|Don't underestimate the powerful sway of nostalgia, says Steve Tilley. A vintage game from eBay, like a near-mint copy of Ultima III, might mean more to a gamer than any new release.
Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is to not have to read another gamers' gift guide.
Seriously, recommending a video game for someone you don't know is like recommending clothing for someone when you don't know their size. Or gender. I like pink ballerina dresses, so surely your giftee will too, right?
Instead, how about this: one-size-fits-all gifts you can get for a gamer without even needing to leave your house. That's right, I am here to help you make this as quick and painless and effortless as possible. Because I really wish all shopping could be that way.
A new game from Amazon, Best Buy or any other established online retailer
Not to be Capt. Obvious here, but the easiest way to shop for a popular new game is to order it online. I find Amazon.ca to have the best prices and fastest shipping, but BestBuy.ca, FutureShop.ca and so on are all viable. If you're reading this before Dec. 16, you might still qualify for free shipping that will get it here by Christmas. But if not, paying a few bucks beats fighting mobs at the mall. If you need a game recommendation, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Seriously. I'd rather do dozens of individual consultations than make blanket recommendations. That's just lame.
A vintage game from eBay
Don't underestimate the powerful sway of nostalgia. I love my modern high-def games, but if someone found me a copy of some old, beloved game (say, a near-mint copy of Ultima III with all the manuals and cloth map included), that would mean more to me than any new release. While it might be tricky to get it in hand before the holidays, you can always print out a copy of the receipt sheet with a picture of the game, and box that up with the promise the game should arrive soon.
A gifted game on Steam or GOG.com
If your gamer generally plays on a PC or Mac, the easiest way to gift a title is via Steam, the de facto online source for buying and downloading games. GOG.com -- it stands for Good Old Games -- also allows easy gifting of games. The trick in each case is that you have to have an account on the service yourself, but it's relatively easy to sign up, and in any case is a no-brainer for gifting between gamer buddies.
Though this is one step shy of giving a gift card -- and honestly, there's no shame in that -- buying points cards for your giftee's gaming system of choice allows him or her to download a game, expansion pack or a new set of digital horse armour. For $20 you can get a PlayStation Network card, a Microsoft Points card or an iTunes gift card for the iPad and iPhone gamer. (Similar cards are available for the Nintendo Wii, Wii U and 3DS but they're oddly difficult to find online.)
Pre-order an upcoming game
If you've heard your giftee talking excitedly about BioShock Infinite, The Last of Us, Tomb Raider or some other game due for release next year, pre-order it online through any major retailer that offers the service. It's the gift that gives twice, once when you let the person know that the game has been ordered, and again when it's released. Santa would approve.