Christmas in Britain is heralded not by sleigh bells, the first flake of snow, a date on the calendar or an extra bucket of coal for the fire. You know it's officially The Season when you hear Slade's time-honored, glam-rock anthem "Merry Xmas Everybody!" floating on the stale, thrice-recycled air of the overcrowded shops.
But when you hear Noddy wailing his winter war cry as Halloween decorations still litter the shelves, it becomes increasingly harder to get into the Christmas spirit once December finally rolls around. People are full of sagely advice on how to recapture the essence and excitement once felt around this time of year, but it generally involves some kind of charitable volunteer work, baking cookies, shoveling the snow off some lazy pensioner's driveway or going to church for a fresh head full of Christian guilt. That might be alright for people who care, but what about the rest of us?
Well, just like every other problem we Escapists face throughout the year, this one can be solved by videogames. Gamers are fortunate enough to be able to bend the haughty, altruistic Christmas pseudo-wisdom of the socially conscious to our selfish needs by applying their Dickensian doctrines to our computers and consoles. So, for all you forlorn gamers out there who've lost the spirit (or had it taken from you), here's a few tinsel-topped tips to rejuvenate your Chrimbo charisma.
Visit Old Friends
The best place to start is getting right back to your gaming roots. The majority of us who've grown up with games did so because of those computers and consoles we unwrapped one unfashionable Christmas morning in the '70s or '80s.
Times have changed considerably, and these days, whenever we want something, we just buy it on the tick. There's no saving up, waiting for birthdays or holding out for the commercial season to roll around. As much as our must-have-it-now society has made kings and rich men of us all, it's also robbed us of the excitement which comes from eager anticipation.
Back in the day (when only the wealthy owned credit cards), the months of painstakingly waiting for December 25th increased the value of our desired systems dramatically. The long weeks of absence while waiting for the wrapping paper to come away instilled a fondness that's still going strong today, and one that's distinctly lacking from any game system we've acquired in recent years.
With any luck, you'll still have your old warhorse stashed away in the attic, and there's no better way to kick off your Christmas buildup than by blowing the dust off an Atari 2600 or a tape-loading, 8-bit computer that lit up your holiday season two decades ago.
Of course, back then, there weren't widely available online multiplayer games or wireless networking. Those square eyed memories will come flooding back all the more vividly if you can get some other likeminded 30-something with a gap in his soul to come round and play a few sweaty-palmed, white-knuckled games of Target: Renegade or Commando. Classics from a Christmas long forgotten - waiting to take you back to a simpler time when games were 2-D, sheep were scared and men were proud.