Gaming Togetherness for the Holidays
By Katie Swezey
The Season of Giving and Gaming
Once the clock strikes midnight on December 1st, the whole world seems to transform. Our calendars are suddenly overflowing with a multitude of festive parties to attend. Holiday advertisements begin to bombard us more than ever, reminding us that it is high time we get out there and find the perfect gift for everyone in our life. There are delicious treats that are demanding to be baked, and consumed. Amidst the hustle and bustle, time gets lost in wrapping paper, glittery ribbons, Hanukkah gelt, or peppermint-flavored sugar. Togetherness is a word that gets thrown around during the month of December like snowballs on the first snow day of the year. Yet, it is so very easy to forget to slow down and really savor that intentional time with all of our loved ones.
One of my favorite ways of slowing down and enjoying time with my friends and family during this time of year is by playing video games. Games have a truly uncanny ability of bringing people together, and can be a surprisingly beautiful bonding experience. It’s easy to become closer to the people you play a complicated video game with because you are sharing a common interest and a common goal. Even when those games are competitive in nature, you are still sharing in the desire to win!
“…Holiday traditions growing up centered around playing video games as a family”
I have seen plenty of examples of this joyous activity bringing people together for the holiday season. One of my dear friends shared with me that one of her cherished holiday traditions growing up centered around playing video games as a family. The grown-ups would move their household computer into the living room and hook up the monitor up to the television so the kids could have a better look. Then, the family would gather around as the patriarch would play the games according to the instructions of his children. They did this every year! As for me, during Christmas of 2020, when I couldn’t travel home for the holiday, my five roommates and I stayed up late for several consecutive nights playing Until Dawn. It’s one of the best memories I have with them, and one of my favorite holiday memories as well. It’s become a tradition amongst those friends and I, when that company releases a new game, we will still all gather around and play it together. However, the best example I have of the way that video games, and games in general, can bring people together in my own life is with my best friend since childhood.
How Video Games Gave Me My Best Friend
I had a pretty hard time making friends when I was little. I was the youngest child of five, born to older parents, and I struggled to relate to kids my own age. Therefore I spent a lot more time with my nose in a good book than I did socializing. When I was around ten years old, I discovered the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series, and swiftly developed an admiration for the spunky amateur detective. So much so, that when I realized there were computer games starring Nancy, I begged my mom to buy some for me. I received my first Nancy Drew games (Danger by Design, The Creature of Kapu Cave, and Legend of the Crystal Skull) that November. I had absolutely no idea at the time how these three little mysteries were going to impact my life. A few weeks after receiving these games, I noticed that another girl in my class, Sofia, was reading the Girl Detective books, too.
I remember how excited I was to tell her about the games I had. We quickly planned a sleepover around being able to play them together. The evening finally came and the stage was set. It was dark, and snowy outside. The house was quiet. We popped in Legend of the Crystal Skull and began to play. If you have had the pleasure of playing this game, you know that within the first ten minutes of game play, there is a jump scare. A skeleton-man pops up out of the darkness onscreen and blows a mysterious powder into Nancy’s face. Maybe it doesn’t sound that startling to a seasoned mystery fan such as yourself, but for a ten year old it was certainly bone-chilling! Sofia and I both screamed at the top of our lungs, waking up my father from a deep slumber (a tradition that would carry on every time we played a Nancy Drew game from then on), and fell out of our chairs. Near-death experiences like that are known for cementing friendships, and this was no different.
“Near-death experiences are known for cementing friendships, and this was no different”
We soon started trading the original yellow Nancy Drew books back and forth and having constant sleepovers so we could finish Crystal Skull. It took us a little less than a year to finish that one. My mom even deleted our game half way through and we made time to start all over again! After that, we made sure to keep case notes in a very fancy note book that we affectionately dubbed “The Book of Knowledge,” and still use today. With each sleepover, Nancy-based inside joke, and late night spent solving crimes together, we became sisters. She was my maid of honor when I got married in 2018, and I had the privilege of being one of her bridesmaids in the summer of 2021. She is the George to my Nancy, and I won’t play those games with anyone else.
“With each sleepover, Nancy-based inside joke, and late night solving crimes together, we became sisters”
Memories Old and New
Now that we are grown-ups, and no longer have the luxury of living close together, our Nancy Drew game time (or, as we lovingly refer to it, our “Nancing” time), is not as frequent as we’d both like. Yet, every holiday that I get to go home, the two of us still make time to spend playing the games that cemented our friendship as permanent. We rejoiced together when Midnight in Salem came out just in time for a visit, and stayed up all night playing it, complete with Koko Kringle bars. Last Christmas we even solved a Nancy Drew murder mystery in a box! Who would have thought that a game would end up enriching my life in such a profound way? It’s impossible for me to think about the spunky detective without thinking of my best friend and the sisterhood we created through mysteries.
The first time we tried a Koko Kringle
In a world that has become increasingly uncertain and full of anxiety, games remain constant. That constancy, paired with the nostalgia of the holiday season is the perfect breeding ground for the joy of connection. In between all of the festive parties, the shopping, and the baking this season, my hope is that you remember to slow down. I hope that you take a moment to access your love of play. Who knows? You might even create a friend for life.
What a fabulous way to create memories!
I agree! Definitely a tradition that can be fun and engaging for everyone! -Brighella
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