What Christmas Means To Gamers, And Why Its Our Favourite Holiday.

Nativity image by pikisuperstar on Freepik

Memories.

For many Western gamers, Christmas was when they received their first consoles or favourite games, played late into the night and ate far too many seasonal treats.

One of my favourite holiday pastimes is checking r/gaming for the stories people share about their Christmas presents, past and present.

As a child, from September onwards, I was filled with anticipation the eagerness for the coming Christmas season, knowing that on Christmas morning, I would be getting new games and taking my first steps into new and magical worlds.

And it was with all this in mind, that I discovered that gamer culture, video games, and the Christmas Story are intertwined almost perfectly in ways that few would believe.

Anticipation.

Every game is a journey, and from the moment I inserted each cartridge or disc, I knew that I was about to undertake a great journey, just as the characters in those games were about to have their lives changed forever in unimaginable ways, heroes would become villains, and villains would find redemption.

Legends would be retold, and new legends made; I can remember my excitement of reading and rereading every manual, waiting to play once breakfast was over (which was sometimes turkey & stuffing sandwiches!), I knew that by day’s end, I would have explored parts of a new world, and my life would be richer for it in some small way.

The protagonists of those games (if they could feel as we do) would have felt anticipation for what was to come, from epic battles against dark lords to slightly less intense but no less epic battles against Marvin the Martian; the journey ahead would change the lives of each protagonist in ways that would ensure their lives would never be the same.

What Christmas Means To Gamers And Why Its Our Favourite Holiday

Image credit: Taz in Escape From Mars – Published and developed by SEGA.

Now, I know you are thinking, how does this tie into Christmas beyond the day I and many would start our video game adventures? I will explain.

By the time of the first Christmas, the world had toiled under a curse for almost 4000 years; the enemy of all that was good, a fallen angel called by the name of Lucifer, had deceived man into surrendering their demi-god power and authority, and mankind now toils under that curse.

It had been hundreds of years since the last prophet spoke forth wisdom, and while a shell of religion remained, the spark of light and hope that they once shared with the world had long ago grown cold.

It was into this cold and hopeless world that Jesus came; can you imagine the world rejoicing? After such a long wait, the creator had returned and would once more walk upon the earth.

We know from multiple biblical and secular accounts that the world shook violently, and the sky turned pitch dark when Christ died; even the Roman centurion by the cross trembled with fear as the warrior king breathed his last, declaring in terror and awe that “Truly this was the Son of God”.

If a world can tremor and grieve, it can rejoice, and can you imagine how it rejoiced at the moment of his birth?

With a blazing star in the sky and a chorus of angels, the birth of the saviour was declared to humble shepherds and wizard kings from the far East would follow a star to find the promised king, while forces of evil would seek to destroy the infant saviour.

What a story! What a tale! Legend and myth becoming flesh and blood, prophecy fulfilled, but the story was only just beginning, and so is our comparison,

What Christmas Means To Gamers And Why Its Our Favourite Holiday

Image credit: The Nativity Story – Distributed by New Line Cinema.

Sacrifice.

My parents, like most parents, did everything they could to shelter me from the dire financial straights we were in for much of my childhood due to my father’s long period of unemployment followed by a minimum wage job when no better job could be found; however, I was a rather perceptive (or nosy) child. I knew all too well what a huge sacrifice every present under our Christmas tree was for them.

I knew my father did without filling food at work and, at times, ate just bread and butter for his lunch; I knew he would walk to and from work in the snow, pouring rain, and, at times, blazing heat; I knew that my mother only wore second-hand clothes and shoes as she struggled to make every penny count, that she cried when her simple hair clips broke, frustrated she could not afford more.

I recall with anguish knowing she almost broke down crying in the store after my sister stole a few coins from her purse, and she couldn’t even afford to buy milk and bread for her children.

While I never had the abundance of gifts and brand new video game consoles/games that my cousins had, each and every gift lovingly wrapped by my parents carried so much emotional weight that even now, over 30 years later, my eyes fill with tears of gratitude at their memory.

While those years are long behind us, and my family are now very comfortable, I will never forget the sacrifices made during this time, as sacrifice is central to the human experience, some of the very best game narratives are built upon it; nothing compares to heroes laying down their lives to save their friends, and humanity craves to feel the burning passion of selfless sacrifice, as this desire is built into our very DNA, an unquenchable thirst for redemption, to be cherished, to be saved from the darkness within ourselves.

This is the message of Christmas, that God in all his perfection, beyond time and space, would care about us, a fallen and failed creation, who destroy one another and our world without mercy or restraint, and that he would act upon this love by sending his only son Jesus Christ to die on behalf of the very people who would demand his death.

Some have asked why didn’t God come himself, and to that, I answer that they have never been a parent, or at least they have never been a good one, for it is much harder to allow someone you love to suffer than to suffer yourself, something that soviet interrogators in the Cold War knew all too well, often torturing the children of political prisoners to ensure compliance and force confession.

When God the Father gave Jesus, he made the largest sacrifice that could be made; he gave his heart in all of its fullness so that his creation could find their way back to him and that Jesus, when he was lifted up on a cross, would become a beacon for all men to follow back to the Father.

What Christmas Means To Gamers And Why Its Our Favourite Holiday

Image credit: The Passion of Christ – Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

R-Rated Faith.

I know some people may not understand the magnitude of what I am saying; two millennia of paintings of a milquetoast white guy with blue eyes on a cross with a few streaks of red does not even come close to capturing the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the perfect union of God and Man, equal parts divine and mortal, a man who was tortured beyond the point of recognition as was prophesied over 800 years before he was born in Isaiah 52:14

Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness— - Isaiah 52:14

If a realistic presentation of the death of Jesus Christ were to be in a video game, it would be R-rated at the very least and likely banned in many countries due to the extreme violence and sadism on display. Yet, this man, beaten beyond recognition and bleeding out on a cross, had the strength to say…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” - Luke 23:34

That is the mark of a true warrior whose passion and example are worth following; until the end, Jesus retained his humanity and divinity, even as the forces of darkness closed around him.

And yet, death was not to be the end for our hero, for the princes of darkness had no claim over his perfect soul. As the sun rose on the third day, in the confines of the grave, Jesus returned to life, God and Man reconciled, and the way laid open for all those who believed in him to pass from death unto life.

What Christmas Means To Gamers And Why Its Our Favourite Holiday

Original Image credit: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory – Paramount Pictures.

When Did We Become the Baddies?

I know what you are thinking, “I heard this before”, and you probably have heard the story but not the message of Christ, as sadly, his words are seldom taught even in the largest churches, and that is how we end up with waking nightmares such Donald Trump becoming president and Christians fighting to stop welfare, immigration, free and accessible healthcare and prison reform.

If Christians acted like Christ, then the world would have no excuse not to follow him; however, as things stand, I feel heartfelt grief for those who do not know him and guilt in knowing that I, too, spent decades of my life following and evangelising a fictional Jesus created by American evangelical ministers, instead of the very real Jesus who taught a gospel that is unlike anything the church teaches today.

When was the last time you heard American mega-church ministers tell their congregation that Jesus expects them to love, pray for and bless their enemies, give freely to the poor, open their arms wide to immigrants, fight against oppression, stand up for the oppressed, and live their life as one that honours God, and loves mankind?

That message doesn’t fill their coffers or elect politicians who will serve their interests at the expense of others, and for that, they will be judged unless they sincerely repent of their hypocrisy.

If you want to see what Jesus said about various topics, you can check out Disciples of Christ, a website run by my family.

In Closing.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and your stockings are full of every game and console you added to your Christmas list; yet more than all, I hope this Christmas, you come to know the real Jesus, a powerful warrior who, by his life, death and resurrection made way for a perfect God to be reconciled to fallen humanity.

With that in mind, I wish you a Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year.

“Christus venit et mundus laetatur” – Christ has come and the world is glad.