Boxes are a vitally important part of the world of video games. We'll understand if you at first doubt this. "Boxes?", you may say. "Those big, stupid, cuboid wankers with their big stupid sides and silly old corners? What good are they in the great scheme of things?" Well consider this. Where do you get your power-ups from? What provides your cover? What helps you solve spatial puzzles? Without boxes, you'd be screwed.
But it doesn't end there. You see 2011 has been a particularly good year for boxes, providing some truly amazing, innovative, and even spiritually affecting ones which transcend even the noble purposes above. Seriously. We're talking groundbreaking boxes. Here are the best seven.
7. Modern Warfare 3
Bad things are bad. We all know this. But you know what’s even worse than a bad thing? A bad thing that pretends to be a good thing before revealing just how blisteringly, soul-honkingly bad it really is. When your brain is cranked up into a plateau of happy expectation immediately before being dropped mercilessly into a stinking heap of “Oh now that’s not very nice”, the effect of the un-nice element is only ever exaggerated. It’s like the difference between falling off a small chair, and then falling off a small chair into a deep hole with broken glass at the bottom of it. And this precise amplification of rapidly unleashed grimitude is exactly why the Airdrop Trap is so devilishly effective.
Above: JUDGEMENT DESCENDS
Disguised as a normal Care Package, it preys upon human instincts of greed, and mankind's lazy cravings of easy gratification. A player spots what he or she thinks is a Care Package falling slowly into the battle-ground. It’s not theirs of course, but they want it all the same. So they run to it, open it, and stick their greedy, slobbering head in. And then their own filthy avarice blows up in their face, as the box quite literally does the very same. See it as a universal force for retribution. See it as a great cosmic leveler, a force of nature sent from beyond to instil cold-but-fair, impersonally-imparted, self-inflicted justice. See it as the Willy Wonka of boxes. Because that, friends, is what it is.
But the Airdrop Trap is not a cold, mocking trickster, throwing out chaos and deceit for the mere fun of it. No, the Airdrop Trap’s lesson is harsh but fair, always offering a way out for its despicable student, always offering redemption if they show that they really, truly have heeded its moral teaching. The Airdrop Trap, you see, only goes off after it has been fully opened. And it takes two seconds less than a real Care Package to achieve this. And thus, the hasty, greedy player, all drunk on the demon liquor of self-gratification, will inevitably fail to notice this suspiciously speedy countdown. In fact they will only become more excited by how much sooner they are to receive their dirty spoils. And for this transgression, they will receive only a swift and bloody death in reward.
The slower, more humble, more attentive student however, will duly note and heed the warning of the dread box, and will modify their behaviour accordingly. They will save themselves in immediate, visceral terms, but will also attain a much longer-term, more wide-reaching salvation. The salvation of self-improvement and education.
6. The Nintendo 3DS eShop
Who cares if it's a gift to yourself? Everyone loves opening presents. Nintendo understands this. Which is why, when you've just bought a game in the eShop, your purchase gets sent to your 3DS' main menu screen in a little gift-wrapped box. D’awww, look at it!
Above: Look, it's got everything a good box should have. Sides, top, bottom. It even rotates. That's a deluxe box right there
Who cares if you already know what's going to be in the box when you open it? The excitement's in the unwrapping. You know you're entitled to the digital goodness contained within, so why not dress up the experience with a bit of added value? The sense of excitement and anticipation of buying physical boxed games is undone by digital downloads these days, so it's nice to have it given back to us, even if it is an on-screen token gesture. That said, there is a way to trick yourself into getting a genuine surprise. Download a whole slew of games, like this:
Above: I HAVE FELT YOUR PRESENTS
You could download all 20 Ambassador Programme games in one go, if you haven't already. Or you could just buy a load of old Game Boy games from the Virtual Console store. Or you could even do both at once (overkill perhaps, but Christmas is the season of benevolent excess). Once you have, there will be so many boxes on your 3DS home screen, all mixed up, that you'll have little idea which game is in which box at all. It then becomes a simulated Christmas within a Christmas (provided you're reading this feature at the time of its posting). You may scoff now, but when it's April the 10th and you can recreate the feeling of Christmas with just a few choice downloads, it'll be hard to deny the awesomeness of this box. Mark our words.