In honor of today being Christmas I decided to write up something quite a bit different than the usual Sunday Wrap-Up piece and instead tell the story of a Christmas memory. Your regularly scheduled wrap-up will be back next week.
Christmas music filled the entire house. The smell of cookies baking in the oven wafting through every nook and cranny. Decorations and lights lit up the Christmas tree, as for me...well I was in my brothers bedroom playing James Bond: From Russia With Love.
Two feet from the open bedroom door I could see the Christmas tree and hear the music, but I paid no attention to any of that. As far as I was concerned it was 1963 and I was in the middle of Turkey, on a secret cold war mission. The stuff of dreams man.
I love James Bond, perhaps irrationally. How could I not? I watched my first Bond movie when I was either 4 or 5 and it served up the perfect, intoxicating drink for a young boy like myself. With James Bond's tale of adventure, gunfights, spies, and more, I was hooked from my very first view of Britain's greatest secret agent.
As I grew older I devoured the movies. Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, The Man with the Golden Gun, Dr. No and more filled my veins. I watched these movies over and over and over again. I played Goldeneye 64, Nightfire, and Agent Under Fire, any game I could get my hands on.
Then in 2005 I was informed that the newest 007 video game would be a re-telling of the classic Bond film From Russia With Love. To make it even better Sean Connery himself would return to voice the iconic character. I couldn't believe it, I never in my wildest dreams expected I'd ever get a Bond game with Sean Connery in it, by far my favorite and honestly just the best Bond.
To say this game shot to the top of the my Christmas list is an understatement. There were few gifts in any Christmas I ever wanted as much as this one. To be able to play through one of the bond films in game form was what I had always dreamed of. It didn't matter to me that FRWL wasn't one of my favorite movies at the time, I was young and stupid and tragically didn't yet recognize the brilliance of the film. Just the ability to step into the shoes of Connery, a man I idolized at the time, and to walk around a perfectly realized 1960's world had me captivated.
Sure enough, my parents were wonderful and delivered the gift for me and before Christmas even! So I booted up the game and fall in love. Looking back a dozen years later I can point out the flaws of the game more clearly now, I can see where some of the changes and twists it built into the story don't really work, but at the time, on that winter day when I first got the game, well...I was in love.
James Bond video games get a lot of grief, from me in particular, but FRWL feels right and that's something many of the games get wrong. The world, the characters, the story all hit the right notes. The story actually mattered, the game was fun to play, and Connery was a joy. The greatest moments from the film, the big set-pieces and iconic scenes were all perfectly captured and handled. They were given added layers and dimensions that made them even stronger in some cases. And so I played and all was well.
That happened over a decade ago now. Much has changed in the time since then of course. But that memory, the glow, and joy I felt that day remains. That memory of me laying on my older brothers bed playing FRWL as cookies were baking, music was playing, and people decorated the tree remains one of the strongest, most defining, and happiest memories I have of Christmas. It was one of those rare moments where even at the time, I knew this was special, that I would remember this. And so I have.
Christmas and childhood are so entwined, so smashed together that it almost becomes impossible to separate the two. So many of our strongest memories from that time are related to Christmas, whether it's actually unwrapping the present, the pursuit and pleading to get the gift, or something as simple, small, and wonderful as playing a silly ol' James Bond video game one random day in December and getting a big dumb smile on your face.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays and happy New Year everyone.