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It’s Christmas, the co opted pagan holiday that now celebrates the birth of Christ that has all but been secularized into a 3 month irritating period of commercial greed and annoying songs that are played ad nauseum while anyone who doesn’t share in holiday cheer is labeled as a grinch and waging war on Christmas the most wonderful time of the year.  Like a lot of gamers, the only association I really have with video games and Christmas is trying to think of what games I need to buy for those I am obligated to spend money on care about and what ones I want to get for myself.  This year, like most years, the popular titles like Fallout 4, Black Ops III, and Battlefront have nothing to do with Christmas, at least that I know of as I have played none of them, though on 12/25 there is one on that list I hope to receive.  Radio stations and department stores rotate the same 12 Christmas songs that have been played for the past 50 years, there are countless classic Christmas movies like Gremlins and Die Hard, holiday specials, sitcom Christmas themed episodes, and the free world as we know it will end if TBS does not play their 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon.  Many music recording artists such as The Pogues, Type O Negative, Ulver, Gunther and the Sunshine Girls, Savatage, Run DMC, Bad Religion, LyciaMariah Carey, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Eazy-E, and King Diamond have all booked studio time to spread Christmas cheer.

Gunther
Gunther! Of all the songs linked above, this man’s is the only one that matters.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties are actually a thing now, along with the dreaded fruit cake that I believe only a finite number of these timeless abominations exist in the world and they just change hands every year.  So the other day, while partaking in consumer fueled holiday cheer going from store to store in the mall trying to find gifts for people the question was asked why does Mario hate Christmas?  I wanted to answer he is of Japanese origin and probably practices Shinto, and I don’t know if people of that religion celebrate Christmas, but knew the rebuttal would be that Mario is an Italian name so he is just as likely to be Roman Catholic.  So instead of having a debate about the theological orientation of everyone’s second favorite mustachioed mushroom muncher (Luigi is better, and if you disagree and say that is just my opinion you are simply wrong), I redirected the question to be Mario doesn’t hate Christmas, there are tons of references to Christmas in video games.

MarioAsSanta
It’s a me, Mario. Why you say I hate a the Christmas?

I then had to come up with some answers, and this is where my argument lost a lot of steam.  I know I have played some games that acknowledge Christmas, but like most witty comebacks they did not come to mind until several hours after they would have been useful.  Some came from digging through my memories, others came from doing online research aka Googling.  Santa Saves The Earth was a product of research, and I think I might need to give this a proper review at some point.  I never heard of this, and doing some more digging its plot is the night before Christmas and Santa is trapped by an evil fairy, and you have to save him or there will be a lot of upset kids come morning.  There is almost no information on this game aside from some abysmally low ratings.  This game may even be so bad its very existence is an act of war against Christmas, so this might not be the best point to bring up.  I need to think of games that are not terrible that reference Christmas.  Home Alone 2 for the SNES, but that only partially meets the criteria.  It is a game, it does reference Christmas, but falls short in the other criteria.   I remember playing some Wisdom Tree games on an emulator years ago, but while their games are Christian themed I don’t remember any of them being specifically about Christmas.  I know I have wasted spent many hours enjoying games throughout my life, why is this so hard?

kefka5
Pixelated greatness complimented with dodgy localization.

And then I saw that one of the greatest games ever, Final Fantasy VI, was coming to Steam.  Back when that game was called Final Fantasy III and before the graphics had unspeakable atrocities committed against them, I got this game as a Christmas present and loved it, and spent the rest of that Christmas day hiding from the rest of my family playing it, which is a great way to spend any holiday.  FFVI has nothing to do with Christmas, but not long before it came out Square Soft released a game called Secret of Mana that did have a mission where you reunite Santa with Rudolf, and thus not only do you save the world or whatever it was you did in that game, your party also saves Christmas, plus the game meets the criteria of not being terrible.  So that is a point for me in favor of games having some holiday spirit.

Secret-of-Mana-Santa-Claus
Remember kids, if you stop believing in Santa he turns into a Frost Gigas, and that would totally ruin Christmas.

Bully was another game I was fond of, and there is a Santa Clause in that game.  This guy is named Rudy, likely a thinly veiled reference to Rudolf, and he just wants some assistance in getting a job as a mall Santa for kids to sit on his lap.  Rudy is a thin, drunk Santa, much like Billy Bob Thornton’s character in one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, so maybe the inherent goodness of this mission is questionable, but his heart was in the right place, bringing Christmas cheer to the local children.

rudy
I would not let my kids sit on this man’s lap.

An unusual source for Christmas merriment is Batman.  1992’s Batman Returns game adaptation takes place around Christmas, which I guess makes sense since that was the setting of the movie.  The game itself has nothing to do with Christmas directly, but the setting does conjure up certain feelings of seasonal affective disorder holiday cheer when you see Christmas trees in the background shop windows while you beat the snot out of those circus clowns with skull masks.  Arkham City gives you an achievement if you visit Calendar Man on holidays, so naturally anyone who likes collecting those useless digital trinkets should visit him in his cell on 12/25 for that, but more importantly, visit the crazy man in his cell to spread some holiday cheer.  It will make him happy, and it will make you happy for doing something decent for someone else.  Calendar man might be looking at a life sentence in Arkham for killing many people, but Christmas time is about love, caring, and togetherness, and not judging him for his bad choices.  Jesus says love all, so Batman is just trying to be a good Christian by taking a few minutes out of roughing up convicts in Arkham City to give a forgotten lonely man a holiday greeting.

calendar-man (1)
His calendar is marked. He knows what’s up with 12/25.

The final part of the trilogy of video game Batman Christmas Cheer is Arkham Origins.  This game was somewhat overlooked, partly because it was made by the Rocksteady B team and partly because it was released weeks prior to the next major console launch.  It may not be as impressive as Asylum or City, it was still quite a good game.  This game takes place on the night of Christmas Eve.  Not only is Gotham decorated for the holiday, but given the whole game takes place that night Batman gets around about as swiftly as Santa.  He solves crimes, takes down super villains, and thwarts the green haired grinch’s attempts to ruin Christmas.  These games demonstrate that there are Christmas themed gaming offerings for those that want to celebrate the holiday with pixels.  There are many more games with Christmas references in them, but I think I have discussed this long enough.  After all, this is the Saints Row IV expansion review intro paragraph, and I haven’t even mentioned it.  Let me try this again and maybe I will actually review the game this time.  New record for me:  1466 word long intro paragraph, none of those words about the actual game.  Merry Christmas to everyone who read this, along with a Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Yule, or anything else you may celebrate that I didn’t mention.  Whatever holiday you celebrate this year, may it be joyful and may 2016 be better than 2015.

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