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Parents, make sure that's Rudolph's nose and not the red ring of death

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We take Christmas seriously in my house.

And I mean seriously. Hot chocolate has to have a candy cane in it. Everyone gets a new ornament for the tree every year. The Rankin-Bass holiday specials must be viewed in respectful revelry. Christmas lights will be admired as we drive around the neighborhood.

My favorite rule, and it's one of that has helped our enjoyment of Christmas morning itself is the following: Upon waking, all toys and games must be in working order. The path from seeing a gift to enjoying that gift must be as short as we can possibly make it. We've assembled furniture, made sure batteries are fresh, clipped those silly plastic things that keep toys in the boxes ... everything is ready to be picked up and enjoyed immediately.

Christmas shouldn't be about the drudgery of making sure something works, it should be about the joy of playing with that thing.

This extends to video games, and it's a great way to make Christmas morning more pleasant. All consoles are opened the night before and updated. All accounts with the necessary parental tools to lock out M-rated games are added. Codes are redeemed and digital games are downloaded and installed. All controllers are charged or given fresh batteries. Every game that comes from a box is put into the console or PC, installed, fully updated and left ready to go.

It's not all fun and games

This is a high risk, high reward move. It can take literal hours to get everything up to speed, especially when some patches these days can be as large as the game themselves. You're opening yourself up to risk to that the kids will catch you in the act, which could diminish some of the surprise. You're also hurting your chances to return any games or consoles if it ends up being something someone didn't want, or they had another console in mind, or whatever.

You do this when you're damned sure they actually wanted the Xbox 4, and not the PlayStation U.

The rewards are great, however. You can enjoy a nice night of playing the video games yourself before you turn them over to those little jackals, and if anything is broken or defective you may have time to get it exchanged before that crucial morning.

presents wtf

You'll also be able to shield them from the horrors of modern video games as you download patch after patch and set up account after account while being pitched on season passes and DLC at every turn. They have to learn about these things at some point, but we can keep them innocent for just a bit longer.

This approach isn't for everyone, and you can always put the systems and games back in the boxes without hooking them up to the TV if you want to give your kids the thrill of unwrapping the consoles and also unpacking the hardware itself, but how great would it be to have that console fully ready to go the second they want to play?

Mario Kart 8 as a family is a much better time than the "wait for the Wii U and then the game to be all updated" game that you'll be forced to play if you ignore my advice.

This is how I roll, and there's nothing better than replacing any and all morning frustration with the act of being able to jump right in and enjoy your games and consoles. To sum it all up: Christmas stock photos are awful.

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