Christmage Day 21: “The Ghost of Christmas Past”

BBMage “The following is a contributor post by the Badly Backlogged Mage.”

For my Christmas gaming memory, I want to talk about the other 364 days of the year.  The “un-Christmas” if you will – and what those days meant to a little gamer in the pre-internet days.


You see, while each year has only one Christmas…

Christmas is a special time of year – families, Christmas trees, standing in 40 degree heat while some idiot sings “White Christmas”…but each year it came with a wonderful, and terrible, choice. One so significant that you’d be forced to live with it for a whole year (or at least until your next birthday). Namely:

What game do I want for Christmas?

This was a big deal. This is gaming in the pre-Humble Bundle era. There are no Steam Sales, no GOG Giveaways, and certainly no endless supply of cheap games on the iTunes Store. Heck, there weren’t even second-hand game stores (at least where I lived). You got two new games each year – Birthday and Christmas – and that’s it.

So with no Metacritic or awesome websites like this one to help, what was a boy to do?


The answer – gather every scrap of gaming news you can.

I would walk into every gaming store any chance I got, chat to any gamers I came across, read any precious bits of actual intel from real-life gaming magazines and try like hell to sort the disparate pieces of information into the four basic news-types: truth, half-truth, tall-tale, fairy-tale.

This was sometimes harder to do than you’d think – I once asked my Dad for a copy of “Mario 4” from his business trip, because someone told me it had been released in Japan. It hadn’t of course, but how was I to know??

When I reflect on my choices, some were definitely better than others: Wasteland, Battletoads, and the original Metal Gear (NES) were all top choices. B.O.B, Taz-Mania and Spy vs Spy were less so.


The REAL Metal Gear

But the sheer amount of effort that I put into selecting these games, not to mention the many months of build-up between each purchase, gave each game a weight and significance that simply doesn’t exist anymore. And of course, it gave you an incentive to not only get a wide range of genres, but to never dismiss a game too quickly, unless it was really awful.


One of the few games I found unplayable.  I was so heartbroken, it’s my most memorable game that I barely played (ironically, I’d probably enjoy it today)

At the end of the day, I was very proud of my gaming collection. I can probably still recite the bulk of it off by heart. But I couldn’t tell you the name of the last game I bought, and on some level I don’t really care. The last game I bought sits on a virtual shelf in my GOG library; collecting virtual dust until some point in the next decade when I actually play it.

But ripping the Christmas paper off a brand new box, the anticipation of wondering “Did I get it right?? Is it any good???” – that stays with you.

I would never go back, of course. There are many benefits to the new world – “Ludus Florentis”, not only in gaming quantity but also in quality and depth.

But for everything we gain, we lose something.

The Christmas Games of Past are gone.  I, for one, will remember them.





The Badly Backlogged Mage courageously fights a rearguard action against his unfortunate spending habits. You can follow his crusade at https://mrbacklog.wordpress.com/ 


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Categories: Celebratory

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2 replies »

  1. This is so, so true! We didn’t have many games as a kid yet my brother and I played the ones we did have to death, those Mega Drive and Master System carts got some abuse, as did the controller’s! And if you wanted a new one. Wait til Christmas or your birthday! Things were so much more physical back then!


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