Gamasutra is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
Persuasive Games: The Holly and the Ivy
arrowPress Releases
July 6, 2022
Games Press
View All     RSS
If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:


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

Related Jobs

Skydance — Remote, California, United States

Senior World Artist
Skydance — Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, United States

Game Producer - Game Team
Robotic Arm Software
Robotic Arm Software — Buffalo Grove, Illinois, United States

Tools Engineer
Skydance — Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, United States

Senior Game Producer - Game Team

Loading Comments

loader image