Gamers are tough to shop for. You can bet they’ve already got the big ticket items, and you don’t want to end up buying a first-person shooter for the person who only enjoys artsy games (or vice versa). Luckily, there are at least a few items that show thoughtfulness and that the person will actually use. Some are good gifts for the gaming friend whose habits you know, while others are safe bets for gift-givers who aren’t sure where to start.
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The more you know about the person you’re buying this for, the better. Evil Controllers makes custom video game controllers, meaning you can get a version in a specific color or pattern, or add a rapid-fire modification for a Call of Duty player. They’ll always think of you when they’re mashing the trigger button. Prices vary, Evil Controllers
Portable Retro Game Player
Even if you don’t catch your giftee regularly playing vintage Nintendo games, chances are, if they’re of a certain age, they did at some point. Send them some nostalgia with this portable player for Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES games (and throw in a couple of the cheaper, used classics you can find on Amazon). Childhood to go. $90, Amazon
‘Scott Pilgrim’ Full-Color Hardcover
This seems counterintuitive. It’s not a game or the cult-beloved game-inspired movie of the same name. But! Chances are a gamer is going to a) have seen the movie, b) enjoy the book even more if they haven’t seen it, and c) will love this new full-color edition even if they’re already a fan of the comics. Bases covered. **$19, Amazon**
Speaking of color: There are a lot of geeks out there who are as handy with a paintbrush as they are with a controller. How about some nice art to put above the PlayStation? I’m a fan of these Team Fortress 2 prints, but you can find plenty of independent shops out there that make stylish pieces. (See here and here.) TF2 Posters: From $8, Valve; Retro propaganda posters: $50, ThinkGeek; Mirror’s Edge Poster: $20, Ltd.
Really, what you want to do when giving a gift is to make it an experience you can share. There’s a huge list of party games–a genre where a bunch of players are encouraged to play together–and you can find one for about any system, but the vintage titles are especially good. There are now nine (nine!) entries in the Mario Party series, and they’re all fun. A couple others available for download on various systems: Bomberman for the Wii, Worms for the PS3, and ChuChu Rocket! for iOS. See if you can sneak around to download it the night before you give it. (Downloads) Bomberman: $10, WiiWare; ChuChu Rocket!: $5, iTunes
Tetris LED Lamp
This is cool in general–but being a gamer certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s a Tetris LED lamp that turns the next block on when it’s connected to the main section. $40, ThinkGeek
The Art Of Game Design
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses sounds like it’s a starter guide for game designers, but it’s also a primer on why, psychologically, we love the games we do. $30, Amazon