Uh oh. Irresistible mirth is settling in. Christmas Day is almost here.
I’m a child when it comes to Christmas, truth be told. I love Christmas unconditionally. I love gladness, goodness, kindness, smiling at strangers, getting together with family, the lights, the carols and singing, the gift giving, the movies, the warmth, the letters, the lore. I’m the dude who wakes up his whole family on Christmas Day because it’s friggin’ Christmas. I have been binge watching as many Christmas movies as chronologically possible and essentially they’re all just about not being a jerk to other people and being happier for it. Well, except for Gremlins. I think that’s just about these Chinese monsters that enjoy Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
But what is Christmas itself about? Actually quite a few movies wrestle with that very question and many of us growing older experience a kind of the dulling of the magic, as it were. How you celebrate and if you celebrate at all is entirely up to you (the wonderful thing about freedom of and freedom from religion), so what Christmas means to you may vary from what it means to someone else. I think we can identify commonalities (at least among those who don’t outright hate the holiday) such as joy.
But what is joy? What is delight? What is that feeling of lightness and exhilaration? What is that exuberance which filled aged Ebenezer when he awoke in his own bed and his own body that Christmas morning after the three spirits? It’s life.
As I was driving earlier I thought about these things, and then I also thought about a conversation I had this week with our own Evergreen Sage Mage (who I can fortunately report has not been uprooted and turned into a Christmas tree). In our conversation, the question came up: What are games? As I kept reflecting, I thought on what are games about? Suddenly it clicked. I mean two different subjects clicked in my head: Christmas and games.
Yes of course games don’t celebrate the incarnation, nor are they secularized into giving gifts in the wintertime, but both Christmas and video games are similar. They are about bringing people joy. In trying to pin down what exactly video games are, what they’re meant to do and what they are not (just as important), I thought more so than the games as art discussion or the subject of interactivity or the comparison between games and other creative works like film and literature, the word that speaks most fundamentally to the essence of video games was said by the late, great Satoru Iwata:
“Above all, video games are meant to be just one thing: fun for everyone.”
Couched in spiritual and cultural language, these words were ascribed to an emissary from the host of heaven:
“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Video games and Christmas, generally speaking the same, though not of course in terms of the details which are vastly different.
My point however is this. Behind all of the talk we do around here in analyzing video games, breaking them down into identifiable parts and then examining them like bugs under a microscope, in all of the longwindedness and the critiquing, games are still fun. Being a critic doesn’t mean I suddenly start treating games like cold, unfeeling science, or that I should, or even that writing about them becomes another tedious job (though there is that pitfall to avoid). I don’t want to be one of those aloof or angry video game reviewers…
If I start forcing myself to play video games in order to get some reviews done, then that’s likely going to be the fastest route to sucking the joy right out of them. In the same sense, if you treat Christmas like a checklist or something you have to endure, then yeah it’s going to be pretty joyless. That’s been my experience in some years in my past but right now I’m about as holly jolly as anyone can get for everything that there is to celebrate in life.
Yesterday I attended the memorial service and burial of a young man and good friend who was so full of excitement and joy for life. Life is too short to be joyless. It’s too short to not pour into the relationships that mean something to us and spend real time with the people we care about. If wisdom is in the house of mourning, then that’s what hit home for me as we gathered to remember his life, and I fully expect to take that with me into this holiday.
So however you prefer it, this Red Mage wishes you all the joy you can stomach.
Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.