Christmas Time is here, by Golly / Disapproval would be folly… sorry. Classical reference. Anyway, you want to shop for the gamer in your life. Whether they play tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) or computer RPGs, they’re sometimes difficult to shop for, huh? Well, not really. Hey, perhaps you just don’t know where to shop. Well, we can help: we’re also assuming, of course, that you’ve already tried simply asking, only you didn’t get an answer that you could work with. It happens: sometimes people don’t articulate their needs well. So…
First off? Gift cards. Gift cards, gift cards, gift cards. I hereby give you permission and absolution: a gift card is a thoughtful gift for a gamer. Seriously, print out this paragraph and include it in the present. That way, if anybody complains you can safely blame me.
You’re probably thinking I mean things like Amazon.com cards, and I do. But there’s more to life than Amazon. Steam sells Steam Gift Cards. EA sells EA Game Cards. World of Warcraft sells Battlenet Gift Cards. Most video game companies and tabletop game companies will have the equivalent of gift certificates, and certainly DriveThru RPG (the go-to place for tabletop RPGs in e-form) does. Basically, if you’re buying a gift for a gamer in your life, find out his favorite publisher (he will have one), and get a gift certificate from them. He’ll find a way to use it. One caveat: many console gamers will often prefer actual games, although additional contributions to annual membership fees won’t be turned down. Again, ask ahead of time.
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Assuming that a simple gift certificate won’t cut it—the heavy hand of social convention weighs heavy on us all—there are always supplies.
- Does your gamer play tabletop RPGs? Pencils. Erasers. A supply of folders and three-ring binders and page protectors. And find out what printer your gamer uses. Buy the printer ink reloads. In fact, that’s just a good present on general principles. Printer ink is scary-expensive.
- Does your gamer play with miniatures? Plastic storage boxes—with deep pockets. Clear plastic rulers. Protractors. Good-quality tape measures. Dry-erase boards.
- Does your gamer paint miniatures? Buy spray primer. DO NOT BUY PAINT. Grey spray primer is fine. Good-quality brushes in several varieties are fine. Palettes are fine. Paint itself, no. Unless you ask ahead of time.
- Does your player play video games? Check his hardware peripherals. Do any of them look broken, repaired, dingy, or just like they’d smell bad if they weren’t plastic? Buy a replacement (buy two, if they’re cheap). When the original breaks six months later at 10 PM on a Sunday night and your gamer starts to swear, then realizes No, wait, I have a replacement, still in the box!… that’s the magic of Christmas, right there. Failing that: well, nobody’s ever going to turn down the newest generation console game. Only, for the love of everything holy: include a fun game with it! And no, not just the game that comes with the console bundle.
- That insanely expensive collector’s item associated with that video game that your gamer is always raving about? You know. something like this? Get it, and—this is very important—include the receipt. If your gamer doesn’t have it, he wants it. If he does have it (or inexplicably doesn’t want it), he’s going to want to sell it later and having the receipt will help with establishing authenticity.
And then there’s always the possibly-slightly-narcissistic option: giving your gamer a copy of a game that you love. If you do that, however, do it right. Which is to say, give with an open hand. If you’re giving a video RPG, make sure that it works on his system and include all the downloadable content (DLC), Season Passes, etc. If you’re giving a tabletop RPG, give everything that he’ll need to run a game. That means the main book, the dice, something that can be used as a GM screen and whatever absolutely vital supplements are necessary to properly play the game. And be prepared to play in whatever campaign gets set up accordingly. I mean, you love the game, right?
In short: basically, think of gamers the way that you’d think of sports enthusiasts, when it comes to buying gifts. If you share their hobby, you probably don’t need to read this; but if you don’t, then try to focus on gifts that can be used up, instead of items that you only have to buy once. Unless you have advance knowledge of what the gamer in your life truly yearns for, of course. And you’re willing to buy it for him, also of course. If you don’t have that kind of close relationship, by all means: printer ink. The price-per-ounce for that stuff is insane.