While the evolution of the video game industry has made most things more convenient rather than less, one writer has an issue with digital content during the holiday season.
The digital age in video games has been, by and large, a wonderful evolution with regards to the way we buy and access the games we want to play. The Steam Winter Sale, for instance, has become something of an annual tradition for PC gamers who both celebrate their ever-growing games library and mourn the devastation wrought upon their wallets. Savvy console gamers know that Boxing Day can often yield some sweet online deals from websites like Amazon, and that instead of braving winter weather to wait outside a local retailer at some unholy time of morning they only need to have a laptop and an alarm clock to ensure the game isn’t out of stock.
Of course, even though gamers are saving some of their hard-earned cash, these deals inevitably come at a price. I, the writer, sound of mind, declare that the digital age of video games has ruined Christmas.
Before I elaborate, though, it’s important to juxtapose what a typical holiday season for a gamer now looks like when compared to those of ten or twenty years ago. Today, fans of all genres can wake up, roll out of bed, migrate towards their presents for the holidays and instead of a plethora of small rectangular boxes being scattered throughout the house there is a neatly stacked pile of envelopes, each addressed to the gamer in question. It’s obvious what these are. Cash for games that parents or friends didn’t trust themselves to buy for fear of purchasing the wrong one. Gift cards towards Steam or Amazon to make the gesture seem a bit more personal. Download codes for specific games, for those gift-givers confident they know exactly what someone wants.
Sure, the whole process saves a lot of time unwrapping gifts and probably benefits the environment to some extent. It’s just so much more boring than it used to be, though. I remember waking up at age ten and seeing the usual assortment of big and small boxes, desperately hoping that the big ones were Bat Caves or consoles and the small ones were video games. There were countless times I chose one of the smaller rectangular boxes, assessed its weight, became confident it was going to be a brand new video game to play and instead unwrapped a nice box of wooly socks my aunt had purchased for me while she was on vacation in some exotic European company the year prior. They even had the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, or ‘Insert National Landmark Here’ stitched into them. It took years before I learned that the blame for my lack of Christmas gaming lay with my aunt and not the European Union.
But those moments just made the ones where an actual video game got unwrapped so much better. I can vividly recall the exact moment I first laid eyes on my very own copy of Final Fantasy 9, the game that started me on my path toward RPG obsession. It was not just a moment where I got what I wanted, but a moment of triumph – I had won. The socks had lost. Christmas was saved.
Now, though, when I meet with my friends for our annual gift exchange, everybody shows up with the same red or green envelopes. It just makes sense, from a practical standpoint. Why gift one game when a gift card often means two for the same price at a later date? Even if we were going to buy each other a game, it’s often just cheaper and easier to get a digital download code rather than a physical copy. Everything goes in that same envelope. There are even collector’s editions of titles that are wholly digital, managing to capture the essence of exclusivity without any of the physical content that can get displayed on shelves to be stared at by jealous fans.
No more. I’ve had it with the impersonal feeling of just exchanging envelopes with the gamers I’m closest to. This holiday season, I went out of my way to personalize the way in which I gifted these Steam cards and digital download codes. Once I started looking for ways to personalize gifts, it became a matter of which ones were the most interesting, rather than which were simply possible in the first place. One of my friends was gutted the Fallout 4 Pip Boy Edition sold out, so I got to work 3D printing a Pip Boy instead. Of course, those options were expensive, so I tried to do it myself, and I’m sure that friend will understand that it’s the thought that counts when he gets his strangely boxy (and somewhat ugly) Pip Boy to accompany his digital copy of Fallout 4.
The point is, gift-giving isn’t at its best unless the person receiving the gift isn’t one-hundred percent sure they’re getting what they asked for. Gamers especially seem to have a passion for the unknown that likely stems from our collective experiences exploring ancient burial sites in Tomb Raider or unraveling the intricacies of a mysterious evil threat in games like The Witcher 3 or Xenoblade Chronicles X. It’s up to us to recapture that magic when we give gifts to the ones we love, and although the digital age has made it a bit more difficult to maintain the sense of secrecy and excitement regarding game-related gifts than generations past, it’s certainly not an impossible task. After all, the holidays just wouldn’t be the holidays without the looming threat of boxes of socks, and I don’t think I’d be embracing the spirit of the season if I wasn’t passing along that fear to all of my gaming friends and family along the way.
The digital age, for all of the good it has done the gaming community, has started to suck the joy out of the holidays and made it more about getting the best deal rather than having the most fun. Like the many protagonists we have played as throughout our relationship with video games, it is now the community’s job to reclaim what’s been lost and start making gift giving fun again.
How do you feel about getting download codes and gift cards as presents? Do you prefer a personal touch, or are you okay with gift cards because they offer you the freedom to get exactly what you want? Sound off in the comments below, and happy holidays from Game Rant!