Shopping for a gamer is a tall order. Not only do we tend to be rather obsessed with our hobby, but we also tend to get the games we want right away – leaving loved ones with a blank list come holiday gift-giving season. If you’re one of those poor souls, don’t worry – you don’t need to resort to socks and ties – because there are plenty of ways you can feed our addiction in fun ways, without ever worrying you’re buying us something we already have (or worse, a game that really sucks). Here’s our list of the very best non-game gifts for gamers, sure to delight your favorite fanboy/fangirl.
Stylish Gamer T-shirts
The humble gaming-themed t-shirt has come a long way since the days of massive one-size-fits-all screen-prints in polybags that used to come with pre-orders. Now, you can even reasonably expect to go out in public – and look good! Insert Coin has some of the best out there – genuinely sweet-looking designs that often hint at the game they’re inspired by – think of it as a clever in-joke. You also have the option to browse mens, ladies, and kids sizes – there’s really nothing cuter than an adorable toddler in a Shadow of the Colossus tee, now is there?
NerdyShirts.com also has an excellent selection; just check the videogame section for all of your themed needs. They definitely have a nice retro vibe to their apparel – even the Halo shirts are looking beautifully 16-bit.
When talking geeky/gamer tees, one cannot discount ThinkGeek and it’s excellent assortment. Portal and Minecraft are better represented here, as are interactive shirts that let you play instruments on your own torso or detect Wi-Fi in the area.
iCade iPad Arcade Cabinet
It all started as an April Fools joke at ThinkGeek, but this awesome little gift is way too good of an idea to give up. Basically, this is a small arcade cabinet (complete with large buttons and a nice, meaty joystick) that houses an iPad. You can download 100 classic games for $15 for a bonus gift. This is easily a must-buy for gamers who like their action old school.
Retron 3 Gaming system
You don’t need to constantly download old games – if you (or your gamer gift recipient) still has their Genesis, NES or Super NES cartridges lying around, nab one of these awesome little consoles to plug and play on a modern TV. The system comes with two wireless controllers, but it also has the correct inputs for the original controllers (so if you have those lying around as well, you’ll be in retro-console heaven).
The printed word makes a fine gift – especially when it pertains to gaming! Brainy gamers will appreciate Extra Lives: Why Videogames Matter by Tom Bissell and All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture by Harold Goldberg. Fiction fans will likely get a kick out of Ready Player One, by Earnest Cline.
For the aspiring artist in your life, you can't go wrong with Exposé 9 (Hardcover: $79.00; Softcover: $69.00) or Exotique 7 (Special Edition: $115; Soft Cover: $59), the latest releases in Ballistic Publishing's digital art series. These collections gathers together the finest works of digital art around into gorgeous, high-quality volumes that are sure to inspire any budding game designer to create the next great interactive universe.
Maybe your gamer is more interested in publications? Surely, they’re going to G4 for news, features, and video content, but there are a number of “boutique” print magazines that cater to niches. Is he really into older games (or new games that look like the oldies)? Look into nabbing a Retro Gamer gift subscription. Is she into indies and meditations on wider game culture? Kill Screen Magazine may be just her thing.
Xbox Live or PlayStation Network Gift Cards
This is the ultimate stocking stuffer. Whether your gamer is an Xbox kind of guy/gal or prefers PlayStation, there’s no doubt that he or she hasn’t been able to sample all of the excellent downloadable games (such as Bastion on XBLA or Rochard on PSN), or been able to get all of the downloadable content for her favorite games. A couple of these puppies, and your gift-ee will be floating in digitally distributed bliss.
SurfShelf Treadmill Desk and Laptop Holder
Not all gamers are into fitness, for sure. However, for someone who enjoys a good run and a gaming session, nothing could be better than this sturdy little piece of kit, which holds a laptop solidly in place atop a treadmill or other exercise machine. No, you won’t be playing FPS titles with it, but it’s absolutely perfect for slower-paced games and any other digital distraction you can imagine.
Tis’ the Season
If you really need to nab something schlocky (and holiday themed), you cannot go wrong with ThinkGeek’s 8-bit Holiday Wreath. It’s an LED decoration with a nice assortment of old-school gaming symbols – a 1-up from Mario, a slime from Dragon Quest, etc. Nothing quite says “seasonal cheer” like a flashing plastic wreath, after all!
(To continue your gift-recommendation odyssey, check out all our 2011 holiday gift guides.)
Danielle Riendeau is a freelance writer, digital media professor, and nonprofit web ninja from Boston. You should