It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is already upon us. While some might consider “the holidays” to refer mostly to December, I consider everything from October 1st through New Year to be the holiday season. It’s a fun and festive time of year for pretty much everyone: you get to dress up and party for Halloween, then eat and visit friends or family for Thanksgiving, then bust open gifts for Hanukkah and Christmas, then drink way too much and ring in the new year with spirit on New Year’s Eve (It helps that my birthday is also in there, too)! The holidays are undoubtedly my favorite part of the year, and I don’t think I’m alone in that: they’ve gotten a lot of representation in media, too. Freeform’s 31 Days of Halloween is a must-watch event, and the Hallmark Channel has essentially built its reputation on Christmas movies.
I could go on and on about holiday-themed movies, books, and TV shows, but there seems to be a curious lack of holiday-themed games. It seems like quite an omission: the holidays obviously inspire good will and cheer in a lot of people, yet very little interactive media has taken advantage of those feelings. While games like Overwatch and Apex Legends feature holiday-themed events, the only full game I can think of off the top of my head is Costume Quest, a Halloween-themed RPG from Double Fine that’s mostly aimed at kids. To help fill the holiday-shaped void in gaming, I came up with three festive ideas for future games.
There’s something about Christmas that makes us all feel like kids again. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a game could capture the magic you felt as a kid when you used a website to track Santa, or visited him in the mall and asked for what you wanted? Santa’s Apprentice would capture that same joy. You’re an elf intern at the North Pole helping Santa fulfill his gift quota and making sure the right gift goes to the correct person. You have to assess what each kid wants for Christmas and assemble it out of the toys you have in front of you (If you’ve ever played the flash game Sushi-Go-Round, think of that). After you make the gifts, you have to put the right gift in the right house as Santa flies across the world. Occasionally, you might run into a child who has stayed awake all night to meet Santa, which introduces cozy and nostalgic gift-giving vibes, a la Stardew Valley.
Okay, so it sounds a lot like an arcade game, but the idea is there. It seems odd that there aren’t more indie games out there that build on the fun and magic of being a kid during the holidays, considering it’s an experience that many of us wish we could relive. Maybe it would only be available during December, to highlight the fact that Christmas is a special occasion that only comes once a year. It would be a lot of fun for parents to play with their kids, too – isn’t family bonding what the holidays are all about?
Cooking Mama: Thanksgiving Edition
Am I the only one who remembers Cooking Mama? It was a franchise of cooking games that started on the Nintendo DS. There were a wide variety of recipes that you could make, and you’d have to use the DS stylus to make different motions on the touch screen to put them together. For example, you might chop vegetables, then slice meat, then add seasoning, then stir a pot. The more skillfully you completed the motions, the better the resulting dish would be and the happier the titular Mama would become. It’s something I played as a kid, but I mostly forgot about it… until now.
Cooking Mama: Thanksgiving Edition feels like a no-brainer. There are a ton of different foods that people prepare for Thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, and so on. Cooking all of these on the Switch’s touch screen would be just as fun as the original, but with the added festivity of the season. (Can you imagine trying to virtually deep-fry a turkey?) You could even add a career mode to it, where Mama is working for a restaurant like Honeybaked Ham that handles holiday orders. Maybe if you do well enough, you get to watch a gigantic balloon shaped like Mama float through the Macy’s parade.
Is anyone else hungry now?
Horror is traditionally the domain of Halloween. There are plenty of horror games you could play to celebrate the season, like Resident Evil or Dead Space. (Heck, I consider the original Half-Life to be a horror game.) If you’re not a big fan of horror or thrillers, though, there’s not much else out there that sticks to the spooky themes of the season. Enter: Not-So-Scary Halloween, named after Disney World’s yearly celebration. It would be a visual novel where you could meet and interact with characters who are typically considered monsters, like werewolves, vampires, and zombies. The twist is that you’re not trying to kill them; instead, you’re trying to befriend them.
Not-So-Scary Halloween could be a way to show that even when we bring monsters into play, we’re all more alike than we are different. It sounds saccharine and trite, but bear with me for a minute. It would include the cozy vibes of Animal Crossing, where you explore a town during the height of the season and befriend the townspeople. Everyone thinks that the monsters are just humans in really great Halloween costumes, but nope, they’re actually monsters. They’re just trying to live their lives like everyone else…albeit while getting the blood or raw meat that they need. Not-So-Scary Halloween would bring all the fun and festivity of the season while letting players experience a story that’s not scary in the least.
There are plenty of ways to make the holidays into good games. While these ideas are pretty one-sided, the potential is there for some very festive experiences. The holidays are something that bring many of us comfort, hope, and joy, so why not meld those feelings into our favorite hobby? Perhaps one day we’ll see a big release that features a holiday setting, but for now, we can only dream (and eat plenty of candy).