Monsters and Mistletoe

Monsters and Mistletoe
The Family Gathering Survival Kit

Colin Rowsell | 2 Dec 2008 08:35
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The first family holiday gathering took place on Thanksgiving Day in 11,292 B.C. Og and Sush, a young couple from the West Stonelands, had invited Sush's mother over for grilled Mastodon. Og spent three days in the hunting grounds stalking the mastodon before he managed to strangle it with his bare hands, then dragged the 5,000-pound creature back to his cave where Sush spent a further two days stripping and cooking it. When Sush's mother arrived for the feast, she complained that the cave wasn't clean enough and the mastodon was undercooked. Og promptly wrenched her head off and turned her into a doormat. Then Og and Sush had a nice quiet meal and went to bed early.

Family holiday gatherings have been going downhill ever since.


Who are all you people and why are you in my house? Am I really a marcher in this ghastly recessive gene parade? How does anyone ever survive these events? When we were kids the strategy was easy: get trotted out for the aunts and uncles, say "thank you" for the socks and the educational video, then disappear upstairs to thrash the cousins at Super Hockey. The emotional dynamics were simpler, or at least simpler to ignore, and videogames were a big help in dealing with Extended Family Members (EFMs). Now, of course, the blinders are off. Every bit of the casual hatred, pending divorces and zombie-like conversation is visible and painful, like a ratchet to the eyeballs. Which means videogames had better step up. Much like televised sports for an earlier generation, they have some serious distracting to do.

Go for the jugular
First, the obvious: It's clear that videogames inspire violent behavior, and it's also clear that those behaviors are right. So grab your rifle, chainsaw, laser gun or eight-foot halberd and get to work over by the pretzels. Chest and forehead for a mercy kill, limbs and toes for some amusement. Call in an airstrike if you have one; cannibalism will restore your energy when you get tired. Remember that EFMs vary: You can take down aunts and cousins with a clean headshot, while mothers-in-law require full dismemberment to be really sure.

What's that? You're not one of those psychotically violent videogame vandals? Suit yourself. I was done in eight minutes and put up a YouTube video as proof of my score. But there are other options.

Genetic alteration
It's simple when you look at it the right way: If your gene pool is filthy, go swim somewhere else. A self-altering mutation serum, whether in gas, pill or rectal suppository form, will leave you free of EFMs and enjoying your second head/extra tail/ability to eat mud. It worked in Duke Nukem, it worked in Half Life 2 and it worked for a little while in World of Warcraft. If you don't like your faction, change it. 'Cause if slaughter's off the menu, and the DNA escape hatch isn't available, you may have to deal with the actual situation at hand ...

Old school
Not all EFM videogame strategies involve death or mutation. Some can just be old school fun, Nintendo style.

Find a high place. Check the room for ceiling fans or garrote-wire decorations. (This is important.). Scan the gathering table for either A) the most obnoxious EFM or B) the watery food dish with the most comic potential. Breathe deep. Recall every perfectly-timed A-button Mario jump you've ever done. Now soar ... extra points if turtle is being served.

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