All I Want for Christmas is Player Two...
I think we can all agree that Christmas is a great time for gaming. Unlike the Movie industry producing summer blockbusters the video game industry prefers to keep it's biggest and best for the festive season. This month we're going to recount our most memorable Christmas's spanning a large number of years. Our avatars will give you a clue as to which of us it is so please enjoy!
This entry isn’t so much about a gift I got for Christmas but a gaming/Christmas memory I have. If you listened to our podcast Episode 36: Sitting Down to Wii you’ll know that this memory was briefly discussed then. For those who don’t know, Chris (one of NOWO’s co-founders) is my older cousin so we have always spent a lot of time together at Christmas time. Every year the whole family would get together on Christmas day or Boxing day to celebrate, I remember heading over to my Auntie and Uncle’s house and playing party games such as Buzz, SingStar, Mario Kart, Duck Hunt and games that utilised the PlayStation EyeToy with our entire family! These are some of my favourite CHRIStmas memories ha ha ha (I’m sorry).
Whilst not technically a gaming gift exclusively, my VHS/TV combo coming in at a whopping 16 inch screen was certainly helpful in my gaming. I'd had TVs before in my room but this was the first time I had a shiny new one of my own.
It saw me through my PS1 years, and I even took it to uni. There is saw me through my PS2 years as well. It's worth mentioning during uni was when the DVD started taking over VHS. The upside of a student was everyone was getting rid of their video collections making it cheaper to buy a movie second hand than to rent a DVD. What resulted was a wall of VHS to match any local video store and made me a pretty popular housemate!
So in the Christmas of 1990 I was excited. Like CRAZY excited as I knew I was getting a Sega Master System. Until that point I'd enjoyed my best mates NES and played it's competitor only in department stores. It wasn't my first foray into gaming having grown up with a Spectrum and a friend's Amstrad CPC (not Mark's!) as well as a lot of arcades, but i was hooked on the immediate loading and control pad over the Joysticks we used on those machines. Knowing the big day was imminent on Christmas Eve I got myself so wound up that cramps developed in my stomach. By the early hours of Boxing Day morning my parents were convinced I had appendicitis so I was rushed to hospital via ambulance x-rayed, poked and prodded until the ultimate decision was made (striking off the aforementioned appendicitis and severe constipation) that it was an Abdominal Migraine created from the overwhelming anxiety around my Christmas gift...a memory that will always stick with me as a case of Sega does, to me at least, what Nintendont...
My first RPG was Suikoden 1 on PS1 and having fallen in love with that all the game industry was talking about on the subject in 1997 was Final Fantasy VII. 3 Discs. Full FMV cut scenes. Gouraud shaded polygons. 120 hours of gameplay (*cough 40*). Only Possible on PS1. were just a handful of the hyperbole surrounding the game and I was sold on it. As was customary by this point I was allowed to play a small taster upon purchase and I remember all the questions I was left with after playing through the intro scenes which lasted around 30 minutes...I had to wait 2 grueling months to find out too which was possibly the longest half term of my life. Worth it though.
Whilst not my first gaming experience, the Megadrive was definitely my first console. The year would have been 1991. The second Christmas after the release of the console. I can't actually remember asking for the console being aware it was costly back then (£189) and I was still happy with my Amstrad (More of that later).
The Megadrive was one of those "gifts for the family" but clearly there was little interest for the console other than me. I remember the first game I played was Sonic. The clearest family memory involving the console that Christmas was all laughing at me and my sister leaning heavily to the side whilst playing to almost will Sonic up a hill faster if he was losing pace.
I also remember at the first Dr Robotnik boss at the end of Green Hill Zone there is a platform at each side whilst the Dr flies around in his ship with a large ball and chain hanging from the bottom.. The safe way to beat him is to jump onto a platform, wait for the ball to pass, then jump onto him, and make your way to the other side and repeat. I remember showing some flair trying to hit him from both sides consecutively and failing, losing my rings. My dads sage words "That's what you get for showing off". Wise word Papa. Wise words.
On the Megadrive my favourite games went on to be EA Hockey, Fifa International, Road Rash, Streets of Rage and Mutant League Football. I was was more sporty back then!
So I was a good couple of years into my Megadrive's lifespan by this point and until this point I'd been perfectly happy with the console's library to the point that the only new release I'd had was Sonic 2 upon it's arrival a year earlier. I was into my video games magazines big time at this point and one game was stealing all the headlines (at least the Sega ones) and that game was Aladdin, coming a whole year on from the movie. I even recall knowing who David Perry was at that young age having already owned Global Gladiators and rented Cool Spot for what seemed like a whole summer. I remember being allowed to read the manual and play the first level upon buying it (I even remember the store). I barely left my room Christmas day despite being unable to get past the fourth stage (the dungeon).
This was certainly the first introduction I had to gaming. My uncle has one of these bad boys "for work" but for me the CPC 464 was a pure gaming monster. Running off a tape deck the load time for a game was about 10 minutes of pure epilepsy inducing colour screen testing.
I remember there being an abundance of games for the Amstrad at car boot sales for very little, which was one of the reasons I didn't rush to get the Megadrive, I was still working my way through such classics as Dizzy, Operation Wolf (still played with the cursors) and Lemmings.
My memory doesn’t seem to be on my side when remembering dates however going by release date, I think this happened Christmas 2006? Anyway, around 2006 Nintendogs: Dalmatian and Friends was released. I received the game on Christmas day and immediately begun playing it however there was a problem. Now maybe I wasn’t saving properly or if there was some kind of Nintendo DS curse circulating at that time but every time that I’d turn off my DS to do something else and then return to it, the dog I had previously adopted and named had disappeared! So, my dad promised to take it back to the shop we had bought it from (RIP Toys R Us) on the next available day and swap it to see if that would fix the problem, this next available day was Boxing Day. We swapped the games over and everything seemed to be fine from then on, I still feel guilty for swapping over the game full of dogs that had so much potential…
For Christmas 2008, I received the latest Animal Crossing game for the Nintendo Wii. I was already excited for its release on the 8th December 2008 however had to wait until Christmas Day to get my hands on it. In 2008 the Wii was still considered the family console so I had a hard time persuading my parents to let me move it from the living room to my bedroom for a few weeks but somehow, I did! I remember that Christmas Eve frantically moving the Wii and all its parts up into my bedroom (which was a tiny box room by the way, so no place to try and play Wii Sports) ready to play Animal Crossing the next day. I pretty much played it for most of Christmas day, stopping occasionally for food and family time. The music which plays in the city still gives me of that Christmas day feeling!
Being 1996 I was well and truly passed any illusions as to where my Christmas gifts were coming from and I knew there was a PlayStation somewhere in the house (pretty much knew where too). You can bet your arse that I was on best behaviour that year, if any previous years were to go by I was going to be given a preview of the next stage of my gaming life some time before the decorations went up. Sure enough one day my dad caved and showed me that the video store down the street had started stocking PlayStation games to rent and he'd got more excited than me and grabbed me Destruction Derby and Ridge Racer for the weekend to, you know, make sure it all worked. Put those next to Alien Trilogy that I got with it and it was an epic weekend despite the lack of a memory card and only a single controller. Being a dad now I can really appreciate the joy of seeing your kid REALLY appreciate a gift. And trust me dad, I did!
PlayStation (1) was the big time. Whilst the Megadrive was a fun machine I remember the PlayStation being a "proper" computer games console. I know my parents must have worked really hard to get me the PS1 for the launch Christmas and I remember hearing it was a display model that they convinced the shopkeep to sell. I was chuffed to bits with Lara's triangle boobs from the moment I played. Ridge Racer seemed as realistic as driving a real car. The controller felt right immediately compared to that of the Megadrive, and even without thumb sticks.
The PlayStation was the first console for me that the idea of shop based pre owned games came along. Buying games at a car boot sale for more money seemed risky, but with the introduction of Electronic's Boutique came a chance to buy guaranteed games at cut prices.
The PlayStation highlights for me would have been Fifa98, Fighting Force (A streets of rage-esque brawler) and of course Tony Hawk's!
So that's us. If nothing else we hope this brings back your own fond memories of the occasion. Hope that Santa brings you exactly what you want this year!