178: The (Slightly More Than) Twelve Games of Christmas

The (Slightly More Than) Twelve Games of Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas. A Muppets Family Christmas. A Christmas Carol. Every medium has made its own contributions to the Christmas tradition - except videogames. Chris LaVigne searches for a game that truly embodies the holiday spirit.

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Well, you didn't look hard enough! My Loonyland 2: Winter Woods, and Costume Party (with Winter Pack, released yesterday!), will let you celebrate the holidays in entertaining and non-crappy style! Loonyland 2 is an action-RPG, a cross between Zelda and Diablo 2 (but family friendly), and Costume Party is a teensy platformer all based around user-built levels. Check them out at http://hamumu.com !

In a less self-promotional note, I'd say Icy Tower is a roughly thematic choice that doesn't last terribly long, but is sure free and fun!

I don't think you every will find a decent game dedicated to Christmas as they all tend to have terrible gameplay and just be games that are destined to be thrown on the crap third party game bonfire.

The article did remind me of playing Gex Deep Cover Gecko and owning the Evil Santa, it's not exactly in the spirit of christmas though lol.

What about Sam and Max: Ice Station Santa?

You briefly mentioned MMO Christmas events, and I have to say that nothing put me in the holiday spirit more than when I used to play Final Fantasy XI and they'd hold the Starlight Festival. The music and decor in Jueno were more seasonal and festive than any holiday-themed quests and special items that other MMO's offered.

Reading this article, I was thinking of one developer that really could land a Christmas game hit - the makers of the "Lego" games. Even though I've only spent limited time with them (a couple hours distributed over the demos of various ones), I think a "Lego Santa" game could really work. Think about it - it would have cooperative play, naturally bringing a family together, is relatively easy and thus not frustrating, and there are already a few lego lines that have Santa/Christmasy stuff (iirc).

The problem would be that the mechanics would the "Lego" games would be geared more towards platforming, a genre which (I agree) you say does not work well with the general idea of Christmas. But evil penguins aside, I think it could work decently well - maybe avoiding the eyes of insomniac children, or bopping on the heads of "Scrooges" that for some reason hate Christmas. I dunno - but it could be worth a shot.

Generally speaking, you can't expect a game to be so contextual. Once again, it comes to that whole discussion of the nitty-gritty differences between how a movie is enjoyed, and how a game is enjoyed. A christmas movie is one that can touch you and your whole family, they are meant to last the years (how many other movies from 1946 are still shown - and watched - regularly year in year out?). A game made for a time-period like that can really only be enjoyed for one season in one year - nostalgia (or in my case, the question of what the hell is the big deal about a blue hedgehog) aside, people do not go actively pursuing the old classic games with the same gusto that the modern film buff will still lovingly watch Citizen Kane. Realistically, a christmas game has that sort of limited timeframe appeal that doesn't attract the highest levels of financing, or effort from developers. Which is similarly why the best Christmas game I can suggest is Amateur Surgeon: Christmas Edition
http://www.adultswim.com/games/game/index.html?game=surgeonchristmas

How about a stealth game? Sneak into the houses and secretly deliver presents to the tree without waking the children :)

I was thinking about this only a few days ago myself, the conclusion my housemates came to was definitely a stealth game. Also, any sled-flying game would definitely have to be "passive"; no attacking, just dodging whatever obstacle you're up against and aiming for arbitrary goals.

Aha! Like NiGHTS, which happens to have a Christmas version...

Wow, someone else has the Merry Axemas CD! Great music.

I don't see why it specifically has to be specifically a Christmas game though. It could just as easily be a video game about the holidays in general, much more broad, and it won't come off as some pretentious company trying to shove their religion down your throat...as much anyway.

Frankly, whenever I see a commercial that says they have a "Christmas Sale!" I turn to the next channel. If they have a "Holiday Sale" they get bonus points from me. Though that may be because I'm jewish :P

Besides, when was the last time you've seen a Hanukah video game, hmm? All the more reason to make a great "Holiday Game" rather than specifically a "Christmas Game", and even broaden the audience a bit more. Hell, I could even see a fun game out of that.

Well if you are a WoW player, the Winter Veil does actually add a lot to the holiday spirit.

I have the exact same problem every time I hear that the must-have game of the season is an FPS. It's ridiculous. 2007 had a legendary Winter line-up in terms of quality, but out of all those the only one that had any sort of feel-good, hearty tone to it was Super Mario Galaxy. This year, it's not any better.

Thanks for the good article, and I hope a developer follows up on this criticism and makes a good game with the true Christmas virtue in mind.

Christmas NiGHTS was indeed an awesome Christmas game! Orginally, it was given away at GAME in December 1996 if two SEGA Saturn games were purchased at the same time.

A number of years later, 1998 I think, Sega Saturn Magazine gave it away as a cover disc. I remember I was extremely excited by that, since I had lusted after CN when I first saw it on GAME's Big Screen!!

i am suprised that he skipped over the elf bowling games. i know they where kind of boring sports games but they where always good for a cheap laugh and the first ones was the best bowling game i have ever played

The answer is pretty simple. As Indigo_Dingo said, Christmas games have a limited timeframe appeal. No sane developer will spend thousands of cold cash to create a game, that interests costumers only for a month. That is simply PC suicide. Just think about it, right after Christmas Eve, when you already unwrapped your presents, eaten the dinner and cookies, the relatives already left, and you are thinking about New Year's, you won't play X-mas games. It's like sex. When the calendar enters December, you get exited, start to prepare for the big day, and get more and more excited, work even harder on the preparations... until you reach Christmas, and after that, you suddenly lose interest.

Game developers are people too, and know exactly why a Christmas-only themed game won't sell. This is why. Of course they make holiday mods to existing games, but that's all about it. Maybe some indie dev will actually go the extra mile to hammer together some cute X-mas game, but don't expect an AAA title, because it won't come. Ever. It's simple business, they don't want to sell at a loss, which is quite understandable.

I, myself, am still happy with the holiday themed mods, levels and episodes, because they entertain me until the Day passes, and then I can return to my StarCraft and CS 1.6 to kill time.

I'm not surprised that there aren't any competent Christmas titles out there. I expect it works in a way similar to computer games based on movies, in that there are very few titles which aren't run off in a very short time, with little thought given to the mechanics of the game and a lot given to quick profit. We see the same thing with most Christmas films: a glut of atrocious Christmas movies, in the vein of Fred Claus, et cetera, made entirely to secure a quick profit from bored children.

If even the selection of Christmas movies that exists has more poor titles than good ones, I wouldn't hold out hope for the computer game market managing to alter that ratio for themselves. A non-holiday-specific game with goodwill in mind may work better, but the computer game market is more full of destruction and chaos than it is full of nurturing, caring and being nice to children.

Jumplion:
I don't see why it specifically has to be specifically a Christmas game though. It could just as easily be a video game about the holidays in general, much more broad, and it won't come off as some pretentious company trying to shove their religion down your throat...as much anyway.

Frankly, whenever I see a commercial that says they have a "Christmas Sale!" I turn to the next channel. If they have a "Holiday Sale" they get bonus points from me. Though that may be because I'm jewish :P

Besides, when was the last time you've seen a Hanukah video game, hmm? All the more reason to make a great "Holiday Game" rather than specifically a "Christmas Game", and even broaden the audience a bit more. Hell, I could even see a fun game out of that.

I think the key to a good Christmas title is too have a good holiday title, something you can play all year and touches all seasons ...

Playing a Santa game might be fun for a couple of days but it will soon grow old...

 

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