of yesteryear to that favorite game you just have to play when the snow is piling up, here is our discussion of holiday gaming memories.

Tim: To start things off I’m going back to Christmas Day, circa 1992, when my older brother received a Sega Genesis bundled with Sonic the Hedgehog. Even though the gift was primarily for my brother, guess which excited seven-year-old dismissed his unwrapped Ninja Turtles and socks in order to desperately try to hook the thing up? I did. Me. The holiday-hijacking of my brother’s Genesis is one of the fondest winter memories I have, and I mark it as the solidification of my up-till-then uncommitted relationship with video games. Can anyone else remember as far back?

Dan: Since I never had a consistent form of income prior to turning 14, most of my games came as Christmas presents. I’d ask for them from most of my family, but whether or not I’d get the game in question was up in the air. My father usually encouraged me to participate in things other than video games, so he was usually out of the question for game requests. One of my grandmothers would try to get me games on occasion, but she hated stepping foot into electronics stores and would oftentimes be confused by my requests (leading to the Xmas day disappointment of opening a 2nd copy of the original Earthworm Jim in lieu of its sequel that I wanted). My mother was usually pretty good at getting me the right games, but her mother was always the go-to for my must-have game of the year. Each year I’d read the gaming magazines and decide which game I wanted more than any other, and I’d bombard her with requests up until Christmas day. I actually remember ripping reviews of the original Starfox out of my gaming magazines and faxing them to her, usually with things like “I NEED THIS GAME!” written all over it. Each and every Christmas, she always delivered with the game I wanted. In fact, there’s an entirely embarrassing video somewhere of me opening WWF Raw is War for the Genesis and losing my ****ing mind. We’re talking running-around-the-room, falling-on-the-floor, screaming, annoying-12-year-old crazy. I’m actually kind of glad that I don’t know where it is, because it would be pretty rough to watch now that I’m 25.

Meagan: Growing up with a set of brothers and an engineer for a dad (who, thankfully, felt compelled to keep up with new technology in all its forms) we always had games in our house. So for me, too, some of my favorite childhood memories stem from experiences while gaming.  I remember the three of us cheating our way through Track & Field on the NES – banging our fists on the ground instead of getting an actual workout. And I remember the day that my dad had us unpack the car, only to find a PlayStation sitting in the trunk. Jurassic Park and a demo disk featuring Armored Core and PaRappa the Rapper enthralled us for weeks. 

Because gaming kept the three of us entertained, games were almost always the standby for birthdays and holidays. Getting the most bang for our buck, the holiday staple was usually an epic RPG – something that would last us a long time. RPGs were also good for gluing multiple kids to one TV – the narrative driven experience eliminating a constant struggle for the controller. I still laugh when my mom reminds us of the time she caught all three of us crying around the television after Aeris was skewered by Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII.

One of my more recent holiday memories, before we all “grew up” and started buying our own games, was when I was gifted Kingdom Hearts by my little brother. My parents were pretty good at monitoring what we played as kids and keeping mature titles out of the house (we snuck over to the neighbors for those games), but some less altruistic titles still wormed their way into our PC’s and consoles in our teen years. When my brother gave me Kingdom Hearts for Christmas when I was 17, my mom was thrilled that wanted to play a Disney game. It was laughable. In reality it was a game that all three of us wanted, so we played it every day after school till completion.

The tradition still continues in my household. A year back my mom gave me the uber-awesome Final Fantasy VII Cloud/Fenrir figure, and this year I got my brother a game that I know he will love. I can’t wait for Christmas to see him open it!

Phil: One of my favorite holiday memories is from 2005, the year I had my wisdom teeth taken out. Sounds like a recipe for a terrible college break, right? It absolutely would have been if not for a game that had come out a month earlier: Dragon Quest VIII.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a PlayStation 2 release that’s probably known best by many for including the first North American playable demo of Final Fantasy XII. And though I was definitely excited for that when I picked up my copy on November 15, I was more excited for the game proper. I had been one of the few who adored Dragon Quest VII on PS1, and I was excited to expand my knowledge of the series. Imagine my horror when I got home from the nearest gaming store – a painful hour drive away at the time – and opened my case only to discover…two copies of the Final Fantasy XII demo taking up both of the disc slots.

As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, said local store did not have any other copies of the game in, so a replacement had to be ordered. I would not end up receiving a proper copy of DQVIII with the actual game disc until the week I finished up finals for my sophomore year of college and returned to my hometown for the holidays. This was also the week of the aforementioned wisdom teeth removal.

Though the disc problem was frustrating, being forced to wait to play DQVIII actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only did I actually manage to pass all of my finals, but I had an extremely juicy and insanely lengthy RPG to sink my metaphorical teeth into – you know, since my I couldn’t do much with my actual teeth. Family and friends also helped make this an amazing time of year, of course, but between the festivities I devoted all my time and energy to leveling up and conquering the kingdom of Trodain. Only a game this epic could pull me in so completely that I was able to forget the dull ache in my jaws and stomach.

Oh, and even after devoting near non-stop play time to the game for a week-and-a-half, I still had two months worth of late-night sessions back at college before I actually finished it. Christmas leftovers!

Jeff: The best Christmas for me was probably when we got an Atari 2600. I’d been trying to convince my parents to buy us one since it was released, and they finally relented in 1983 or so. I got two copies of Donkey Kong, and I exchanged one of them for Decathlon. Just thinking about that game makes my wrists sore. And whenever I see some kid playing a video game on a sitcom I think about Donkey Kong, since that game is where they pull sound effects from about 90 percent of the time.

When I was a kid, we had a family tradition where my brother and I could open one present each on Christmas Eve. This led to some cool surprises (Pac-Man 2!)  and the occasional risk of getting a sweater a day earlier. This was a critical decision because my brother and were dumb kids who loved waking up at 4 on Christmas morning, and we had to wait until my parents woke up before we could open presents or see what Santa brought. This was excruciating.

Anyway, one year I bought the NES version of Spy Hunter for my brother. He wasn’t as interested in video games as I was, but whenever we rode our bikes to this nearby arcade that’s what he’d always play. I goaded him into picking my present because I thought he would kind of like it. Mostly, I just wanted to play Spy Hunter while we waited for our dumb parents to wake up. He unwrapped it and feigned interest for about five seconds. Then we played it and realized that it was kind of terrible. MEMORIES!

I’m looking forward to when my kids are old enough to appreciate video games. I’m mostly looking forward to sleeping in until noon or so.

Tim: Anybody else have fuzzy, snowy-laden memories from holidays of the past? How many hours did you sink into your favorite RPG when you were snowed in? Did you have to choose between two rival consoles for gifts? What is the biggest dud of a gaming gift you’ve received? (Correct answer: Madden NFL DS) Sound off below!