8-Bit Christmas is all about nostalgia. How in the 80s, we waited for Christmas to finally open the presents. We made lists of new toys, video games, and action figures throughout the year and dropped hints for our parents to buy us. Those were the days when you didn’t have an online cart, and the hustle for the gifts was much more endearing and pure.
Based on Kevin Jakubowski’s novel, 8-Bit Christmas follows a young boy in the 1980s who yearns to get a Nintendo cassette video game. A middle-aged Jake Doyle dives into nostalgia and narrates the tale of his childhood adventures to his daughter, Annie. In the present time, Annie demands a cellphone, just like Jake demanded a Nintendo from his parents.
Adult Jake Doyle (Neil Patrick Harris) visits his parents’ house with his young daughter, Annie, during the Christmas season. On the way, Annie demands her personal cell phone from her father to be in touch with her friends.
As they arrive, they find the house empty. Jake takes Annie to his childhood room and shows her his favorite Nintendo. He outlines that when he was a kid, he wanted a Nintendo worse than Annie wanted a phone. And that’s how he begins his nostalgic tale about how Jake got his first Nintendo.
‘8-Bit Christmas’ Plot Summary
In the late 1980s, when Jake was just 11 years old, only one boy, Timmy Keane, had a Nintendo in the neighborhood. Jake used to ride to Timmy’s house along with other kids. From the crowd, Timmy picked 10 kids and allowed them to touch his 8-bit entertainment system.
It was Christmas time, so Jake demanded his father, John, and mother, Kathy, buy him a Nintendo. At the dinner table, his parents gave enough reasons not to buy a Nintendo that Jake dropped the pursuit in frustration. He found his existence and amusement in watching Timmy play the game, but one day, a tragedy wrecked that possibility too. Timmy “taekwondo the Nintendo” and smashed the television set in a fit of rage. The 42-inch television set landed on Timmy’s dog, and his parents blamed the video game for it.
As the news spread, all the parents protested against video games, and Jake knew that it was the end of his Nintendo dream. But when everything seemed lost, new hope arrived in the form of a competition that could earn Jake and his friends a brand-new Nintendo entertainment system.
Christmas Wreath Contest
As a part of their Christmas event, the Loyal Ranger Scouts announced that they would give a Nintendo to the boy scout who sells the most wreaths in the wreath-selling contest. All the kids prepared their sales pitches and knocked on each door in the neighborhood to realize their dream.
Jake’s younger sister, Lizzy, suggested visiting the Prairie Pines nursing home because old people have the tendency to buy stuff from kids. In exchange, Lizzy wanted Jake to drop hints or inform their parents that she wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid doll as a Christmas present.
With Lizzy’s help, Jake won the wreath-selling contest but got no Nintendo. After the tragedy at Timmy’s place, the parents requested the authorities to ban the video game and remove it from the prize list. Hence, Jake won the first prize of a brand new set of World Book encyclopedias for which he didn’t have any use. The dream of owning a Nintendo was still a dream.
A Final Hustle
The kids found an error baseball card and decided to trade them off for money. They collected enough money to buy their own video game from it. Jake planned a covert mission to the mall to purchase a Nintendo during their school trip to the Art Institute.
Everything was perfect. Jake came out of the mall with a Nintendo in his bag, but the inevitable happened. He slipped on the ice on the street, and the bag was crushed by a moving car.
Jake got depressed after so many failed attempts to get a video game. At that moment, a dealer gave out some uplifting advice and told Jake that one spends life worrying about things they want, and, in the hustle, one fails to appreciate what they already have. The dealer explained that our lives and our parents are our greatest gifts, and we only get to wish them “Merry Christmas” a few times in our lifetime. We must enjoy it while we have it.
The entire scene was extremely important because it emphasized the theme and the ending of the film. When Adult Jake came to his parent’s house, he told Annie that this Christmas would be different, yet they had to enjoy it. It was different because Adult Jake had recently lost his father, John Doyle, and it was probably his first Christmas without his old man.
At the end of the film, adult Jake looked at his father’s empty seat, with John’s favorite Blackhawks cup on the table. This particular scene established that 8-Bit Christmas wasn’t about a Nintendo but more about things Jake ignored in the pursuit of it. Especially his father, John.
‘8-Bit Christmas’ Ending Explained
Jake didn’t get a Nintendo for Christmas this year. No one actually gifted him one. He bought it later with his own money, which he earned by caddying the whole summer at Prairie Pines Golf Course. It was the reason why Adult Jake told Annie to hustle and buy herself a phone. Buying things with one’s hard-earned money is an entirely different feeling.
Before leaving for Minnesota to spend time with Kathy’s parents on Christmas Eve, John surprised Jake with a beautiful tree fort that he built behind the shed. Jake couldn’t stop cherishing the hand-made fort built by his father, and the gesture warmed his heart even as an adult. Later in life, Jake told Annie that the tree fort was a better present than Nintendo, and he realized its worth much later in life. Annie said that the tree fort was the best memory of her grandfather.
In the age of modern gadgets and glittering screens, the tree fort symbolized pure emotion. It’s like building a roof for someone, and whenever they sleep peacefully at night, they’ll remember you. It isn’t a grand establishment, but its value can’t be apprehended. In the end, adult Jake realized that the tree fort held far more memories of his childhood than the outdated Nintendo in his bedroom. The fact was, while the gadget could become obsolete, the love of his family and their memories would never become one.
And all along, adult Jake was trying to convey the same thoughts to his young daughter. Finally, Annie understood that she could have a “merry Christmas” even if she didn’t get a great present. Christmas is all about spending time with family, cherishing the moments, and little about shopping and buying gifts.
8-Bit Christmas is a 2021 Adventure Comedy film directed by Michael Dowse.