Home for the Holidays
By: Laura Collins (Blu3Rizing)
Going home for the holidays tends to get harder when there are absent family members that should still be around. I’ve found that over recent years, I tend to use games less as an escape and more because it makes me feel closer to my Dad and other lost family members and gives some amount of comfort in his absence and theirs.
At most family gatherings, I might be playing Fire Emblem or Stardew Valley or any other number of my comfort games, but part of my heart is still in my Uncle Johnnie’s lap at two or three years old, learning how to use a joystick to play the first Duke Nukem on his PC.
Part of it is with my Uncle George as he introduced my middle brother and me to the Sega Genesis, teaching us the joys that were Castlevania, Sonic, Shadowrun, and some asteroid game that I was beyond terrible at. Later on, our uncle upgraded systems and gifted us the Genesis for Christmas, and even now, it’s one of the most treasured and remembered gifts I can remember receiving.
Part of my heart still lives in the store with my Dad when he bought me my first controller that was all my own. One of my brothers damaged one of our controllers, and I had a moderate obsession with Shadowrun and desperately needed to play, leading this to be the first game I ever beat. There are not enough words in the English language to convey how excited I was that my new controller had six buttons, whereas the ones gifted with the system only had three.
Another part of my heart is still sitting on the floor in front of the box tv we kept in the living room, playing countless hours of Double Dragon with my Dad or trying to figure out how on earth he managed to land the plane perfectly every time in Top Gun when I could only manage to do so one out dozens of tries on the best of days.
Growing up, the holidays tended to be extra stressful because home for the holidays meant all of our extended family coming to our house, usually accompanied by an argument of some sort about how my parents were doing things they wanted to be done differently or some other trivial thing that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. My brother and I escaped this, too, thanks to the joy that was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and with Pokemon Blue on his first GameBoy Color, with the single save file that he was all too willing to share. Despite the sibling rivalry at that age, we somehow still managed to get along during these holiday events, even with the turmoil that surrounded us, thanks mostly to video games.
Especially these days, no one can dispute the very obvious age and generational gap between my siblings and myself and our mother. She grew up before cell phones and the Internet, before smartphones and smart devices or handheld consoles. The family’s first gaming system was an original Nintendo gifted to her by my Dad, and we found no issues bonding over taking turns with Super Mario Brothers 1 and 3 or in Duck Hunt with the original Nintendo gun and formed some of my first and fondest memories of spending time with her. I remember spending hours watching her traverse the puzzles of Zelda or Milon’s Secret Castle.
Things changed as we got older, and she drifted away from video games. She and I didn’t always see eye to eye on most things; sometimes, it felt like nothing at all if I’m being honest about the matter. The differences became much more severe after the loss of our Dad, and my brothers and I turned towards video games, eager for the escape and distraction from the reality of the deep and sudden loss. It became harder to bond with her with less and less common ground, but going home for the holidays is always a bit different.
Sharing incredibly similar tastes in video games, at least one of my brothers and I tend to show up with the same game; usually some version of Pokemon that’s just released, and she will watch us while giving them silly and ridiculous names like Waddle-duck or Squiggle-ghost. For a while, at least, the pain of the past is left behind, video games being the glue that bonds us and our memories together. For a while, at least, we are all truly home for the holidays.