Playing Santa: Here's our gift guide for gamers
Need the perfect present for a gamer but don't want to buy something obvious? Win points with this gear
The situation: You have a niece, nephew, kid or cousin who is obsessed with video games.
The problem: If you get them the hottest new PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 game, odds are that they already own it.
You could always purchase the shiny new Nintendo Wii U console, but you may not want to spend that much.
Luckily, there are numerous peripheral items, including books, clothing, DVDs, graphic novels, collector's editions and toys, that are both easy on the pocketbook and fun to own. Here are 10 items every video game enthusiast would love to receive this holiday season.
'All Your Base Are Belong to Us: How Fifty Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture'
by Harold Goldberg
Three Rivers Press
A book that The Ultimate History of Video Games author Steve Kent calls "The best window into the video game industry on the market today," All Your Base Are Belong to Us chronicles the creation of many of the most important games of the past 50 years, including such popular properties as Donkey Kong, Grand Theft Auto, Tetris and World of Warcraft. In addition, Goldberg tells the tale of an assortment of industry icons, such as Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple Computer), Nolan Bushnell (the brainchild behind Pong), Hiroshi Yamauchi (former Nintendo president) and William "Trip" Hawkins (founder of Electronic Arts).
$15, Barnes & Noble
'Before the Crash: Early Video Game History'
Edited by Mark. J.P. Wolf
Wayne State University Press
More than ever before, video games are being taken seriously from a scholarly point of view. Before the Crash: Early Video Game History illustrates this nicely, offering chapters with such heady titles as "Video Games Caught in History: Accessibility, Teleological Distortion, and other Methodological Issues" and "Color-Cycled Space Fumes in the Pixel Particle Shockwave: The Technical Aesthetics of Defender and the Williams Arcade Platform, 1980-82." Ralph H. Baer, who invented TV-based video games with the original Odyssey (1972), chimes in with his perspective on things, while Leonard Herman, author of Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames, writes about ball-and-paddle games (such as Pong).
'Call of Duty: Black Ops II' Care Package
Xbox 360/PlayStation 3
ActivisionEven if the gamer in your life has been playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II nonstop since it was released earlier this month, odds are he or she doesn't have the special Care Package edition, which includes such bonus physical content as a remote-controlled Quadrotor drone and a limited-edition game case. In addition, the package includes a digital copy of the in-game score (theme by Trent Reznor), avatar props and costumes, a multi-player weapon skin and two limited-edition challenge coins that "serve as your key to exclusive digital content". First-person shooting has never been so swag-laden.
'Best of Sonic the Hedgehog'
Archie Comics publishes more than tales about the redheaded teenager and his fawning duo of Betty and Veronica (and the rest of the Archie gang). For nearly 20 years, the company has produced comic books based on Sonic the Hedgehog, the speedy Sega mascot that debuted in 1991 on the Genesis and has been going strong ever since. Best of Sonic the Hedgehog is a hardcover collection of stories selected by the writers and artists themselves, including such adventure yarns as "Mecha Madness," "Endgame," "Order From Chaos" and "Future Tense." Tails, Knuckles and Dr. "Eggman" Robotnik guest-star.
$24.99, Lone Star Comics
'Halo' UNSC Sabre Mega Bloks
Recommended for age 8 and up
Mega Bloks are similar to Legos, but newer and without their own theme park. There are several Halo packages available, such as the Halo UNSC Sabre set, which lets users play out "Long Night of Solace," a key scenario in the popular Xbox 360 game Halo Reach. It comes with 1,241 pieces, including stickers, tools, weapons, adjustable ladders, removable rocket boosters for the Sabre and six mini-figures: two UNSC marines, the sergeant, a technician and two Spartans. This is the ideal gift for any fan who already owns the games but would like to become more immersed in the Halo universe.
'Joysticks' (remastered widescreen edition)
Recommended for fans of trash cinema, and for those with fond memories of video arcades of the early 1980s, Joysticks (1983) is finally back in print on DVD, this time in widescreen format (the 2002 VHS and 2006 DVD releases were both full screen). The film was produced on a shoestring budget and is hardly the Citizen Kane of video game movies (that would be the original Tron or Wreck-It Ralph), but it is fun in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way. Joe Don Baker stars as a grumpy businessman trying to shut down a popular arcade, much to the chagrin of the local teens and 20-somethings (including Jonathan Gries of Napoleon Dynamite fame).
'Mario Kart' hoodie jacket
For boys sizes 4-16
Even hardcore gamers go outside from time to time, and as temperatures drop, this hoodie jacket is just the ticket for Nintendo fans. Sporting Mario on the front and a larger graphic of Mario, Luigi and Bowser on the back, the jacket is made of pillowed polyester fabric and is durable but comfortable (thanks to a soft inner lining). It's available in themed Nintendo colors and includes two closable front pockets to keep keys, wallets and cellphones secure but easily accessible. A detachable hood with Velcro closure provides added warmth and flexibility.
2-6 players, Recommended for ages 8 and up
There are numerous iterations of the classic board game Monopoly, including such local favorites as the Dallas Edition and the Texas Edition, but the video game fan in your life will want Monopoly Nintendo. The dice-rolling, property-purchasing gameplay remains intact, but the tokens of yesteryear have been replaced by such items as a mushroom and Samus' helmet. "Coin Block" and "? Block" cards replace Chance and Community Chest cards, while gamers buy power-ups and invincibility instead of houses and hotels. Boardwalk, Park Place and other New Jersey locales have been supplanted by Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Star Fox and Wario. Includes 60-minute speed play rules.
$39.95, Barnes & Noble
Sega Genesis classic game console
A plug-and-play console does just that -- you plug it directly into your TV, and it can play games right out of the box. For most of these systems, such as the Atari Flashback line, the games are built-in. Same goes for the Sega Genesis Classic Game Console, which offers 80 games: 40 emulated Sega Genesis titles, including such legendary franchises as Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage, and 40 rather primitive "bonus games." What's cool about this unit is that it also has a slot for actual Genesis cartridges.
$40, Family Dollar
'Video Game Trader' Subscription
Your video game-loving friend or relative probably already reads Game Informer, the ubiquitous
GameStop magazine, so why not surprise him or her with a subscription to the independent, but slickly produced Video Game Trader? Published quarterly, VGT covers games for classic and current consoles. A typical issue includes a spotlight on a coin-op classic, an interview with a programmer or other industry insider, reviews of games and game-related books and an historical piece about a system or game series. In addition, each issue features a price guide (like baseball cards and comic books, rare, highly sought-after games command a premium in the collector's market).
$19.99 (four-issue subscription), www.j2games.com
Brett Weiss is the author of the "Classic Home Video Games" book series (McFarland Publishers).