This week’s Listmas question is a simple one: what makes a great holiday event? Or, maybe it’s not so simple, since we all enjoy the holidays, and holidays with gaming in our own way. My experience with holiday gaming events is quite limited, unfortunately. Outside of some holiday-themed DLC, the only one I’ve actively participated in is Neverwinter’s Winter Festival, which is quite a good time. Not only does the game’s main hub get all fancied up for the season, but players can travel to a specific to a specific region (Twilight Tor) to celebrate Simril, said winter festival. Last year, I spent a little time in ESO’s New Life Festival, but it didn’t quite have as much pizzazz holiday-wise (it felt more wintry and less festive). So to say I’m perfectly qualified to offer up suggestions for a great gaming holiday event is, um…well…let just get on with the list.
Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere
And I don’t mean the band, I mean a holiday atmosphere! It’s one thing to put some snow on the ground and a few extra sparkles here and there; it’s another to create a world that reeks of that Christmas-y feeling. Neverwinter’s town of Twilight Tor falls squarely in the latter camp – it’s a holiday delight! Not only is Twilight Tor bathed in snow and candlelight, it’s snowy and cozy and brimming with quiet cheer. The winter holidays are a special time of year, and if you’re going to make them part of a game, you have to reflect that special-ness in whatever place/event is being created. Twilight Tor feels like a very special place that’s still very integrated into Neverwinter’s world.
A little irreverence, just a little
It’s completely understandable that for some, Christmastime is as serious as it is special. This is fine in the real world. But in a game, adding a bit of lighthearted fun and silliness to a holiday event is a good thing. Why not go fishing for presents, collects items for a yeti mount, or sled down wild hills in an infernally-magic sleigh with silly commentary on your mastery (or not) of said sleigh? (Yes, again I have Neverwinter on the brain.) Your winter event doesn’t need to defile or degrade (err…unless you’re in Saints Row IV…but more on that later), but it’s certainly alright to poke a fun at tradition with a little witty repartee and very nonsensical visual gags. In a world filled with awkward Christmas parties of all sorts, departing for the mildly absurd seasonal celebration in a game sounds like a very good time, indeed.
Tis better to give than receive
It’s always nice to get presents, and holiday game events seem to be rife with special trinkets. True that gift-giving, especially in MMOs, is a year-round thing, but that mechanic can be heighten during a holiday event. So if your event doesn’t include gift giving, it should! A little giving can go a long way in forming friendships that extend beyond the holidays and strengthening the community. It’s all about making players feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, helping others, and fostering that sense of “we’re all in this together.” Because you know what? WE ARE.
All static images, including lede, from Arc Games featuring Neverwinter (© Cryptic Studios, Perfect World Games, Perfect World Entertainment)