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My favourite Christmas game: Randy Pitchford

"That moment on Christmas Day ensured I became involved with games"

The third instalment in our Christmas soapbox feature is arguably the best yet. Alright, it is the best yet.

In preparation for the big day we asked the creators behind some of 2011's top titles to share their favourite ever Christmas game memories. Today's participant decided to send us words and a photo of himself from the 70s.

Following Cliff Bleszinski's Mega Drive / Genesis memories and Kudo Tsunoda's Disneyland daydream, today Gearbox Software head Randy Pitchford describes in detail how one Christmas he obsessed over a small electronic gadget.

Check back this week for more instalments of My Favourite Christmas Game.


"Let me take you back to Christmas of 1977. I was young - in elementary school. My parents had divorced the previous year and had managed to separate themselves as far as possible within the continental United States.

"My father and I would spend the school year together in Los Angeles, California and my mother and I would spend summer and the holiday season together near Washington, DC.

"It's very difficult for me to produce memories of my childhood prior to that year. But my memories of that year are very strong and profound. 1977 is the first Christmas I remember. I spent as much time as I imagine I ever had that year looking at things on screens - consuming television and music.

"I watched Reggie Jackson and the New York Yankees defeat our Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. I saw Star Wars for the first time at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd around when it first opened. I saw it again in August again at the Chinese theater. I remember thinking that there were a few differences - some scenes that were left out or changed or added when I saw it the second time.

"Somehow that year, my dad also felt fine for me to watch Saturday Night Fever (I ended up with the sound track on vinyl), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (my first Spielberg film).

I also saw my first James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (and later was part of making a James Bond video game) and my first WW2 film, A Bridge Too Far (and later was part of making a WW2 game).

"That year of 1977, around the holiday season, I spent nearly all of my free time watching television. I watched on TV footage of our very first Space Shuttle being 'test flown' on the back of a 747 with commentary about how the shuttle would carry mankind into space over and over again.

"I spent as much time as I imagine I ever had that year looking at things on screens"

"On television, I saw the news stories about how Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, had died at Graceland in Memphis. I saw footage of British Airways flying the supersonic Concorde jet from London to New York City. Over Thanksgiving break, I watched The Hobbit as an animated feature on television.

"In December, a week or so before flying out to Dulles to spend the holidays with my mother, I watched Mikhail Baryshnikov's ballet performance of The Nutcracker. On TV, I saw David Bowie sing a medley of Peace on Earth and Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby in his last performance before he died.

"Something else happened in 1977. In the year of Star Wars, Space Shuttles and the death of the King, something else had happened where the world had suddenly and irrevocably changed.

"The Atari 2600 was released! The world would never be the same.

"I saw commercials for it on television. I was captivated. I was captured. I spent the second half of the year plotting and dreaming for how I would be gifted an Atari 2600 for Christmas. My schemes were numerous and constant. I must have been a real annoyance to all of my parents.

"On Christmas morning as dawn approached, I went downstairs to the tree to see that there were lots of gifts. There was one wrapped gift in particular that I was *sure* was the correct size and shape to be an Atari 2600.

"I purposefully saved that gift to the end. I wanted the climax of Christmas morning to be the opening of the Atari 2600.

"I opened model WW2 tanks, even a handheld digital 'Soccer' game from Mattel.

"Finally, it was time to open the gift. As I carefully peeled back the tape, as if I was going to save the wrapping, the horror struck me. It was not an Atari 2600. I would not be playing Atari for the rest of my holiday.


"The only video games I would be playing that Christmas was that hand held Mattel 'Soccer' with its primitive LED's. I was devastated. I could no longer rely upon my parents to make sure I was optimally stimulated and entertained! I would have to take matters into my own hands...

"So maybe it was that moment on Christmas day in 1977, more than any other single moment, that ensured that the more control I had over my life as I grew up that my life was going to be involved with video games.

"So, in a lot of ways I think I owe everything to that simple handheld game from Mattel. It was a fine little game and I spent hours and hours playing it. But I wanted more. I wanted better.

"Given the role that it played in my life, perhaps that Mattel handheld game should be considered by me to be "My favorite Christmas game."

"Attached is a photo of me over Christmas 1977 wearing Batman pajamas and coveting the only video game I got that year."

Duke Nukem Forever is out now on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Watch the trailers for Gearbox's upcoming titles Borderlands 2 and Brothers in Arms: Furious 4.

Next in My Favourite Christmas Game: Sledgehammer Games' Glen Schofield

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