Monsters and Mistletoe

Monsters and Mistletoe
The Family Gathering Survival Kit

Colin Rowsell | 2 Dec 2008 12:35
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Turn failure on its head
I've been doing this one for years: Amid the usual round of who's pregnant, getting a raise, getting their PhD., succeeding in sport, running for office or other "real world" irrelevancies, feel free to slot in gaming achievements with a total lack of embarrassment. Jimmy got a big promotion? I dinged Level 70 on my second Paladin. Clara just got a second mortgage? I own every building in Bowerstone. Janice was on the local news the other week? I headlined Wembley in Rock Band.

Be as proud and vaguely snobbish as everyone else is of meaningless accomplishment. Really, why should the momentum be on their side? If someone wants to steer the family gathering towards a good ole one-up pissing contest, go right along with it, full force, total conviction. "Jessie's taking on a lot more responsibility at the furniture store." Good for Jessie. I have an 8-foot halberd that creates lumpy, human-shaped doormats. Wanna see?

You live in a different world from these people with their bad dye jobs, need to live through others and leftover belief in television. Be proud of that.

Join 'em, beat 'em, leave 'em.
When we were kids we could retreat upstairs with the Nintendo. But now everyone follows you. Videogames are "accessible," whatever the hell that means. So roll with it. Look into the puffy, bloodshot eyes of your alcoholic uncle who works at a paper recycling center. Gaze at the misery and drudgery of the poor bastard's life reflected in them. Now put a plastic guitar in his hands. Show him the crowd. Get the cheesy '70s rock song going, watch him transform, then run like hell until you can't hear the inevitable boozy sing-along. In 10 years everyone will be doing this anyway, so why not give your EFMs an early head start and clear the downstairs living room while you're at it? You can even keep a old copy of Super Hockey around for nostalgia, so while everyone else plays the new stuff you'll be getting thrashed by your tech-addicted 7-year-old shit of a nephew.


Spend time with your real extended family
Here's a thought: Have you spent more quality time in the company of videogame characters than your extended family? Do you feel a stronger emotional connection to, say, Niko and Roman than to your second cousin Barry and his harelip girlfriend? I thought so. You can't escape family, but you can expand your definition. Mine is in a whole bunch of different places and forms this holiday, and I look forward to spending time with all of them. Even the genetic ones, as long as there's Rock Band and airstrikes.

So let's accept it. Round up the Bellices, the Vances and the Daventrys. Book a table at an inn somewhere in Azeroth. Even bring Og and Sush, if someone wants to digitize them. We'll have some ale, tell some stories, then grab our halberds and go kill some dragons for the barbecue. A real family gathering at last. Holidays, as always, are what you make of them.

Colin Rowsell lives in Wellington, New Zealand and would love to have you over for Super Hockey. Talk to him on

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