It really is the best time of year, if you ask me. I know there's plenty to loathe for a lot of folks: the traffic, the shopping, the economic pressure, the repetitive music, the terrible fruitcake, the elves (shudder) and so much more. But there's something that makes it all worthwhile: it's the way everyone seems to have a bigger smile on their face, despite the stress of the holidays and the general ups and downs of life. Something, at least in my experience, changes in people when the lights start going up, the music starts playing, and the drinks start flowing more freely (maybe it's just all about that last part).
Dare I tell a story? Don't worry, none of it involves a red-rider BB gun or a leg-lamp (though I have the latter in my house, because I am a Clevelander after all). When I was a kid, I remember playing my neighbor's Atari and wishing my family had the world's first true gaming console. We never got one. My folks got divorced around the time the NES came out, and when everyone I knew was diving into Duck Hunt and Mario (including that same neighbor) I was left watching from the sidelines or stealing over to other kids' houses to hopefully get a turn there. I wanted that damn painful rectangular controller in my hands so badly, I could taste it.
But divorce does funny things to a family, and for a while, though I was barely in school and thought the world revolved around what toys I had our true trials were finding a home to live in, food to eat, and a way to get my mom to stop crying. Nintendo, despite my severest of wants, was not really in the cards. I learned to do without, and at an early age I learned that the real value of Christmas wasn't in Tetris or Bionic Commando, but in the mere love for my broken little family and the sticking together during the crap we had to sift through. It was finding out that my friends would be friends I had my whole life, and that with the right people around you, everything becomes easier to bear.
But life went on, things got better, and my broken family learned to work together in our own twisted and awkward way. One year, though the SNES was well on its way and Link to the Past would soon take over the world, I came downstairs to find a Nintendo right there by the tree, several brand new games laying around it scattered like gold dubloons amid a treasure trove of geekdom. I had never been so excited to see a toy that would soon be obsolete. I didn't care that everyone was moving on to Sega Genesis soon enough, I had my NES... finally. It was amazing. The one thing that could make my brother and I stop fighting and just laugh together. The years went on, we got an SNES, even a PSOne and an N64 one day. Gaming was a part of our lives from that original gray monstrosity on.
And as I sit here thinking about those beginning stages of my love affair with the pixel, I realize just how much gaming has always been about friends and family for me. I'm by far the biggest geek of anyone I know, and definitely the most hardcore gamer out of those of us who grew up playing together (I mean, look at my job, right?) but throughout my life the one constant has been sharing laughter, fun, and friendship through games. Even in the darkest parts of my life, the people I love and I have always been able to turn to a game (electronic or paper) for cheering up and soul-warming merriment.
So this weekend as you go scurrying about your last minute shopping, or grouse about the traffic and long lines everywhere, and as you sit down to open presents and quietly scrutinize the sweater your aunt buys you that looks like something from The Cosby Show... remember just how lucky we are to be celebrating anything at all. Remember just how fortunate we are to be here, to have these things, these silly electronic trifles to waste time on. Whether you're Christian or not, whether you're religious or not, the spirit of Christmas needs to be remembered:
It's not the gifts we receive, or the baubles we give, it's the people we share it all with that matters.
Merry Christmas and Happy Festivus from us all here at MMORPG.com.