Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my least favorite time of the year. The "Holiday Season" is number one with a bullet on the list of things that make the Grumpy Gamer grumpy.
As a Canadian, by the time you Americans get around to your Thanksgiving celebration, I'm already over it. That's so last month for us. But you guys make a big deal out of it every year, the sitcoms all have the big turkey dinner episodes where everybody settles their differences for just one day and it turns out everyone has a lot to be thankful for, etc.
And then everybody pushes back from the table and says, simultaneously, "Excuse me, but I need to pick up a few things," and everyone - even Canadians who ought to know better - stampedes out to their local retail establishments and crushes one another trying to get the last Tickle Me Elmo (or whatever this year's must-have toy is; I stopped paying attention sometime in the 1990s) on the shelf. And, of course, everybody who sells anything tries to grab your attention with amazing "Black Friday" deals.
The whole "Black Friday" nonsense started in the 50s or 60s, and it has a sort of double-meaning. The idea is, a store can operate at a loss, or "in the red," from January to November, and then by opening early and offering big sales during the shopping crush the Friday after Thanksgiving, they could start turning a profit - aka "in the black." But it also carries another meaning - people behave like idiots, and every year since 2005 or so, there are reports of violent conflicts between enraged shoppers or of people getting trampled by human stampedes.
Or zombies. Same thing, really. There's a reason they named the military base "Black Friday" in State of Decay: Lifeline.
The ridiculous thing, to me, is how ad firms try to turn this violence and human greed into a way to sell stuff that isn't sold in stores. Why do online game retailers have "Black Friday" sales when you don't need to join an angry mob at your local brick-and-mortar department store to buy shit on Steam? WildStar had a "Black Friday" sale offering the game for half price. I got emails from Glyph/Trion Worlds and Arc/Perfect World advertising "Black Friday" sales on a slew of their products, with sale prices on in-game store items. But there are no brick-and-mortar buildings against which you can crush your fellow holiday shoppers, and headlines are not made by people fist-fighting over the last 75%-off digital copy of Torchlight II.
That's why they invented the new thing, "Cyber Monday." Online retailers figured they needed their own "Black Friday" thing to drive up sales, so they co-opted the Monday after the Friday after Thanksgiving and turned it into their own deal. Crass consumerism, the same manipulative hogwash that gave us Valentine's Day. Which I also hate.
And the day that the "Black Friday"/"Cyber Monday" madness ends, it's immediately Christmas Fever. I could play along and pretend it's "Holiday Season" to be inclusive or whatever, but until the ubiquitous fat man in the red suit is named "Obese Festive Senior Citizen Philanthropist Person" instead of "Santa Claus," we all know the score. "The Man" wants you to buy Christmas presents, and all your MMOs will be polluted with annoying Christmas-themed festival content for the rest of the damn year. And let's face it, you're not seeing crescent moon symbols of Ramadan everywhere, or the Star of David of Chanukah; you're seeing Stars of Bethlehem. You're not seeing Kwanzaa's red, black, green and yellow color schemes, you're seeing red, white and green everywhere. And you're not seeing the cold, featureless expanse of eternity that we Atheists celebrate; you're seeing magical flying reindeer pulling a 16th-century sleigh, toting a single oversize sack that apparently has the carrying capacity for billions of wrapped presents. Jesus and Santa for all, regardless of your core beliefs!
Buffalo, NY Hoth
Of course, much of this content will include snow-themed elements. Snowball fights, winter regions with living snowmen, snowflake motifs on cosmetics, all that corny stuff. I, for one, strongly protest that nonsense this year in the wake of the incredible storm that hammered Buffalo, New York this past month. Have mercy on those poor Buffalonians! I can only imagine they don't want to be reminded of that weekend their houses got buried under the entire Arctic. We had a pretty good dusting where I live - around 45 cm or so (that's a foot and a half for you backwards Imperialists), and the roads were closed for a couple of days. Buffalo got about 5 times that amount. And the MMO-playing residents of Buffalo can't just escape reality by logging into their favorite game, because those games are now filled with snowy winter festive crap.
And it's just as unfair to gamers living in the Southern hemisphere, or anywhere in the tropics. Those gamers don't get snow for the Holiday Season. Australians, for example, end up playing on a lot of North American MMO servers - try logging in after 2 AM or so and you'll meet a ton of Aussies. But unlike those of us in the top half of the Northern hemisphere, Australians don't get snow. They get droughts and insanely high temperatures that would melt the balls off a wallaby, by crikey.
Meanwhile, up here, it's cold outside so we're stuck indoors. It's dark out for over half the day. The common cold and influenza run rampant, and people slip and fall on the ice and break bones. And now that all the delicious Hallowe'en candy is all eaten up, we're left with the crap candy that tastes like toothpaste.
To make matters worse, I will have to look at this red-and-green-and-white crap in all my MMOs until sanity is restored sometime in 2015. I used to like the winter festivals in the Lord of the Rings Online, but the forced merriment has worn me out. Last year, I found the crazy "Q's Winter Wonderland" instance in Star Trek Online to be hilariously delightful; now I want to roll through there with heavy spike-toed Klingon boots and kick the crap out of every gingerbread jerk I see. And it's bad enough running through Hoth in Star Wars: the Old Republic during the warmer months, but when you add "Life Day" events into the mix it makes a Grumpy Gamer want to go on a punching spree.
My sentiments for this holiday season are best expressed by Eric Idle. I apologize for the rude language, but then again, no I don't.
Spread your own holiday cheer in the comments section below!