Chitter Chatter: Hohoho! Merry Gaming!

Santa prefers drinking Coca Cola over working with video game developers.

It is not the holiday season, but whatever! I’ll write an article about the holidays whenever I please.

Video games and holidays go hand and hand, or more specifically, video game publishers and holidays go hand and hand. A lot of the year’s biggest titles, whether they are ready or not, are released late in the year to take advantage of the holiday season. The actual games, on the other hand, usually don’t reference holidays much. Especially these days with all the dark gritty shooters out there, there is little room for the holiday spirit.

When it comes to titles with actual holidays within, Animal Crossing is probably the first title that comes to mind. Unfortunately, outside of Animal Crossing, very few games use the internal clock for special events. The only full retail title that comes to my mind right now is The Simpson Hit and Run. Players set the internal clock of their Xbox, PlayStation 2 or Gamecube to December 25th, or just play the game on the 25th, and they get a special Christmas themed textures.

It’s kind of a surprise to find that a title has a whole extra, or alternate version of, a level you can experience once a year (Although with user set internal clocks, that can be easily abused). It is almost like a little present from the developers to you, and that they care about more than just better mechanics and impressive concepts.

Although in some cases, titles have gotten their own unique releases based off holidays. Probably the most notable is Christmas NiGHTS for the Sega Saturn. Players get to play through special Christmas themed levels. And while the title is dedicated to Christmas, the game actually has a good bit of additional content that unlocks on different holidays. Between the months of November and February, the game even changes the snow on all the levels depending on what time you are playing the game.

Both of these situations are very rare and only appear in a handful of titles. Aside from Animal Crossing, the only other type of game these events are usually present are in MMORPGs, where special events are run during the holidays. The concept fits like a glove for MMOs as players tend to play a single MMO much longer than a normal title. Although more and more titles are offering more than just 10-50 hour play sessions.

It’s kind of a shame that developers don’t make better use of the internal clock in video game platforms. But when it comes down to it, especially day specific events, there is a good chance many players will never find it. And with the huge development budgets of today, every penny is usually going to more important things rather than giving some fans a surprise when they pop the game in on this or that holiday.

The concept is pretty cool and quite underused. It is just probably a matter of figuring out how to make it actually worth the developers time, unless its simply something they create in their free time. Little Big Planet is probably a good example, where players can buy holiday costumes via DLC. While I don’t think it gives the player the feeling of popping in a game on holidays for a surprise, it at least adds some holiday cheer to our gaming experiences.

Hopefully, in the future, we will have more games will that will recognize holidays. Maybe it could even come as a small simple update to a game giving gamers a little bit of a holiday surprise, even if it may be as simple as a equip-able Santa hat with 1 defense.


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