October 31st, 2005

Today is Halloween, the happiest day of the year. I’m totally serious. We should all be amazingly gleeful.

Me, I’m mostly just burned out from a weekend of Halloween parties. And besides, let’s admit, today is not a day for concise and rational thoughts. So I figured, instead, I’d throw out some questions to ponder on holidays and games, and then leave you with an amusing, game-related anectote.

Okay, questions: What does it mean about our culture and the state of modernity when our holidays no longer feel special, feel different from other days – when we can wake up in the morning and not know, not sense, that today is Halloween, Christmas, etc.? Have we lost the specialness of holidays simply because of commercialization, or have we in contemporary society somehow homogenized time?

Moreover, what does it mean to celebrate a holiday in gamespace. What games have we seen that do this? On one level, in-game holidays seem to offer merely a further mimesis of real life. Yet, real-life holidays are meant as time separate from normal activity, somehow religiously or socially charged. Can such constructions, such meaningful energies, transfer into games?

Plus, a little something just for fun: I was playing Melee recently with three of my male friends, and I was Kirby. Problem was, everyone was zooming around too quickly for me to, you know, suck them up and steal their powers – like you do. Finally, after a long time just floating around, I landed, pressed b, and yelled, “Someone come in my mouth!”

Needless to say, that went over both hilariously and totally embarrassingly, especially with an all male audience. Oops.

Anyways, back to actual thinking soon. This time I really promise…

Tags: Blog

11 Responses to “An Amusing Halloween Anectote. and Some Vague Attempts at Thoughts”

  1. Patrick Dugan Says:

    Losing the sense of speciality to holidays was a big part of my angst between the ages of 11-13, but by HS I sort of just enjoyed the presents without worrying about the feel. Halloween in College is no different, now the pagan freedom I revel in has to do with sex and booze instead of costumes and candy.

    Speaking of which, sociosexual dynamics can be well described as a game, right? Like, “hes got game” or “I’m spit some game” or, “yeah, I don’t really feel like playing games right now,” you get the picture. Halloween, for all its Sex/Death reverie, its a holiday particularily for the game of sex: inhibitions are lowered, girls (particularly in college) are walking around in two peice nurse/schoolgirl/secretary/scientist/cellophane outfits. Its kidna like Lineage II giving away magic items on the games year aniversary, except replace magic items with partial nudity all over the place. Maybe this phenomena could be isomorphic to online games.

    So yeah, I had a good weekend.

  2. Michael Says:

    World of Warcraft has had events centered around various holidays, the most recent one being Halloween. For the past couple of weeks the towns have been decorated with jack-o-lanterns, hanging ghosts and the like. The inns have had bobbing for apple tanks and you can trick or treat with the innkeeper. Treats are things like candy and costumes. Tricks generally involve turning you into something else for a minute. There are also special holiday quests to set off a stink bomb in an alliance town and to put rotten eggs in their beer.

    This weekend my guild organized an event to get as many people together as possible to do those quests together. It was a ton of fun and made a nice break to do something silly and frivilous. It was also a great chance for characters of widely differing levels to play together.

    In a social game holidays don’t have to lose their specialness. An argument could be made that they can be less comercial in nature then their real live expression. Other types of games I’m not so sure about however. Is there really a point to inserting holidays into Project Gotham, Splinter Cell or World Poker Challange?

  3. Nic Jones Says:

    Dana Massey wrote a piece [1] for The Escapist on the issue of US morals being exported through games. When a game like WoW goes as all out as it did with the Halloweening of in-game content, it’s clear that far more than just US policies on acceptable levels of sex and violence in games is being exported – cultural practices on every level are imposed on international gamers. (Halloween is a big deal in the US, but not so much elsewhere – I didn’t even have a single trick-or-treater show up on my door, down from three last year)

    I’m all for Halloween, so I don’t mind this particular US cultural import. At one point though, we’re going to have decent in-game translators (hopefully linked to decent speech to text and text to speech systems) and we’re going to see a real clash of global cultures. Instead of the imposed factionalism of Alliance vs Horde, there’s going to be more than enough tension for specific racial / regional lines to be drawn in the sand by players. That’s going to be an interesting day.

    [1]: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/link/454

  4. Bonnie Says:

    Patrick, you make me laugh. And interesting point about the way we use the word game. But what the heck does “I’m spit some game” mean?

    Michael, thanks for the WoW details. In a way, it seems like those types of in-game holidays are actually bringing an amount of specialness back to something like Halloween.

    Nic, where are you from? That’s another interesting point (the hegemony of holiday culture) that, as an American and a born Halloween fanatic, I hadn’t even thought of. Tell us more about your experience…

  5. Mike Says:

    I was actually having a conversation about this with some friends. Is it really that holidays like Halloween and Christmas have lost their significance or “feeling” because of how commercial they have become, or have we simply grown up and grown out of the magic of the holidays?

    Do most people grow out of the holidays, only to be briefly sucked back in when their children are young enough to feel the magic for a few years? Having several (significantly) younger siblings, it is fun to watch them get excited over a holiday, but they’re mostly concerned about what presents they want (but aren’t we all?)

  6. Bonnie Says:

    Huh, that’s a really good question – is this about age? I think that, for us (as in, modern Americans) it is – but I would venture to say that previously, in other times and other cultures, it hasn’t been. If you think about it, we’ve taken things a step farther, and really infantalized the holidays themselves; we’ve made getting into the holiday spirit a childish thing. I wonder why…?

  7. Nic Jones Says:

    Nic, where are you from? That's another interesting point (the hegemony of holiday culture) that, as an American and a born Halloween fanatic, I hadn't even thought of.

    I’m Australian.

    The drop in trick-or-treaters does seem cultural – we’ve actually had a number of families with kids move into the surrounding area over the last year, so it’s not simply a result of kids growing up. There were a few scattered Halloween parties in my social circle, but these were treated mostly as an excuse to hang out with friends more than anything specifically Halloweenish.

    Tell us more about your experience"¦
    I’d say that Australians are less glamourous about their special events than Americans are. I have only a few months I spent touring the US in 1998 as first-hand data to compare, but in general I’d say there is significantly more importance placed on pomp and ceremony in the US than here.

  8. Bonnie Says:

    But, in your experience, did that contrasting, American “pomp and ceremony” seem sincere, or commercial?

  9. Nic Jones Says:

    A little of column A, a little of column B. Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Valentine’s Day were certainly excuses in commercial exploitation, but Independence Day seemed more about the joy of getting together and blowing things up than a display of jingoism. It’s very difficult to apply generalisations to the US because it contains an incredible cross-section of people with sometimes widely differing views. I imagine had I been in the south during April my experience would have been very different.

    Australians treat something like Queen’s Birthday or Melbourne Cup day as excuses for four-day weekends far more than a show of patriotism.

    Getting back on topic, it’d be interesting to find out what happened in, say, Second Life for Halloween. Blizzard was responsible for the Halloweening up of WoW, but that’s not how Second Life works. It might be a better indicator of what significance an external cultural events have to in-game worlds.

  10. Bonnie Says:

    Anyone know the answer to that Second Life question? qDot, if you’re out there, I’m sure you’re in the know.

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