The intelligence channel came to life as people pulled other online friends from the games they got for Christmas and dragged pilots away from watching TV with their families. Soon, we had more people online than was normal for any other day of the year.


The fight, when it happened, was brief and savage. The currency farmers cursed us in their translated gibberish, and we came away with only a single loss: the interdictor that had stopped them in their tracks. It was a glorious victory - that is, until someone said "Somewhere in the world there's an employee of a currency farming sweatshop whose Christmas we just totally ruined. His boss won't be happy."

We laughed, but it wasn't funny. In fact, it could have been true. "Sorry kids, I lost the battleship fleet. There goes a month's pay." I imagined the sad, tiny faces of Chinese children, and as my excitement and bloodlust waned, I was wracked by guilt. All's fair in virtual war, I told myself. They were currency farmers working against the spirit (and the TOS) of the game - about as legitimate as targets come, right? Oh God, this was like a digital Christmas Carol, with all the ghosts of gamers past coming back to haunt me. I promptly logged off.

I'd killed several hours by this point, but my lack of sleep was beginning to kick in. I was in a vague trance, clicking through websites that I'd read the day before, well aware that they were unlikely to have been updated on Christmas day. Could I feel any less seasonal? Could it be that even gaming couldn't save me? Despondently, I ate some Christmas cake that had been sent to me by my family, far away in Cambridge. I changed my instant messenger status to "Home Alone." It seemed as if nothing could lever me out of this hole.

Finally, an instant message box blinked up, and a cheery emoticon appeared. "How about a slice of Christmas Quake ... for old time's sake?" It was an old friend from my Quake III days with an invitation that was too good a pun for me not to accept. But that, Christmas readers, is another story.

Jim Rossignol is an editor at and the author of This Gaming Life, an account of the life of modern videogames and some of the people who play them.

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