The most high profile Christmas edition of a game has to be The Sims 2 Holiday Edition, a version of the best-selling PC game that bundles the Happy Holiday Stuff expansion pack. Players can set up encounters under the mistletoe, light up a familiar home with holiday bulbs and tinsel, add a Christmas tree to the living room, and tuck the kiddies into Christmas eve pajamas.
A title like Sims 2: Happy Holiday Stuff can stand alone as a full-fledged commercial product. But other holiday titles take the form of promotions more than full games. Several years ago, Sony released a special holiday edition of the irreverent golf game Hot Shots Golf. I picked up a copy at a point-of-purchase display in a video store for $5.
Since The Sims is really the only videogame to represent people's ordinary lives in a variety of circumstances, it's quite easy to add holiday decor, clothes, and even religious items like a Hanukkah menorah. But there's really no reason other games can't do the same, especially as more and more game add-ons appear, both online and at retail.
Videogame worlds are places where we spend a lot of time, and there is something charming and endearing about imagining that the worlds we inhabit and the roles we play in games can also enjoy the glint of holiday cheer, no matter how absurdly incongruous it might be to imagine an in-game Christmas, as in Christmas NiGHTS. Why not a holiday Halo level? Or a view of Christmastime in BioShock's Rapture?
The holidays are not just about cheer, they are also about excess. At Christmastime our guard is down and we are willing to try things for the sake of the holiday spirit rather than for more rational reasons. The Hot Shots Golf holiday offering was pretty limited: three holes of play on a snow-covered version of golf holes from the complete game.
But as Burger King's recent Xbox
promogames suggest, with games reaching over $60 per
title, almost anything is worth $5. And the holiday edition served both
as a title on its own and as a promotion for the rest of the series.
It's an incredible irony that holiday videogames are so rare, given the fact that the industry relies so much on Christmas for its annual sales. As coffee and cookies and movies and ornaments suggest, people like holiday trinkets. While there are a few examples of games that provide the equivalent holiday glimmer, there is certainly room for much more. It's Christmastime. Can't we appreciate the glint of snow and the tinkle of bells in games just as much as the kickback of rifles and the groan of zombies?
[What other Christmas-themed games are out there? Feel free to comment if you have suggestions. Coincidentally, Gamasutra sister site GameSetWatch has just posted a list of seasonally-themed game sections from game designer Steve Gaynor which includes additional titles including Snatcher, Bully, Boogie Wings/The Great Ragtime Show, Hitman Blood Money, Animal Crossing, and Raw Danger.]