Mafia 2 and Christmas 🕹️🎄
The fall of 2010 was an interesting one for me. My lease was up at an apartment that I had grown to loathe, and my marriage was falling apart. The writing was on the wall, the relationship was over and had been over for some time, but we decided to rent a new apartment across town. It was a nicer apartment and one that I was excited to move into. I even put some money into decorating the new place more so than I had done before. I bought some video game/comic book posters and framed them, I invested in a couch, and I was hoping this was a new beginning.
It wasn't. Very quickly I realized I'd just moved my problems from one apartment to another (a mistake I'd repeat about eight years later) and I needed to man-up and end the relationship. So, I did and in a strange way created this void of a few months in my life.
See, I was trying to start fresh with this move. I had just bought some new video games and was focusing on building my own arcade cabinet. I had lots of hopes and dreams going through my head, but the relationship was dragging everything down. So, when I ended it, I left the apartment for a few months (until she moved back to her parents) and when I returned, I was a different person.
It was almost like a weird starting and stopping point in my life. In a strange way, I've spent the last thirteen years frustrated that I never played the games I bought at Target's Buy Two Get One Free sale that November, (Sonic Colors, Vanquish, and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit) Every time I see the games on sale, I think to myself, "I should buy them, just to say I finished them" because I was excited about investing in my gaming and trying to squeeze out some happiness at a time in my life that wasn't so happy.
That Christmas was rather awkward. I hadn't had much of a relationship with my family in the years prior, and I had just reconnected with my mom after several years of not speaking. I found myself living with her and my stepfather (whom she had married just before we stopped speaking) and his daughter and her child. There was no room for me at the house, so I slept on an air mattress behind the stairs. I put up a shower curtain rod with a curtain for some privacy and I just existed back there for a couple of months while I tried to figure out where I would go with my life next.
I had left all of my belongings (outside of my clothes) when I moved out, so I didn't have much to tie me down. Eventually, my ex wanted me to take my Xbox 360, because she didn't want it, but she did want the PS3 and Wii. So, I got my Xbox 360, and I stopped by the store and picked up a copy of Mafia 2. I always wanted to play the original, but my PC wasn't powerful enough to run it properly and I never bought it on the original Xbox.
My time with Mafia 2 was important to me and as the holiday season approaches, I can't help but reflect on it. I really wanted to have a big Christmas or a nice reunion with my family back in 2013. I wanted the holiday feast you see on TV with a big table full of food. But that just wasn't my family, especially not later in life. I even remember talking to my mom about inviting everyone over and she just told me, "Sorry, that’s not our family." So, Christmas was rather lonely, particularly so for me that year.
I found comfort in Mafia 2, a game that takes place at Christmas. Heck, the opening scene is one of my all-time favorite openings and it is just the main character walking through this New York inspired neighborhood circa the early 1940s while Frank Sinatra's Let It Snow plays in the background.
I've always had a false nostalgia for that time period and particularly the crooner's take on Christmas songs. It just feels like Christmas to me, and that one scene was everything to me. I'd replay it over and over just to experience this interesting world set during Christmas time.
My Christmas with my family was rather uneventful and I felt very much out of place. My mother had moved on with her new family and our rift was still fresh. I worked at a movie theater, so I worked Christmas day and most of the days around it, so in a way, it was helpful, just not to feel so isolated and alone at Christmas time.
But when I got home or had some free time, I was able to boot up Mafia 2 and find some comfort. It was nice to get lost in this beautiful world and the fact that it felt more like Christmas to me than my real life has not been lost on me. I think sometimes the media we consume is in fact better than what we truly experience.
Just this week, Mafia 2 was announced as one of the free PS+ games and I think it triggered this memory. It's been thirteen years (almost to the day) since I ended that relationship and a month or so away from when I would have first booted up Mafia 2 from the comfort of my tiny corner behind the stairs.
I actually bought the first Mafia game a year or so ago and need to finish it up, but I'm sure I'm going to boot up Mafia 2 and play through the opening Christmas segment a couple of times this holiday season. And whenever I get around to finishing up the first game, I'll be moving over to Mafia 2 for one last go around, this time when my life is less chaotic and I'm happier.