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Persuasive Games: The Holly and the Ivy

December 20, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

[Ian Bogost's latest 'Persuasive Games' column takes a seasonal twist, as he examines the history of holiday-related themes in games - from Christmas NiGHTS through Sims 2 expansions - and suggests that the industry should produce more Christmas games.]

It's the time of year to find Christmas all around you, no matter where you go. Lights on neighborhood shrubbery. Red bows on downtown streetlamps. Christmas music on the FM dial. Pine-scented candles on the mantle. Gingerbread lattes at Starbucks. Red and green-wrapped versions of the consumer goods you buy the rest of the year in brown and puce. In my house, holiday-striped boxes of peppermint-flavored candy cane cookies are all the rage. Some are savory, some are gimmicky, but there's no denying that these products put people in the holiday spirit.

In addition to all the holiday-themed packaged goods and decorations, all the various media industries take advantage of the holidays. Film studios produce well-timed, if sometimes shoddy, holiday dramas and romantic comedies. Music labels release holiday albums and singles. Book publishers ship holiday cookbooks and novels. Television broadcasters release another year of kids' holiday specials.

Are there holiday-themed videogames? A few, but it's not a popular trend. Let's take a look at some of the ways videogames embrace the holiday spirit.

Winter Levels

A common convention of action-adventure games is the winter level (or the snow level, or the ice level). Super Mario Bros. 2 and its kindred often feature such levels, where the characters slip and slide around, making ordinary platforming tasks like avoiding pits much more difficult. Snow falls, bells jingle, and a general sense of wintriness abounds.

Super Mario Bros. 2 was one of many games that had players slipping about on ice.

Not all such levels treat the holidays directly, but some do. One is Freezeezy Peak from Rare's 1998 Nintendo 64 title Banjo Kazooie. In addition to the usual snow and ice, the level featured wrapped gifts and holiday music. Among the many tasks to complete in this level, the player can help reunite a lost polar bear family for the holidays.

Of course, the winter level is only one of many themed levels in games like this. In Banjo Kazooie, it's necessary to get through the pirate, underwater, and swamp levels before reaching Freezeezy Peak. And nobody advertises a new adventure game for the holidays by highlighting its wintery level, although one can imagine that such a highlight might move the needle at Christmastime.

Nevertheless, owners of games like this might choose to pull them out again in December. Of course, a game like Animal Crossing with its real-time clock actually allows the player to celebrate Christmas in the game world after tearing open presents and engorging on game bird in the real world.

Winter Sports

Just as winter levels can add to the holidays, winter sports games can do the same. When the Winter Olympics come around every four years, they don't do so until February, so new ice skating and bobsledding games are rarely found at Christmastime. But a match in the latest edition of NHL, or a run down the slopes in SSX can help set the holiday mood just as much as making plumbers slide around on icy summits.

One can set up a snowy game in Madden anytime -- but the sports game most conducive to the holiday season might be the NCAA Football series, thanks to its many bowl games. As the wrappings of gifts and the drippings of turkey fade, anticipating or replaying a favorite college matchup can certainly feel timely.

Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Jose Pablo Zagal
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Planet Moon Studios' PSP game Infected was released in mid-november and takes place 3 weeks before Christmas. While shooting Santa Zombies is arguably a part of the Christmas spirit, the game does comment on the mindlessness of the season's drive to buy, buy, and buy some more. This game is arguably one of the better christmas-themed games out there. :-)

Scott Galloway
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I am not sure if it can be classified as holiday promotional or not but in the world of MMOs there are often winter or holliday events. Durring these times there is an increase (in my experiance) of gamers durring the duration of the event. this could mean higher subscription renewals as well as new player base given that many MMOs have trial subscriptions to these games durring said events.

An example of one of these holiday events is in the game that I perfer to play: NC Soft's City of Heroes (and City of Villains) durring the annual winter event there are a multitude of christmas activities available to the player.

A ski chalete opens up and is esentialy a new holiday only zone. you can ski down the mountain (by means of sliding) and by skiing through gates you can gain badges for making a ski run under a certain amount of time. There are also missions you can do to save "Baby New Year" so that father time can become young again. Christmas presents are littered in every zone and upon opening them you can recieve all manor of goodies if you are good or if you are bad you get a spawn of snow monsters.

With holiday temporary powers such as snow balls and badges and costume pieces, games like City of Heroes are very holiday minded and contribute greatly to the holiday spirit of game players.

Lorenzo Wang
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I find it refreshing that games do not have to rename their Christmas themes to "Holiday" themes. Either the "marginalized" masses haven't complained yet, or maybe games just provide truely democratic niches. :D

joel reed parker
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Nintendo handhelds are really where it's at for games based on Christmas. Couple of Grinch games, Elf, Santa Claus 3, Polar Express, Santa Claus Jr...

There are two Christmas themed versions of Outlaw Golf on the Xbox: 9 Holes Of X-Mas and 9 More Holes Of X-Mas.

I just finished playing through The Polar Express game for the Gamecube and I'm convinced that the game cannot be fully completed. If anyone knows where the last three pieces of the Teddy Bear are on the sorting room level are, I'll keep your secret shame...if you share it with me.

weysy wysy
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weysy wysy
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Dizi İzle

weysy wysy
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