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Bits & Bites: Cheer

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Bits & Bytes is a weekly column where Editor-in-Chief Robert shares his thoughts about video games and the industry on a lazy Sunday. Light reading for a day of rest, Bits & Bytes is short, to the point, and something to read with a nice drink.

We are officially in the thick of the holidays. Christmas is exactly 20 days away as I type this. My neighborhood is full of houses covered in lights and decorations. Downtown, the local Christmas tree is decked out with lights and giant nutcrackers adorn the streets. This is the time of year when many cities and towns around the country take on their most picturesque, festive forms. Let’s face it, though—for gamers, Christmas time is all about staying indoors and playing.

The holidays for us Nintendo fanatics are consumed by looking forward to new games and consoles. Like many of you reading this, the wait until Christmas as a kid meant impatiently anticipating the latest Nintendo goodies that would (hopefully) be under the tree. In our family, there are always three separate celebrations (one for my dad’s side of the family, my mom’s, and then our own among ourselves), which meant three different chances of some cool video game gift coming along. Sure, toys were always fun, too, but even as a child the video games are what captured my heart and soul.

It’s slightly difficult to type about this and not seem like I’m being unfair to today’s youth, but I sincerely feel like I grew up in the middle of the final golden era of toys and entertainment. The late ‘80s into the early 2000s was a total sweet spot for unforgettable TV shows, movies, games, and toys. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Spider-Man, X-Men, Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck, Batman: The Animated Series—and that’s just a tiny fraction of what was new and fresh while I was growing up.

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Still, as fun as all of that was, and although many of it crossed over into the world of video games… nothing topped the games themselves. I lived through the heyday of NES, witnessed the births of SNES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube, as well as Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS. My adolescence was filled with some of the greatest gaming consoles ever made and many of my brightest holiday memories in some way involve a Nintendo system.

There are a lot of videos online of kids exploding with excitement on Christmas morning opening up video game consoles. What is it about them that elicits so much happiness? I sometimes try to quantify why video games mean as much to me as they do, and while it’s definitely a multifaceted love affair, I believe the genesis of it comes from my childhood. Nintendo meant Grandma’s house. It meant being around two of the nicest human beings on the planet (my grandma and aunt), playing video games, and eating all sorts of food that I probably shouldn’t have.

Many of the most defining gaming moments in my life happened at my grandma’s house at Christmas. This includes booting up Ocarina of Time Christmas morning in 1998 and being crushed when my preteen mind couldn’t handle the sight of the giant Skulltullas hanging from the ceiling of the Great Deku Tree. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate, or have very similar memories as gamers. You remember opening up a SEGA Genesis and plugging in Sonic the Hedgehog, blown away by the sheer rush of speed. You tore through the wrapping paper of a Super Scope and thought it was the coolest thing you’d ever set your hands on. You felt the jolt of sorrow when your dad bought you Pokémon Blue when you had been waiting months for Pokémon Red—and ultimately didn’t care because it was just as fun. Sitting in front of the family TV in the middle of a heap of discarded wrapping paper with the iconic jingle of a PS2 booting up is a moment that many of you have etched into your memories.

Christmas and video games. That perfect mix that has become a timeless staple for multiple generations of people. Some of you might even be gearing up for the holidays with your own kids now looking forward to a Switch under the tree, or copies of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. It’s no small responsibility now being the one who has to bring the same thrills and happiness that your own parents and loved ones once did for you. Of course, being an adult doesn’t mean the thrill ever really goes away, either. I still relish seeing what neat video game things my sister has managed to find for me, for instance. It’s been another tough year for many of us, but I hope that everyone can try, even if only in a small way, to take solace in this beautiful time of year.

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