If there's one infallible calendar to track your gruelling trek into adulthood, forget facial hair and cracking voices - apathy towards Christmas wins every time.
Once a magical day filled with surprise and elation, presents and cards, sausages wrapped in bacon and sausage rolls glazed with egg, this once joyous (and apparently over-porked) holiday has slowly crept into mundanity with each passing year. My brother and I no longer bounce down the hallway at 6 a.m, tug at our parents' bed sheets and race downstairs to marvel at the array of gift-wrapped boxes and curiously shaped lumps. Heck, my brother doesn't even live here anymore; he usually swings by around noon with a handful of crudely wrapped but thoughtfully purchased gifts.
But it's not just fewer presents and England's distinctive lack of snow that dampens the mood; it's the realization that your parents practically kill themselves every year to make December 25th special. Ok, Santa doesn't exist - that comes early. But knowing that your mother toiled away well past midnight wrapping presents, that your father stood in queues for four hours to buy some disappointing Game Boy Color game and that your parents also bought presents on behalf of your grandparents, uncles and aunties, and even forged their handwriting on the labels for authenticity - well, it kind of takes the magic out of the whole event.
For Christmas last year, I wanted to let my parents know I noticed and appreciated their sacrifices. I wanted to present them with a gift that required more consideration, time and effort than a Hallmark card and a packet of chocolate truffles wrapped in glitzy gold paper. I wanted to create the dry-macaroni picture frame for the 21st century, a gift so thoughtful and personal they'd remember it for years to come. So, with three weeks until Christmas Day, I booted up my PlayStation 3 and threw in LittleBigPlanet.
LittleBigPlanet is a hodgepodge-platformer world filled with challenging and colorful levels, most created by the game's extensive fan base. Some players rip off Super Mario Bros., some use the game to tell simple stories and some just want to put you through a torturous series of near-impossible jumps and dodges for the creator's malevolent amusement. One level chuckles at the Xbox 360's "Red Ring of Death" hardware problems; another is a wardrobe of Marvel superhero costumes and instructions on how to construct them for your Sackboy avatar. My level would be different though - special and private, a Christmas message to my parents that incorporated family photos and personal objects into a digital collage.