Christmas was obviously always an exciting time for me as a child. Waking up to a bundle of presents, with a wish list to Father Christmas magically fulfilled was everything a kid could wish for. Well, that and copious amounts of chocolate to see me through the day. As a gamer, it was a crucial time of year; a day other than my birthday on which I could hope to receive a new game or two to see me through to my next anniversary of being (which happens to unfortunately be in December too — d'oh!). I once saved up my weekly £2 allowance for twelve weeks just so I could go halves on a copy of Super Mario All-Stars with my Dad; I quickly realised very early on that buying games on a regular basis wouldn't be feasible for a very long time.
Christmas 1992 was a landmark moment for me. While the concept of video games wasn't alien to me — I had already experienced them courtesy of our trusty Amstrad 286 PC at the time — I had never experienced console gaming, nor truly shown any considerable interest in the hobby as a whole. Unwrapping a Super Nintendo Entertainment System along with Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time quickly converted me to the ways of the joypad. I really do have to thank my Dad for having superb taste when it came to picking up those three gems. One of my fondest gaming memories was playing TMNT IV for the first time with my brother on the 21 inch Sony Trinitron in the living room; playing on the larger downstairs TV was a big deal if you were a kid in the early 90s.
Later Christmases would prove to be equally as magical; a Game Boy in 1994/5 (I forget which) and my favourite system of all time, the Nintendo 64, revealed itself to me from under our Christmas tree in 1997. Being a far more knowledgeable gamer by that point, it arguably had a greater impact on me than the SNES because it was such a giant leap forward in terms of technology and gameplay possibilities. The only reason I was able to get my grubby mitts on the N64 was because Nintendo dropped the price to £99.99 just before Christmas. Had it not, I probably would've had to wait another year for it. It really is interesting to look back and realise just how much of a role Christmas used to play in acquiring new games and systems.
Nowadays, Christmas is hardly about the gifts at all — I wonder how quickly that'll change when and if my partner and I have a child! A bit of disposable income each month usually allows me to pick up games as and when I want them — so much for saving up my pocket money for 3 months! — not to mention that I've been incredibly lucky to review some fantastic games for the site. As a result, the festive day is now pretty much focused exclusively on enjoying time with my family, not to mention stuffing my face with delicious food.
Nevertheless, it's still hugely important to me as a gamer. Work, family, friends and other life commitments must always come before my hobby, no matter how much I may adore it. This year, I've had the misfortune of having to move house twice, which has been just as much a burden on my bank balance as it has my sanity. Christmas is, therefore, a sacred time for me as a gamer; it's the one time of the year where everything slows down enough for me to kick back and actually enjoy some games.
And what a truly bumper year it has been for Nintendo fans. As much as I may complain about a lack of downtime throughout the year, that hasn't stopped me from sinking tens of hours into Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and its Wii U counterpart, Hyrule Warriors and Fantasy Life. The latter two games have been the most surprising in terms of entertainment value; grinding is core to both experiences — something which I've disapproved of in the past — but there's something immensely relaxing and rewarding about it in these games. They're a tad mindless in their premise, but that just makes them better games with which to relax over the festive period.
Of course, given the family-centric nature of Christmas, it only makes sense that I'll be enjoying local multiplayer with those close to me. The Wii U simply doesn't get enough credit in this regard. This year, games such as Nintendo Land (which in my opinion is still the best local multiplayer game on the system) and Super Mario 3D World will be complemented by Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, which is already making me question whether I'll actually have time to play anything else.
However, the system's versatility when it comes to its multiplayer offerings doesn't end there. On New Year's Eve, I'll be enjoying the company of friends, and what better way to do that than to indulge in a bit of Wii Karaoke U or Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party?
As I write this, it has become quite apparent that I'm probably going to struggle to find the time to catch up on my backlog, and let's not even talk about enjoying something from my retro collection. EarthBound still sits on my Wii U dashboard begging for a playthrough, and it's a similar story with both Bayonetta and its Wii U-exclusive sequel. How can anyone say that the Wii U doesn't have enough games when so many of us can't possibly find the time to play even just a few of them?
With that said, it would be wrong to approach the holidays with the goal of completing as many games as possible. It's a mindset I've developed for which I have Hyrule Warriors and Fantasy Life to blame, in which every little task is measured for success. The truth is, it doesn't matter whether I complete 10 games or just a single level; as I said before, I just want to kick back and enjoy some games. That might mean the odd multiplayer match in Steel Diver: Sub Wars or a day-long campaign in Hyrule Warriors' Adventure Mode — both sound equally appealing.
Whatever Christmas means to you as a gamer — be it an opportunity to finally get that game you've wanted all year or simply a time to relax with what you already have — I truly hope you all have a fantastic time. It's been a cracking year for both the 3DS and the Wii U (although more so the latter), so I'm sure there's something for everyone to enjoy come Christmas Day morning.
Why not let us know in the comments section what the holidays means to you as a gamer, and/or what you're expecting to be playing come 25 December?
Lastly, I wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year.