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A Merry Online Christmas

It’s that time of year again!

I’m not sure how it’s happened, but all of a sudden Christmas is nearly here.

As it happens every year, I look at my calendar and realise that I’ve suddenly got to find presents for friends and family at short notice (and there’s only so many times I can get a fake wig for my brother before the joke gets old...).

This year, there may be extra challenges posed by supply chain issues, with the pandemic, Brexit, driver shortages, fuel hikes and who knows what else conspiring to make things a little bit more difficult.

For those of us who are struggling to find something exciting, or who are finding the shelves a little bare, or who just don’t fancy going out into the cold, wet weather to look for presents, I would like to offer a few online alternatives to spread the seasonal cheer.

It will come as no surprise that I would recommend looking at online games for family and friends of all ages. There are some great deals at this time of year and you can download gifts whenever you want, without worrying about delivery issues.

One game that many players are anticipating is ‘Mount and Blade II: Bannerlords’. While it’s still in early access, meaning that it is not the polished final version, it’s already playable and available for download. If you like leading a massive army against your enemies and being involved in massive battles between different factions all vying for power, or fighting alongside your allies and even eventually starting your own kingdom, then Bannerlords might be your cup of tea.

I have already sunk a fair few hours into the game and it’s enjoyable seeing each new development as the studio update the game. Bannerlords already has a great modding community, so if you ever get bored of the base game you can always download a mod to change it up a little (I’m currently playing a Lord of the Rings mod that is absolutely brilliant!).

For the really last minute deals, Steam is running a Winter Sale from 22nd December to 5th January. Not to be outdone, their major competitor for online games, Epic starts on 16th December until 6th January. The third big online gaming retailer, Origin, has yet to announce the exact dates for its sale.

Alternatively, if you want something a little different, you could consider one of the many innovative new subscription services popping up online, such as MasterClass. This site provides access to pre-recorded classes delivered by celebrity instructors. There’s bound to be something that your friends and family would enjoy—maybe they would love a class on film directing and editing with Martin Scorcese, an acting class with Samuel L Jackson, or a cooking (or swearing) class with Gordon Ramsey.

That said, as with any online subscription service, make sure to check how long you have to continue paying and whether you can stop at any time.

Or, for those of you missing the real life Christmas shopping experience, I recommend buying Michael Bublé’s Christmas hits and then playing it on continuous loop for at least 24 hours.

Jokes aside, there are countless options for presents in the form of films, music albums, audio books and podcasts. Everybody knows Netflix, Audible and Spotify, but the pandemic has shifted a lot of creative work online. My favourite new trend is for tickets offering online access to film festivals and virtual events streaming from all around the world (attend online concerts, Cannes or the Vancouver International Film Festival).

A more personalised option is to edit or make your own video online, especially if you want to bundle the card and present experience together.

There are many sites offering this service for free, allowing you to create a montage of precious moments or a special Christmas message, particularly as many of us haven’t seen some family and friends for a long time. Some of these video makers allow you to add music, animation, or merge videos together to create quite a polished end product. I would recommend, especially for first time editors. It has a simple, intuitive user interface and is actually a lot of fun.

Regardless of what you choose, I hope you have a fantastic Christmas and a brilliant New Year!


Ben James

Written by Ben James, as part of his regular RARE Youth Tech column.


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