A Classic Video Game Christmas Is Disappearing

Memories of my favourite Christmas are scarred by the lines of static fuzz that roll through it – a memory formed more through watching it back than living it, a memory of a memory. When our brains are young, they run things together. But regardless of how much of it I know from experiencing it, and how much of it is recalled by watching myself experience it years later, the choice for my perfect Christmas memory is an easy one. I run downstairs in dark blue pyjamas, and waiting for me in red shiny paper is a large box. I tear it open, and find a PS1 inside. And all at once, I become a gamer.


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This must have been 1998, as I got Spyro the Dragon with it, alongside Tekken 3 and Crash Bandicoot, which launched the previous year. Completing this collection was Kula World, also launched 1998, though I tend to leave that out of the story as it doesn’t have the cultural cache of the other three. It was also a bit naff. At this point, I had shown an interest in my uncle’s old SNES, displaying elements of the gamer gene that my parents just needed to coax out. The following Christmas I would get a frosted purple Game Boy Color (now and forever, the coolest one), and that ensured it was not just a phase, I was a gamer for life.

I wrote more about this memory last year

Christmas Memory, Stacey Henley – Sleepwalking Through Crash Bandicoot

My best Christmas memory involves playing Crash Bandicoot in my sleep… maybe

I remember tearing through Crash Bandicoot, needing to beat several levels in a row as, back in those days, you couldn’t save whenever you wanted, only at specific checkpoints. We went to my grandparents’ house every Christmas Day (still do) and with it came a new tradition. My parents would let me play on the new console for a few hours in the morning, then they’d stuff it, wires and all, into a bag as we walked up the street to my grandparents’, where an old CRT – the one my uncle played his SNES games on – was fished out of the attic.

This tradition carried over from the PS1 to the PS2, the Xbox 360, and the Xbox One, while I even reignited it in recent years by taking the Switch and sticking that on the main TV. New consoles were obviously rare and moved in cycles, but a new game was a default Christmas present each year, so there was always something to take with us. We had a lot of family time anyway – we opened presents together, we ate together, we watched a movie together, I played video games while the adults slept off the sherry, then we played a board game together before spending the night and having breakfast together.

Crash Bandicoot 1 - Crash scratching his head in the first level

It didn’t feel like I was off in the corner having Christmas on my own, it just felt like it was part of Christmas. And I wonder, with modern consoles the way they are, can it really be part of Christmas these days?

Look, I’m not trying to be Grampa Simpson yelling at the clouds. I know kids aren’t too busy TikToking to enjoy the holiday season or whatever. It just feels like the modern set-up of consoles makes this difficult. In Christmas 1998, I spent the day flitting between Crash, Spyro, and Tekken – there’s no way a kid could open a PS5 on Christmas day in 2023 with three new triple-A games and bounce between them.

For one thing, you wouldn’t even get to hold the disc in your hand as it’s all digital, but maybe that is a bit of cloud yelling. Santa still gets to wrap up three plastic boxes and they still have three games inside, I suppose. But you can’t play them. Not until you wait, what, three hours? Each? For them all to install? And of course, these games will have come out across the past few months, so there’s also the various patches to add on.

The fiddliness of modern tech is why we write things like this

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Then there’s the overall popularity of online free-to-play games amongst younger kids – is it really the same to be gifted some V-Bucks or Robux for Christmas? And if you’re playing an online game that needs you locked in with headphones, how much is it really part of Christmas, and how much is it just a kid spending Christmas on their own?

Of course, not everyone’s Christmas is like mine, and even if the modern style of consoles don’t allow for me to carry a console up to my grandparents’ house, it doesn’t mean Christmas is cancelled the world over. I’m sure children will be opening up consoles and games (or at least boxes with game codes in) this year and loving what Santa brought them. Whether Santa remembered to unbox the console, organise the settings, and install all the games first, is another question.

And it’s not like video games as gifts are a thing of the past – this year we’ve bought my little cousins the Mario Kart Live racers with Mario and Luigi, gifting their parents a Christmas Day fight over who gets to be Mario. The Switch’s more plug-in-and-play style makes it feel like a Christmas throwback anyway, which is why it survived into the modern day iteration of my gaming tradition.

They tell me my job is cool, but they don’t read anything I write, so they won’t find out.

I hope all the gamers out there young and old have a very merry Christmas. I hope you get every game you asked for, unless you asked for something like Kingdom Hearts – get some standards, man. And I hope whatever that game was, you’re able to actually play it on Christmas Day and not wait for it to install.

Who knows, maybe in ten years someone else will be writing of the joy of Robux for Christmas and lamenting that kids these days have their faces jammed in their VR headsets are and missing out on the holiday season, instead of me trying to explain why it really was quite corking to unwrap a new memory card for Christmas. It just feels like my way of gamer Christmas is roasting over the open fire, and I’m glad I have those static-scarred memories to keep it alive.

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