The older I get, the more I realise how lucky I was to be a gamer growing up. My folks worked harder than I could ever thank them for just to keep bills paid, so I can only begin to imagine how frustrating it must have been to have three – later four – little gamers always asking for new consoles, games, and subscriptions.
The only saving grace was that we were (semi) decent at sharing and all loved Xbox. For years, this was fine – just make sure the controllers had batteries and we were actually taking turns on Fable 2's multiplayer. But then the Kinect was announced – and it changed everything.
My two brothers and I had our little hearts set on the Kinect. Our baby sister probably did as well, if only because our excitement infected her as well. But even as a dumb kid falling for all the ads, I knew it was too good to be true. In late primary school, I was learning that not everyone had the same amount of money. There were kids who got games on day one, and there were those of us waiting for our parents to help us pirate them. Did any of you have an R4 card for your DS? Those were the days. I put aside my childish dreams of the Kinect and made my peace with another year with the Wii, fighting over who could go first in bowling.
But then, the impossible happened. Through methods still not known to me to this day, my mum and stepdad actually got us a day-one Kinect for Christmas. Suck on that, rich kids.
Sure, we couldn’t find the game that let us talk to AI characters that we’d seen on the news – that must have been delayed – but we did have Kinect Adventures and Dance Central, two of the coolest games I had ever laid eyes on. We all raced to calibrate our avatars. Finally, we were ready to experience the future of gaming.
It didn’t work.
To our confusion, the game kept telling us we were too close. Why? We play the Wii like this just fine! So we moved the dog bed (sorry, Hooch), but got the same error. Alright, swivel the TV around and play from the other end of the room. Nada.
We all weigh in, believing that we have the best solution. Little Rhi thought she knew more about electronics than her big brother because she was better at Mario Kart, obviously. Nothing worked, so we had to start getting creative.
Through much trial and error, it quickly became apparent that the kitchen was the only room big enough to house the Kinect and four flailing children. But because of how the kitchen was laid out, there was only one possible place to put the TV and Kinect – on the sink.
At this point, it didn’t even seem ridiculous. My parents got straight to it, balancing the chopping board over the sink like it was a TV stand. Of course, something else had to go wrong, and our main TV was too big for the space, so we used the old CRT from someone’s room.
Eventually, our MacGuyver’d set up was complete. The chopping board managed to hold the TV, with just enough room for the Kinect to precariously sit in front. We had a wooden chair for the console itself, along with the absolute jungle of wires needed to make it compatible with our old Xbox 360 Arcade model.
It couldn’t have been further from the adverts, but to us, it was better. Even if it meant we had to stop playing when mum and Gary put the turkey in the oven, we somehow had the latest, coolest bit of kit on our hands – I couldn’t believe it.
My favourite moment of all was finally convincing mum to play Dance Central, only to be mortified that she beat all of my high scores. “Beginners luck!” I screamed. She wasn’t even a gamer! It’s unfair!
Every Christmas I’ve ever had has been beautiful, and I am so fortunate to be able to say that. But this little adventure with the family to try and get our fancy new toy to work holds a special place in my heart. It symbolizes everything I love about the holidays, with family coming together to play something stupid, even if everything that can go wrong does.
It also emphasises just how amazing my parents are too. The three of them work in the UK’s NHS, which means they’ve been grotesquely underpaid since before we got the Kinect, making it even more of a Christmas miracle. No amount of balancing a console on the kitchen sink will be enough for many families to have the Christmas they deserve this year, but thank you to all of the parents out there who try their best every day, and thank you to my mum, dad, and Gary. Oh, and support our striking nurses. And don’t vote Tory.
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