When I was growing up I could always count on at least one of my holiday gifts being a video game. From seemingly simple grayscale games all the way up to today's modern 3D wonders, there's nothing quite like the excitement of unwrapping a familiar box-shaped present. There's that moment of uncertainty in which I hope that whomever gave me the gift followed my wish list suggestions, lest I have to face some horrible game and put on a happy 'Wow, thank you!' act. Some of my favorite holiday memories involve video games, and on the occasion of Christmas Eve I find myself reminiscing about the games of holidays gone by...
The first time I was given a video game for the holidays was 1989 when my parents gave me a Nintendo Game Boy. Packed together with Tetris and wrapped alongside Super Mario Land, I spent many hours after that maneuvering falling blocks and jumping on space aliens. Combined with the Game Boy Battery Pak I'd sit on the family couch under the good light and both play my games while listening to the television. Because of their inexpensive nature (comparatively) my grandparents, aunts, and uncles were fond of giving me Game Boy games as holiday gifts. Over the years I was given titles such as Dr. Mario, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, The Castlevania Adventure, Earthworm Jim, Mega Man V, and Home Alone.
When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was released in 1991 I was consumed with owning one. I just had to have it, as I had to have Super Mario World. I'd spend my time when my parents were running errands at K-Mart by playing the demo unit over and over again, and when the time finally came to give me my presents that year my parents started by presenting me with Sim City and Pilotwings for the Super NES. It was a nice gesture, but hadn't my parents understood that I needed the new console in order to play these games? Just then my parents "remembered" that there was one more box for me, and unwrapping it revealed the new system. The rest of holiday break from elementary school was spent glued to the television for Mario's latest and greatest adventures. Other games followed over the years, such as Mario Paint, all three Donkey Kong Country titles, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and the underrated Aero the Acrobat.
1996 was an unusual year, as I became terribly ill near the end of the year and was unable to eat anything for several months. I'd spent a little time with a rented Nintendo 64 in mid-October, but at this point my parents had decided that I'd spent too much time and money with video games and that I should be focusing on other things. If I wanted any more games, I'd have to buy them myself. With the illness though I wasn't able to leave the house (let alone earn my own money), and facing a long recovery indoors I found a Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 wrapped up for me before too long. Games did begin to take a backseat to finishing high school and moving on to the university at this time and my left, and the N64-related gifts were few and far between, including only Diddy Kong Racing in 1997.
Now grown and independent, that holiday magic is gone and any mystery of which of those wrapped boxes is for me is pushed into my memories. The last gaming gifts I received came in 2002 with Star Fox Adventures and Sonic Mega Collection for the Nintendo GameCube. As an adult if I want a game I just go buy it, but there's something to be said on relying on gifts to bring new gaming goodness. For a split second before a gift is unwrapped that gift is simultaneously every game I want. It's the mystery and the suspense that makes it all so exciting. I miss that sometimes, but then I remind myself that the excitement will be back someday when I have my own children and grandchildren. The experience will pass to them, and they too will know the magic of unwrapping a smiling Super Mario.
Mom, Dad, Granny, Pops, and the rest of the family: thank you for all of the wonderful memories and all of the wonderful games.