Games for Christmas!
Everyone likes getting video games for Christmas. Probably. I’m sure there are some people not really down with the idea, like your cousin who lost an arm in the Console Wars make in ’93, but everyone else likes getting them. But pretty much all of them are kind of inappropriate for the season. How can you appropriately connect your real life to your love of video games in these conditions?
Sure, you could just accept that not every holiday has a game that corresponds nicely with its setting, but that seems like quitting talk to me.
The fact is that very few games actually do focus around the yuletide season, which proves once again that Halloween is the superior holiday, but there are games wherein you can get your Christmas fix. Leaving aside MMOs that are commercially obligated to feature some sort of Christmas celebration so you can hide from your family while still getting presents, let’s take a look at offline offerings to get in your Christmas fun.
How the Saints Saved Christmas (Saints Row IV DLC)
If you were wondering if a game existed in which the player gets to fight off an evil version of Santa Clause after a very brief Festivus celebration, I’m happy to say that this does indeed exist. It’s this. Yes, there is a Festivus pole, and you are indeed obligated to perform the Feats of Strength. That made me particularly happy. I like Festivus.
Leaving aside my personal affection for absurd holidays based off of Seinfeld episodes, this makes up one of the two packs of DLC missions for Saints Row IV, which I have mixed feelings about. Both this one and Enter the Dominatrix don’t even try to pretend that they aren’t extended gags based on a handful of references from the core storyline, and certainly this one manages to be fun and entertaining throughout. I suppose the discordant feel you get from the story is sort of intentional, mirroring countless shoehorned holiday specials for various shows, but I never had a pressing desire to kill a whole bunch of elves at the North Pole and this did not actually change matters.
Still, more Saints Row IV is pretty much a good thing, so I’m going to go ahead and count this one as a win. A solid start to the Christmas season!
DOOM (with one of the many, many Christmas mods)
Okay, there’s clearly… I mean… I guess a lot of people want to shoot Santa in the face? I completely don’t get it.
I mean, sure, I am as tired as the next person of having the entirety of December to be about candy canes, pine trees, and Kirk Cameron desperately making a bid for relevance. (That one may not be an annual event, but the fact that Saving Christmas exists should by all rights extend an awful footprint in either direction for at least a few years.) We are relentlessly subjected to the same awful holiday music in every public space, recycling songs for the millionth time without any added context or style or anything. There is something deeply unsettling about trying to sell people a holiday which is ostensibly based around personal togetherness.
But the leap from that to “shoot everything” is where you lose me. Yes, please, stop playing nonstop remakes of “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” and “I’m Under Mistletoe, The Law Says We’re Married Now.” I do not want any more kitschy garbage that is relevant in December and not for the other 334 days of the year. I do not, however, want to attack all of that with a chainsaw and a rocket launcher. I just, you know, stay home.
Should you totally see the appeal of shooting everything around you, though, this is probably the better option compared to… well… any other way I could think of closing this sentence out. Just… turn off the radio stations playing the music and have some eggnog, dude. Chill.
Batman: Arkham Origins
The game never actually gets quite to Christmas day proper, to be fair, but it’s close enough for these purposes. On Christmas Eve, a less-experienced Batman compared to the other two Arkham games Batmans his way around Gotham, beating up villains and generally Batmanning like he does. You know. Look, it’s a prequel, any plot developments are necessarily not going to have any real bearing on the rest of the series, is there any reason to invest too heavily?
The most notable part of this particular part of the franchise is that it’s generally considered the least likable of the games, with a lot of silly stuff and a really thin list of villains compared to the first two. Really, I know why sequels exist, but the first game worked perfectly partly because it was entirely self-contained, a little slice of Batman lore without any ties forward or back. Arkham Origins feels like the point when it had to become a whole thing. At least it keeps in the spirit of Christmas, what with Batman soaring from house to house and dispensing electric shocks to all the boys and girls who deserve it.
Persona 4 (eventually)
Yes, despite taking place in Japan, there’s a Christmas event in Persona 4! I don’t actually remember it beyond being annoyed that the girlfriend who came to visit was the one with the less-useful accessory, though. Also, you might have to play the game for about seven years before you get to the Christmas event. It’s that sort of game.
Last but most certainly not least, a game that starts on Christmas Eve and runs on through to the cusp of the new year, featuring a crazy outbreak of mitochondrial monsters that make about as much scientific sense as a dog with tentacles and a robot spine. It’s an excuse to have Aya Brea, a supposed NYPD rookie who is still working as a plainclothes detective, run around and shoot things while piecing together a largely absurd mystery that’s notable mostly for completely failing to understand how cell structures work. Also, lots of gun tinkering, which is the super fun part.
Not only does the game take place right on Christmas, though, it really nails the feel of the season. You’re surrounded by banners imploring you to be merry, you see decorations and advertisements everywhere, but in the end you can’t focus on any of that. The more you try to have a sterile form of comfort forced down your throat, the more you reject it, even as you feel somehow broken for rejecting it. You go through the motions, try to attend the events you’re obligated to, sleepwalk through what’s going on around you, but in the end it just feels hollow and pointless. Because you’re being pursued by phantom monsters made out of insidious DNA that seeks to demolish the world for ill-explained reasons.
Look, that is totally how Christmas goes down in this part of the world. Maybe not in the midwest, I don’t know.