As a child, Game Pass on Christmas Day would have felt unbelievable

by Pierre Bell

A lot has changed in the world of video games since I started playing.

You're 12 years old. Video games are a luxury, and rightly so. They're expensive and you are happy for what you get - maybe two new games over a year. Think hard about what you're going to choose as you'll be playing it many, many times. You might get to play a handful more by doing the odd rental or if your friends didn't also go for the big hitters like you did. Most games are experienced via the pages of video game magazines, often more pictures than words, but that's fine.

You got Street Fighter 2 Special Champion Edition on Christmas Day, a game you could play with your brother and friends, endlessly. It's a great day. No one is denying that. Later that day you give the latest issue of Mean Machines another read. Maybe, you think, you should have asked for Sonic Spinball.

Then Santa drops in. It's now 4pm on Christmas Day, but who cares? You don't argue with the big man. He's holding a golden ticket, emblazoned with the words "Game Pass Ultimate" and he's giving it to you.

Suddenly your stocking swells in size, then bursts open, Mega Drive games piling high to the ceiling. You can't believe your "up since 4am" eyes. It's a Christmas miracle. You're switching between Aladdin, Gods, and Chuck Rock 2, and yes, even Sonic Spinball. What is this magic? And is Sonic Spinball even that good or are you blinded by the fact that as a child you foolishly liked Sonic the Hedgehog?

It was a different time, of course. Digital games weren't a thing. The internet wasn't even a thing. If you wanted to see a game outside of a screenshot before buying it, you had to get your mum to convince the person in Dixons to let you give it a whirl on the demo unit. But I do think about what it's like to be a kid these days, and potentially having so many games easily accessible. I would have been over the moon.

There is of course an argument against Game Pass, primarily centred around not owning games and the service eventually skewing development to maximise engagement and keep Game Pass subscriptions going. I was never a collector of games. I'd sell the few I had to part-fund the buying of new games, and sell entire consoles to get my hands on something else. So Game Pass cycling titles in and out of the service wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest.

My counter argument to those against Game Pass is that it opens games up to more people. As a child, the feeling of missing out is perhaps at its greatest. There's always a kid who gets everything, or worse still, a family member who has it all - the SNES, complete with that Turtles game you really wanted and a Super Scope. It's not possible to have everything, most of us know that, but if little Jimmy and Julie really want to be playing Forza Horizon 5 with kids in their class, and Game Pass makes that possible, that's brilliant.

Questionable disregard for age ratings aside, 12-year-old me would be in for a outrageously good Christmas Day this year with a Game Pass Ultimate membership: Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Minecraft, Psychonauts 2, Among Us, Dirt 5, Football Manager, The Master Chief Collection, Hades… the list goes on and on. That's not even including the games I'd only discover and play thanks to Game Pass.

As a child of the 80s and 90s, the idea of a service like Game Pass would have been unthinkable. The kind of idea laughed about in the school playground. Now it's hard to imagine it not existing. Kids today have got it good, at least in the world of video games.