This article was originally published in the 2011-2012 academic year.
Now, a couple of issues back I stated that one of these days I ought to write an article about how irritating I find the Call of Duty videogame franchise, and with the recent release of Modern Warfare 3, I think it’s about time for me to fulfil that promise. However, before I get bombarded by angry letters telling me how wrong I am and that Call of Duty is the most awesome thing to have graced the planet since cheese and ham toasties, I should make myself clear. When I say I find the franchise irritating, I am being controversial for the sake of being controversial. My issue does not lie with the games themselves (indeed, on the occasions I have played them, they’ve been reasonably fun) – instead it’s something that extends to pretty much everything at this time of year.
Yes, it may not be December yet, but it’s time to unwrap the Christmas articles. But this isn’t going to be your traditional article about the commercialisation of Christmas (which, ironically, is anything but traditional) – rather, this is an observation of how predictable and downright boring the cavalcade of gift ideas always is. To refer back to Call of Duty, it’s a given that every single November there’ll be a new game in the series and that it’ll sell by the bucket load and that it’ll be voted Game of the Year by an endless wave of opinion polls. This annual release tactic also applies to more or less every sports game franchise in existence – again, I’m not doubting their quality, and in these cases it’s actually a tad understandable to have numerous updated instalments so as to keep up with the most current teams – but it cannot be denied that, at the end of the day, it’s a big money spinner meant to make you splash out more of your hard-earned cash year upon year. Heck, some people were so desperate to play Modern Warfare 3 that they paid $1725 for it on Ebay just to get it a measly couple of days early.
Games aren’t the only culprit either. You can guarantee that every holiday season, the latest box sets of all the big TV shows will be out, and that the charts will be swamped by Christmas singles (apparently the cast of The Only Way Is Essex are doing one this year, bet you all can’t wait!), and that every Z-list celebrity under the sun will publish an autobiography (seriously, how many Katie Price autobiographies does this world need?). It reeks of unoriginality, simply churning out any old rubbish for the sake of a quick buck. Like with the games, I’m not saying they’re all bad – amongst the lumps of coal you might find a diamond or two – but you have to wonder, if it were not for people’s obsession with buying things at Christmas time, would half of these products have actually even been made?
And that’s exactly the problem – us. The reason the same old stuff floods shelves every winter is because we’re all suckers and we spend money on it. Impulse buying takes control and we start picking things up purely because they might make good stocking fillers (though on a side note, how many people actually hang stockings up any more? And for that matter, how many modern Christmas gifts would even fit into a stocking?). Whatever the year, when it comes to seasonal cash-ins, the song remains the same. And when it comes to the actual Christmas songs we have, they seem to remain the same too. Go figure.
I imagine that a lot of you might think I’m just being a moody, fusty old scrooge by this point. Well, call me a Grinch if you want (though if you do, I’d probably take it as a compliment seeing as I damn well love that book and film!), but as I stand here with my Grinch feet ice cold in the snow, I’m puzzling and puzzling… how can it be so? Why are we so easily tempted to buy the toot that companies hurl down from their gold-plated, money-spewing sleighs? Well, guess what, it’s all down to one of the true, sentimental meanings of Christmas. We do it to please others, to put a smile on someone’s face, to warm someone’s heart at this cold time of year. The actual gift may be questionable in quality, but at the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts –and it’s nice to know that someone out there cares, isn’t it? We’re all saps deep down, and that’s why unoriginality shall continue to rule Christmas with an iron fist. It’s exploitation, plain and simple. They’ve got us by the jingle bells, folks.