Whether you’ve just finished matric, completed your honours thesis or simply clocked out for the last time this year, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve got a couple of weeks of sweet, sweet nothing lined up ahead. On the other hand, maybe you’re stuck inside a cubicle all through December, or your beloved parents are dragging you off to spend the holidays with your Aunt and Uncle in Pofadder. Whatever you’re doing for the next few weeks, you’re going to be out of your element, desperate for entertainment and possibly incredibly bored. Fear not, worried reader; NAG Online has got just the stuff to keep you bright-eyed and peachy all through the holidays.
If you have any favourite holiday games, feel free to share your secrets. We’d love to hear if we missed anything that stands the test of time for you.
The end-of-semester holiday-maker
You’ve somehow managed to convince your folks that your holidays would be best spent in front of a screen. Maybe they think you’re going to follow a few programming tutorials during your time off; perhaps they think that there’s a chance that you and the seven friends you’ve had LANning in the garage all week will get out and kick a ball around with your eager dad. Maybe you’re back home from res after just submitting a 30,000 word novella on the reproductive tendencies of African bees. Whatever your situation is, you’re tired of using your brain to think about stuff; you want to kill things, stay up all night and call anyone who dares stop you a noob because they just don’t get you, man.
OMG, it’s finally here! You care because you’ve played every Gran Turismo on the planet and you’ve been craving moar! ever since GT5‘s development began a thousand years ago. Well, now it’s available and you can prepare to sink your unbrushed holiday teeth into all 1031 cars in the game. You know that a title like this requires dedication, time and infinite patience, and that’s exactly what you’re full of this holiday season.
It’s what all the kids are playing, and you’re the type who feels the need to be better than all those kids. Whether you spend your holidays camping those long firing lines on Grid, sneaking up on and stabbing people in the back with your ballistic knives or getting banned from clan servers because you’re noob-tubing, there’s something to be had by everyone in Call of Duty.
You’ve spent every spare moment breaking down rocks in the practice league and watching shoutcasts from the likes of Husky, SC2NoobSchool and Crota; now it’s time to knuckle down and start climbing those ladders. You will eat, sleep and breathe StarCraft II this holiday. Try that race that has always scared you, or take the leap and roll random. Learn how to stop a cannon rush (or perfect your own). Invite some buddies over for a LAN and take on the world of 4v4; if you’ve been going solo all this time, now is the moment to hone those team skills
Some sort of a big dragon has come to destroy the world… or has done so already… or there’s some new evil that needs murdering… or something. Whatever’s going on in WoW at the moment, I’ve been told that it’s a big deal, and that means you should sacrifice the next month of your life grinding questing having fun grinding up to 85 so you can get stuck into those high-level raids. On a slightly more serious note, this is one of the biggest things to happen to MMOs since the dawn of the genre, so if it’s the kind of thing that gets your special juices flowing, Cataclysm is where you need to be right now.
The remote and the desperate
Ah, the country-side: Quiet, peaceful, smelling slightly of cow shit and so bloody far from anything resembling a videogame that it’s going to drive you to drink at the age of 14. If you’ve been the unlucky victim of a holiday away from all the hustle and bustle of the city (which fuels your very soul), then you’re going to need some form of digital entertainment to keep you sane and sober. With any luck, you’ll stumble upon an ancient device, known as a Personal Computer. It may contain an operating system called DOS. It may even contain… games.
If not, bring your cell phone. Don’t forget the charger!
You’ve heard about it, now it’s time to man (or woman) up and play the damn game – right the way through. You see, there’s a reason why Zork was such a big deal. Not just because it helped pioneer interactive gaming, but because it’s actually rather fun. Go on, reach back into the dark ages of gaming and see what you pull out. It might be a Grue.
You can currently download a version of ScummVM for iOS, Android, Maemo, Symbian, and just about every platform you can think of. If your phone has a touchscreen, then this is the perfect way to play games not just at your destination, but on the long haul there as well (provided you’re not driving, of course). If you don’t have the original game files for any Scumm-based games (like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max), then worry not: you can download a few excellent adventure games, including Beneath a Steel Sky and Flight of the Amazon Queen for free from ScummVM. There you’ll also find the necessary installation files for the virtual machine.
Just because you’re on holiday, doesn’t mean that you can switch off and be dumb for a month. Besides, you’re bored and obviously desperate, and if Aunt Esmeralda’s old wagon of a PC happens to have The Castle of or The Island of Dr. Brain sitting nearby in a stack of floppy disks, then you should consider yourself the recipient of a true blessing. Grab a notepad; strap yourself in for some brain usage and say goodbye to that exciting trip to the local farmers’ market: you’ve got more important things to do.
The employee with no leave
The office is empty. It’s eerily quiet. Not even that yakking women over in finance is at work, and you’d swear, by the number of times you’ve been cornered for “just a quick catch-up” on your way to the vending machine, she’s practically stalking you. Unfortunately for you, not only are you one of the poor schmos who was suckered into working through the holidays, but the boss (who’s currently on their way to Tahiti for some much-needed R&R), has made sure that you’re kept busy from nine until five every day. Being the diligent worker that you are, you’d (of course) never dream of gaming on the job, but what if you finished up a little early to squeeze in a quick game or two? What you need is a game that can offer quick fixes of entertainment, and can be returned to at any time.
This almost goes without saying, but Minecraft is the best game you can play at the office that doesn’t begin with the word “Farm”. Not only will it run on almost anything with a processor (except my personal laptop, for some godforsaken reason), but patches are being released on a regular basis to ensure it gets into that “low specs” category that it should’ve been in from the beginning.
Like, the first Quake. It’ll definitely run on that pre-built office machine sitting under your desk, and it’s still just as fun as you remember it. Something that you might not remember, however, is that Quake has support for co-op play. Get Flo from Marketing and Tim from Accounts on the phone and let them know that there’s a reason to stay in during lunch.
I know; ironic, right? Playing a game about getting ahead in life while you sit at your boring desk doing the exact opposite. That’s why we play games, though, to escape the boring grind of day-to-day and pretend that we’re actually successful businesspeople on the way to the position of General Manager at The Factory. Also – hotseat multiplayer support. Tell all your cubicle-mates to wheel their ergonomic chairs over and get stuck in.
The three weeks of gaming bliss
You’ve booked your leave months in advance, packed the spouse and kids off to visit your in-laws somewhere far away, and now it’s just you, a pantry full of junk food and a couple of dogs that you mustn’t forget to feed. Mainstream games like StarCraft II and Black Ops might be enough to keep you entertained for a couple of hours a day, but eventually the servers packed full of cursing teenagers hopped up on Coca-Cola will take their toll on your sanity. You need games that are sedate, sophisticated and potentially going to take a long time to play.
Generally regarded as one of the top candidates in the category of “oh, I could never uninstall that,” the Civilization series has long established itself as perfect for a long, lazy afternoon of stimulating but not terribly taxing gaming. It’s the videogame equivalent of getting some serious work done on your laptop while relaxing in front of the pool, and for that reason, there’s no excuse not to fit in at least a couple of games during your holidays. For bonus points: never go to war with Napoleon, and win a space race victory in the same game.
Not only will the campaign keep you busy for a while, but the many ways to play this classic, turn-based tactical RPG mean no matter how many times you’ve completed it, there’s always a new way to experience the liberation of Arulco. If you’ve somehow never played or heard of JA2 before, it’s quite simply the best turn-based tactical RPG available. If you’re sagely nodding your head in agreement, but can’t bring yourself to play through this game again, then head over to Bear’s Pit and get stuck into some of the excellent community-made mods.
Build your perfect Caribbean paradise, flood the market with cheap mass-produced cigars or become the ideal tourist trap; however you decide to rule your tiny Island is entirely up to you. The Tropico series has always been about giving players choices and forcing them to deal with the consequences, which gives it tons of replayability; and with a healthy assortment of user-generated content, now is a great time to revisit this game if it’s been gathering dust lately.
With so many games to play these holidays, there’s no excuse to claim boredom. Ditch the movies; ditch the beach; ditch the Christmas shopping rush; ditch that boring roast dinner at granny’s (ignore that last one; roast dinners are awesome); it’s time to sit down in front of your box and get stuck into some serious gaming this holiday season.