While many people are still clinging desperately to the belief that the 70s were thirty years ago, the reality is that even the 90s and early 2000s are becoming remnants of a hazy past. The oldest game franchise in the world, Oregon Trail, is closing on its 50th year while even Mario has stumbled into his fourth decade with one good knee and a bit of a gut.
Of course, over these decades, things do get lost down the back of the universe’s great filing cabinet. Nobody really knows if the legendary Polybius arcade cabinet was actually a real thing (probably not) and we’ve only just discovered that the urban legend concerning Atari’s burial of E.T. in the desert was no legend at all. More than a thousand copies of the game were dug up in New Mexico in 2014. For the upcoming festive season, there’s at least one forgotten tale that ought to be uncovered again, namely, the saga concerning the Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees.
Dedicated Christmas games are rare, not least because they have a shelf-life of about a month. Consequently, most festive experiences in games usually crop up in existing properties like MMOs and multiplayer titles such as Destiny II. There are plenty of entertainment platforms that do roll out Christmas-themed experiences in November and December, though (and at Halloween and so forth).The free games website Kongregate has more than 650 titles dedicated to Christmas, including a festive version of the popular zombie-smasher Infectonator, while Buzz Bingo recently added the exclusive title The Snowman to its list of slots. The latter site now has seven different games dedicated to Christmas, which will be available to play through to the New Year. Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees was something else altogether, though. A video game designed to raise awareness of real Christmas trees, it somewhat inevitably caused a fight with manufacturers of fake ones.
“Warm and Fuzzy”
Beginning back in 2004, The National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) of Colorado attempted to ‘spruce’ up its relationship with consumers at Christmas time by releasing a game about destroying artificial firs with snowballs – Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees. The game, which starred Sigourney Cedar and took the form of a whack-a-mole carnival activity, would ultimately find enemies as far away as the West Coast.
In a thinly-veiled barb, the NCTA implied that “mutant” artificial trees were “sucking the spirit out of Christmas”. In response, the CEO of Balsam Hill Co., California, rubbished the NCTA’s claim as lacking the “warm and fuzzy” elements of a proper festive marketing campaign, beginning an argument that, perhaps mercifully, would be lost along with the Flash engine that Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees was built upon.
As far as strange entries in the annals of the gaming industry go, Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees is almost certainly one that deserves a mention around the festive period.