Ladies and gentlemen, whether you want to admit it or not, Christmas is merely two weeks away. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the stores are just a mite busy this year, particularly in the world of video games and electronics. We know you’re slammed with work, family and holiday beer — er, cheer — so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to prepare this 2007 Holiday Buyer’s Guide with our thoughts on the items that will make good gifts for the gamers in your family. Consider it our gift to you (and probably our only gift to you other than our great freebie giveaways), because frankly, we’re busy struggling to find gifts for our families as well.
Everyone enters the shopping season looking for that special gift that fulfills a specific need for a specific person. With that in mind, we’ve broken down this Holiday Buyer’s Guide by personality and need rather than product category, hoping that it’ll make your journey easier as you run headfirst into a phalanx of holiday shoppers.
For the Has-It-All Gamer: There comes a time when you’ll know someone who seems to have it all. All the next-gen consoles, a smoking-hot Windows PC, both a Nintendo DS and Sony PSP…everything. But if they’ve got all that, they probably don’t have much money left. Which is where GameFly comes in. GameFly is a rental service similar to NetFlix, but with video games rather than movies. For $22.95 (less than half the price of one game) per month, GameFly subscribers can have up to two games out at a time — and for any system — with no limit as to how many they rent in a given month. GameFly members login to their account and add dozens of games to their GameQ, which GameFly uses as a reference guide to determine which games they’ll send next. Returning games is a breeze as well: just seal them in the self-addressed and postage-paid envelope, and off it goes. Although some games take a while to get to you, GameFly generally delivers a new game within two days of receiving the one(s) you just returned, and if the subscriber wants to keep the game, it’s offered at a very reduced rate. And, since GameFly now offers music, there are few better gifts than a GameFly subscription for a gamer who seemingly has everything else.
For the Late-Night Gamer: Say you’re in college living in a dorm. Say you’re in an apartment building above a crusty old man. Say you’re a dad looking for some spare time to unwind with a first-person shooter. In all these scenarios, chances are high that you play games and watch Blu-ray or HD-DVD movies late at night, which is the same time your “noise complaints” are bound to be their highest. If that’s your lot, look no further for a Christmas gift than the Sony MDR-DS6000 Wireless 5.1 Headphones. These surround-sound headphones transmit a crystal-clear signal and in many respects perform better than a full-on wall-mounted 5.1 system. Although it sounds like a luxury, this setup is an essential tool for late-night gamers who like to crank the volume high yet need to find a way to “keep the peace” with everyone else. Over the long haul, this will be $300 very well spent.
For the Penny-Pinching Gamer: Most gamers want to feel like they got their money’s worth with a given game, but there are a few who also want to feel like the gift giver got his/her money’s worth as well. For those people, The Orange Box and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Game of the Year Edition can’t be beat. The Orange Box is essentially five games in one: the gravity-puzzle game Portal, the squad-based online shooter Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2, and Half-Life 2 Episodes 1 and 2. Five games, dozens of hours of gameplay, one package. A true value indeed. Oblivion: GOTY Edition, meanwhile, is on this list in spite of its core game being one year old because it’s just so dang good — and massive. The core role-playing game, with all its side quests and dungeon crawling, lasts well over 150 hours, and the GOTY Edition adds two chunks of downloadable content and an official expansion pack. Yeah, this will keep the penny-pinching gamer busy well past Christmas 2009, and he or she will be thanking you the entire time.
For the Closet-Geek Gamer: No matter how “leet” they think they are, gamers over the age of 25 generally like Star Trek, so this “geek-friendly” gift has their name all over it. Star Trek The Original Series: Season One on HD-DVD is a no-brainer, if you can afford it ($194.99). With top-notch video quality, a few tastefully updated CG effects and a great picture-in-picture bonus feature called “Starfleet Access,” Star trek TOS Season One is quite a gem. You’ve got to have faith that the intended recipient is a Trek fan, though, because if he or she isn’t, this is both a waste of money and a slap in the face to their “I ain’t that geeky” pride.
For the Social Gamer: You’ve really got two options here: an Xbox Live Gold annual subscription, which will let the intended recipient play games online with and against their Xbox 360-owning friends wherever they may be; or a copy of World of Warcraft and a two-month subscription, which will get them started on their way to obesity, poor health, pasty skin and some incredible stories to tell — but only to fellow gamers. Technically there’s a third option, pre-ordering and paying in full for a copy of StarCraft 2, but there’s no real deadline for that game’s release, so that gift could take years to pan out.
For the Cold Gamer: Christmas comes in December. December is cold in the Northern Hemisphere. Gamers stay up late, drink refrigerated energy drinks and often play games in a t-shirt. That’s a recipe for frostbite if we’ve ever heard one. For those gamers, buy an Xbox 360. The Little Heat Register That Could known as Microsoft’s next-gen console puts out enough hot air that it can increase the temperature of a family room or small basement by three degrees. Seriously. The Xbox 360 has a great online system and the best game lineup of 2007, but for gamers whose knuckles get chilled just thinking about their next late-night session, you’ve no other place to look but the concentric-circled box.
For the Violent Gamer: Before you dismiss this category, hear us out. If you’re a regular gamer, you know the experience of chucking a controller halfway across the room in frustration. Sometimes that toss isn’t quite enough, though, and the feelings of rage need a new outlet. Enter the Nintendo Wii. With its motion-sensitive controllers, the Wii has gone from a casual-gaming sensation to a useful tool for releasing that frustration in a safe environment. Well, safe if you have the wrist strap attached, that is. Pissed off at a first-person-shooter’s frustrating enemies or lack of checkpoints. Pop in WiiSports, select Wii Boxing and have at it. In no time you’ll be punching, sweating, burning calories and, lo and behold, laughing so hard you’ll forget why you were feeling violent in the first place. Of course, the impossibility of locating a Wii is another matter, which leads us to the next gift.
For the Desperate Gamer (and Gift Giver): You know how the saying goes: “When the going gets tough, the tough go to eBay.” This is especially true when it comes to video games, almost any of which can be found on the online auction site — for a price. Sometimes you just need to have that out-of-production game, or that decades-old console, or that limited-edition version of a game that everyone else wishes they owned. And at those times, eBay is your only hope. Get online, get familiar with the listings and get prepared to place your bid in the last 30 seconds, because that’s when the real bargain seekers (“snipers”) come out to play. If these tactics aren’t your cup of tea, we guarantee that the desperate gamer in your household won’t think twice about resorting to them. Oh, and the best part about this gift: membership is free.
And with that, we hope we’ve shed some light on your plight to find something for that special gaming someone. Heck, maybe that “special gaming someone” is you, in which case feel free to take these ideas and drop them as suggestions for your “secret Santa.” Just remember that Christmas is only two weeks away, so if you don’t get shopping soon, you’ll be choosing from 18 varieties of sweater vests before you know it.
— Jonas Allen