Merry Christmas Chad Muska
December equals holidays. Holidays, if you’re sentimental like us, are a time for thinking about your friends and family and how much they mean to you. When games play an integral role in your existence, a lot of your favorite experiences with friends and family will have a videogame smack-dab in the middle of them.
On every Tuesday/Thursday for the next month, we’re going to talk about those games, how they brought us closer together, and how they helped us create memories. We want to share what games hold special places in our hearts, and not for their own merits but because of how they affected our relationships with the people around us. We’re calling the series Warm and Fuzzy, and we hope you like it.
“… and yo, merry Christmas”, December 25th, 2003
It came not from my father. Nor from my mother or sister. Nor from my aunty, uncle, nan or grandad. Nor from my cousins, who even at their most strident wouldn’t utter a yuletide wish so boisterous and American as this. Unexpected, coincidental, and to be the most resounding Christmas message I’d ever received, it came from a man I’d never heard of. It came from Chad Muska.
I had thought myself a skateboarder then. Or rather, I had a skateboard. My friends and I would race two abreast down the hill on which I live, snapping and tugging at each other’s sleeves, trying to drag each other to the tarmac. Whoever reached the bottom of the hill first was declared the winner. Then we’d take up our boards, march to my house atop the hill and cascade down once more.
That Christmas, I unwrapped Tony Hawk’s Underground. Sometime during the afternoon, after dinner I expect, the game was inserted into my PlayStation 2. It didn’t come out for a long time. My nan bought me the game. Whether it’s something I asked for, or a decision she made after seeing me collide with a parked car, I don’t remember. But during the Christmas holiday at least, the game kept me from the street. I spent Christmas of 2003 skating in my bedroom; the carpet kept the cuts from my knees.
Childhood was a simpler time, a time when we — good for little more than scuttling beneath chair legs and clambering atop kitchen counters in search of sweets — could gather our gifts and slink away to our chambers without worry of reprisal.
It’s different now. More is expected of me, of us. No longer can we spend Christmas locked away with our trinkets and toys, gadgets and games. We are to be courteous in the face of company. We are to assist with the day’s labours. We are children no more.
Christmas is supposed to be a time for peace, for merriment, a time in which adults can dismiss the complications of responsibility and revel in oblivious joy. If this is true, it’s true for time all too brief, time that only exists between fingers touching paper and paper being torn. Outside of this time the encumbrance of adulthood weighs too heavily to allow such simple, ignorant pleasures.
As we grow older it’s these simple, ignorant pleasures that we miss. Adolescence isn’t entirely without benefit, of course. But with it comes an increasing array of commitments forever siphoning time from trivial pursuits.
Trivial though they may be, video games are dear to so many. They have connections with Christmas that extend beyond the superficial. Though now, at 21, these connections grow thinner by the year. This Christmas I have not played video games. Social obligations, while often outlandish and always a pleasure, are a drain on both time and energy. The time and energy I need to truly devote myself to any kind of gaming experience.
Nine years ago the Christmas holiday seemed a fleeting tempest of food and games. The days, though cold and dark, seemed always to escape amid such fun. Then suddenly we’re back at school in the shadow of the last year. Christmas was always the holiday that was never long enough.
The obligations of adulthood do a funny thing to time. Without blind and careless joys Christmas ticks by with an agonising pace. Deadlines and commitments mean we’re always watching the clock. Eventually our worries return. Christmas lasts so long and yet is never long enough.
No thought was given to time that Christmas. It didn’t matter. There was only a break, a hole to be filled in any way a kid wanted. In the twilight of 2003 that hole was filled by Tony Hawk’s Underground.
The game begins with preparations for the arrival of Chad Muska, who is due to film a skate demo in the player’s hometown. The player performs for Muska, and upon earning his respect Muska gifts the player his skateboard, casually tossing it from the window of his SUV.
Tony Hawk’s Underground isn’t set at Christmas. Muska’s was just the kind of offhand remark often said when one offers a gift to another. But for some reason Muska’s words were more memorable than any other Christmas wishes that year, or any year.
I remember being back at school after Christmas and ruminating with friends about the coincidental nature of Muska’s gift. They too had noticed the appropriate timing. It’s strange to me that a man I’ve never met, a man I’ve scarcely seen outside his nine year old digital avatar has become so synonymous with Christmas. His name as much as any other is a name that means snow, lights, tinsel and turkey.
Truthfully, I don’t know much about the world of professional skateboarding. I know less about Chad Muska. But his name reminds me of a simpler time, a time free from burdens and concerns, a time filled only with fun, cheer, video games.
I hope this message finds you well, Chad. Thanks for the skateboard.
And yo, merry Christmas.