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Here we go ho ho! It's time for your annual play of Skeal

This free skiing game is an RPS Christmas tradition

With Christmas barely a week away, it's time to start celebrating my own RPS Christmas traditions. Games to play, songs to time, surprises to spring. Let's start with a wee surprise. Pull on your mittens, fill your flask with cocoa, and clip-click-skkrachk those ski boots, for it is time to play the free downhill slalom game Skeal.

Hie thee to Itch.io to play Skeal anon. The downloadable version has been gone for a few years but if you haven't been lovingly transferring a copy from hard drive to hard drive, PC to PC, like your childhood macaroni Christmas ornaments somehow preserved by your mum, you can still play that WebGL version in your browser. It's free and it'll take you four minutes. See you in a bit!

You're done?

That's fun, isn't it.

The developer, Nick Cummings blew a pun up into a musical spectacular with a series of escalations then knew when to end. Good joke. It's not a joke I'd revisit by myself but hey, nor are Christmas cracker jokes (including our own horrors, which I'm sorry to tell you will return this year). I'm here for tradition, for creating your own traditions and joining those which work for you (while casting off those which don't).

I include a video only for Scrooges who won't play Skeal. If you're going to play it, don't watch this!

Every time we take part in tradition, we're building and strengthening memories and investing energy. This is amplified by knowing other people are doing the same. Repeated over time, it's an emotional feedback loop. The next year rolls around and here's a foundation of mirth and merriment to raise your level of enjoyment of a joke you've heard before. The joke's still good, and you're glad we're here doing this together again. This emotional bank supports withdrawals too.

This year I'm late to start my wee round of RPS Christmas traditions (hell, I once started in November) because honestly, I'd forgotten. It's been a rough old year on about every front and my brain has turned to mush. Then when I did remember, I almost skipped it. Was not feeling it. I'm fully spent. But I think it's valuable to continue traditions especially at those times you're not feeling it. Playing Skeal today, I feel some of those banked emotions flowing into me. A little pep talk from the past. More than that, it places this moment on a continuum. I don't know that's next but I have left another footstep in the sand alongside you all. And if nothing else, I have now played Skeal. It is a good joke.

I am reminded of Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's opening to The Mushroom At The End Of The World: "What do you do when your world starts to fall apart? I go for a walk, and if I'm really lucky, I find mushrooms."

When my world is falling apart at Christmas, I play Skeal, and if I'm really lucky, we find our power, our pleasure, our pain.

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Alice O'Connor avatar

Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice has been playing video games since SkiFree and writing about them since 2009, with nine years at RPS. She enjoys immersive sims, roguelikelikes, chunky revolvers, weird little spooky indies, mods, walking simulators, and finding joy in details. Alice lives, swims, and cycles in Scotland.