Deck The Servers: Why Don’t Video Games Embrace Christmas Time?

Gareth takes a look at why we don’t get enough Christmas-themed gaming content!

Well folks, it’s that time again; the most wonderful time of the year! As the nights have drawn in and the days are getting cold and grim, embracing a Christmassy outlook is undoubtedly the best way to keep spirits high through another grey December. Of course, when the weather’s this bad and the days feel so short, it’s difficult to remember just why Christmas is supposed to be so amazing, isn’t it?

Fortunately, our lives are packed full of reminders, and you’ll never have too far to look. As the streets become lined with decoration and everyone around you adorns themselves with the latest in tacky jumper-ware, Christmas is everywhere. Festive specials cover our TV and cinema screens with tales of elves and turbo men, and I can again drown the world’s white noise out as a sea of Christmas classics from The Killers fill my ears once more. As December wears on, almost everything can become Christmas-fied, though many of you will notice one glaring exception.

While so much of our media intake can be swarmed by yuletide blessings at this time of year, gamers may find themselves drastically lacking in Christmas spirit. Sure, there are new games to look forward to in every festive period, but where are the games that really embrace this most special of times? Film, TV, music, theatre, comics and all manner of other mediums get totally swept up in Christmas, so why does the gaming industry seem so opposed?

For a start, it’s most likely because it’s difficult to spread good will if you’re going to charge an arm and a leg for it. Given the ongoing furore around ‘Day One DLC’ and the perception that many games are being sold incomplete in order to sell expansions, it’s hard to imagine too many developers giving Christmassy content away for free and a lot tougher to imagine players paying premium prices for what’s obviously very temporary content.

But if developers don’t think that their audiences would willingly invest reasonable sums in seasonal gameplay, perhaps they’re doing us a disservice. Were they to take just one look at the photos from the rKade Christmas party – to witness the scenes of pure elation as we sang out to The Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York” – they’d surely see that we embrace Christmas as well as the very best of them. Christmas brings people together like few other phenomena can.

So, as Dr Seuss helped his surly Grinch understand once his misadventures were over, what if Christmas doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.

An admirable sentiment, yes, but not all that believable given the way shoppers swarmed over Black Friday deals and splashed their cash on extravagant gifts before November had even ended. The truth, ultimately, is that a modern Christmas is an amalgamation of familial festivity and consumerist chaos. But that’s okay! So long as the whole thing remains a loving experience, we can’t feel like we’ve strayed too far off track. And, as importantly, maybe our favourite developers can find a way to embrace the Christmas spirit and realise how mutually beneficial this holiday can be.

MWR Winter Crash

© Activision | Winter Crash has brought some festive spirit to Modern Warfare Remastered

Consider the popularity of GTA Online’s ‘Festive Surprise’ updates for a damn good example of how enriching Christmassy content can be for a game. Adding festive attire, extra gifts and even a snow-covered San Andreas for snowball fights, these updates have taken a real look at how Christmas can be captured within the mechanics of a specific game. Everyone knows the appeal of a game like Grand Theft Auto, but coupling the flair for humour and violence with a seasonal twist was a masterstroke by Rockstar. At a time where so many games totally ignored Christmas, GTA Online stood out from the crowd.

GTA Online is hardly the only example, of course, and games like Destiny and Minecraft have also attempted to add a festive makeover in certain places. In all cases these additions have been big hits with their fans, making it even more difficult to justify why more isn’t done.

If developers don’t want to go to the trouble of adding good free content like Rockstar, then that’s fine; we’ve all learned not to expect anything for free these days. However, given that the very same updates in GTA Online have provided a blueprint for how a game can embrace Christmas and still remain true to itself, maybe we could meet halfway on this? I’m not suggesting I’d shell out a tenner to see Santa hats on some zombies in Call of Duty, of course, but a DLC pack that has my Dragonborn saving Kristoff Kringle and his sleigh from an ambush on Skyrim’s Throat of the World would definitely help prise my wallet open!

What do you think; would you like to see more festivity in video games? If so, why not give us your ideas for Christmassy content?

Stay away from Skyrim, though, I’m emailing that bad boy to Bethesda as soon as I sign off here!

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Gareth studied Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. After graduating, he has become a pretty cool freelance games journalist. Gareth became part of rKade back in 2013.

rKade Team | Gareth Cartwright

Gareth Cartwright