1. Changing content is what MMOs can and should do the best
Let's begin by examining what MMOs can offer over other video games. There's the social component, sure, and the persistent environment, but there's also the promise (albeit often unfulfilled) that change can and will happen. The world isn't just this static game board but should be a living, breathing place that grows and changes over time.
That's tough to do, but holidays at least give us a taste for a game world that can alter because of an event. It also helps to support the illusion that time is passing in the world, what with the coming and going of holidays.
2. Celebration is in our nature
Funny enough, there are also grouches who hate real-life holidays for a variety of reasons and are equally vocal about their disdain of them. My answer to that is that it's in our nature to want to celebrate things. We love reasons to throw a good party, have a good meal, get together with friends, and enjoy the trappings that holidays bring. If it can be tied to an event that has significance to us, so much the better. But rejoicing and feasting are wonderful things and should be encouraged in games, too.
3. Holidays break up the routine
This goes a little bit hand-in-hand with the first item on this list, but one of the best qualities of holidays is that they can break up otherwise long stretches of boring routine and monotony. Face it, in MMOs we tend to do the same activities day in and day out, but when a holiday rolls around, it beckons us to break free of the routine and do something different for a little while -- even if it's just silly minigames.
4. Fluff galore
In-game holidays have traditionally been associated with themed fluff, including housing decorations, costumes, pets, and one-shot items. If you read the previous sentence and uttered a growl between clenched teeth, I'll wager that those things are poison to your very soul. Me? I get all giddy because there's always a part of me that's a little boy who likes fun toys, dressing up, and getting into the spirit of festivities.
5. It boosts socialization
You know another key element of MMOs that makes them unique? Giving people an excuse to hang out together. Holiday events are player magnets, prompting great migrations to major cities and special locations. And when you get a lot of people in the same area doing a lot of the same things, there's going to be plenty of talk and even grouping.
6. Game holidays can add heaps of lore to the world
Generally, there are two types of in-game holidays: There are the holidays that merely ape real-world ones with small cosmetic differences (it's always fun seeing devs twist themselves into knots trying to come up with a new way to say "Christmas"), and there are the holidays that are unique to the game world and have no real-world counterpart. The latter tend to feature a lot more internal lore of the world and can often educate players on the game's history and key figures. Learning things should be fun, and holidays can make them so!
7. New music is always welcome
This will probably just be something I like, but after hearing the standard game music for months on end, I'm all for a little audio variety. Sometimes studios spring for new music that gets featured for these festivals, and some of it is better than the regular stuff.
8. It gives you something special to do during real-life holidays
It seems that either people are far too busy during real-life holidays to do any gaming or they end up with a lot of extra gaming time. I find that while I do have a lot of things to do, I have more gaming time than normal, and so it's welcome to have special content to enjoy during those periods. Plus, if the in-game holiday syncs up with the real world, it can feel like an extension of what I'm already celebrating.
9. They free developers up to have fun
Some of the coolest little systems and minigames that I remember from MMOs stem from holidays. Holidays seem to give carte blanche to developers to have a bit of fun, go outside of the box, and try a new thing. When you're not just making the next string of quests or raid instance but have permission to make something new that's in the spirit of the celebration, surprising things can emerge.
10. Even if they're not for you, they're for someone who does care
One complaint I hear about holidays is that it takes time away from devs doing "real content" work. The argument goes that this content is temporary anyway and it slows development of whatever the complainer wants to be put in the game right now. This is a silly argument because, as Eliot once said, it doesn't have to be for you. Just because developers make something that's not up your alley doesn't mean you should go on a rage spiral. People do love and care about holiday events (like me), just as much as others might care about raids or PvP or the next zone.
And guess what? Most studios have separate teams that work on content in parallel, so unless you're personally running the studio, you probably don't see how the content you like and the content that other people like are being made at the same time.
So go easy on the holidays. If they're not for you, it's OK. But if you're like me, then you welcome each and every one of them with open arms -- and you can't wait until the next one.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at email@example.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.