The important thing to keep in mind about gamers when you’re attempting to buy them holiday presents is this: They have freakish abilities. They can concentrate on one thing for hours on end. They have especially good hand-eye coordination. They can immerse themselves in the rules of improbable universes and can master environments quickly. Buying presents for a gamer is sort of like buying a present for some kind of government special agent.
But don’t worry. The Geek Out! team has reduced the gaming landscape to some essential qualities, so shoppers can target their prize as easily as a first-person-shooter champion.
The superhero-loving adventurer/strategist
The combination of high-flying combat maneuvers and the iconic scenery of Gotham City is a must for any superhero gaming fan. The thrill that comes from diving off a building gargoyle into a group of thugs, twisting and turning in hand to hand combat, and defeating them all with precision and technique is something to experience. And, of course, listening to the lunatic rantings of the Joker, voiced by Mark Hamill, will excite your Batman-in-training.
"Batman: Arkham City" takes everything that was great about the first Arkham title and makes it bigger, bolder and better. The Dark Knight goes up against his most murderous foes with new weapons and allies in a story that expands the Batman universe.
Add in gameplay with Catwoman and Robin (DLC) and a gaming environment that is five times larger than “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and action-adventure gamers will have hours of enjoyment.
If tossing virtual batarangs wasn’t awesome enough, Power A released a Batarang controller for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 that make playing any game that much cooler. The controllers are gray and black, but they contain lights that illuminate when playing to give a soothing or menacing glow. The PS3 version is wireless and the Xbox 360 version uses a 10-foot USB cable. They also feel very comfortable in the hand for long play times.
The humorist gamer with a knack for solving problems
If the gamer in your life ever wanted to go on adventures like Indiana Jones, “Uncharted 3” is about the closest they’ll come without using a whip. The environments are epic with entire areas (hanging from a plane or escaping a sinking ship) that move while you are trying to move.
It does feel like a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” movie and, with dialogue that is funny and sharp, it will have you smirking and laughing. Gamers who like the idea of exploration and exposition will love this. Success is often more about the interactions between characters than how many people get killed.
There are also historical treasures and references throughout the game. And, this is likely the last we’ll see of Nathan Drake, the swashbuckling, scoundrel, treasure-hunter, so time to catch the big finale.
Role playing tabletop games
Role playing tabletop games are the kind of games that appeal to gamers who have very active imaginations. To play this kind of game well, someone needs to be able to predict and tell complicated stories. Imagining how each player's move impacts the rest of the game is key to role playing games (also known as RPG). Someone who likely appreciates this kind of game probably also likes "Lord of the Rings," they probably already play "Dungeons & Dragons" and have a home library full of fantasy novels.
If the stunning array of RPG products on the market are too difficult to narrow down to one gift - or if you're afraid of buying an RPG gamer something they already have - try a fantasy game that takes place in a similar universe. Something like the "Pathfinder Beginners Box" from Paizo allows gamers to play as courageous fighters who master weapons and armor, wise clerics who call upon the power of the gods to heal your allies and burn enemies with sacred fire, witty rogues able to disarm traps and strike with deadly accuracy or brilliant wizards whose magical powers bring foes to their knees. You know, something your favorite gamer is already used to.
Pathfinder's beginner box is packed with everything a gamer needs to get started on a game with one or more friends. Scores of monsters, challenges and advice give gamers the tools to create their own worlds and adventure, providing countless hours of gaming excitement.
With streamlined rules and a focus on action-packed heroic adventure, this deluxe boxed set is the ideal introduction to the world of the Pathfinder role playing game.
The silly gamer
The sense of adventure and whimsy that challenges players to come up with creative solutions while at the same time remaining humorous because they're playing with LEGOs has been a hallmark of the LEGO version video games. The added ability for others to drop into the game and drop out at will encourages family and friends to join in the action and helped make these games immensely popular.
This holiday season, the boy wizard is all grown up and still blocky as the game “LEGO Harry Potter – Years 5-7” chronicles the adventures of Harry Potter as told in the last three books and four feature films.
Gamers who enjoy familiar characters, cartoon-like environments and a slower gameplay experience will have a blast running around Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic. It all culminates in the final face-off against Lord Voldemort (in LEGO style, of course).
The remember-the-good-times gamer
"Memory Lane" is where this gamer has set up his/her console and where they have the most enjoyment.The sense of classic characters doing the things gamers have always loved that draws people to games such as “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.”
Link returns to save Zelda (and the day) again in this game, which has delighted gamers with many previous adventures. The same fun elements and characters of the Legend of Zelda franchise will have gamers grinning in reminiscence.
This time, combat within the game is made fresh by using the Nintendo Wii RemotePlus controller, which will have gamers hacking enemies down in no time.
Nostalgic gamers generally aren’t looking for something completely new to play, but they'll enjoy taking Link on a new adventure and exploring his world and history more fully.
Wargaming on tabletop with miniatures
Strategy, tactics and imagination are the best weapons in a gamer's arsenal when it comes to war games. If you've ever heard the gamer you're trying to buy a present for talk about how well they play the game "Risk" or "Axis & Allies," then chances are they like to play war games. Tabletop war games, especially ones that incorporate the use of miniature statues, are games that appeal to those who are analytically minded.
There's a certain amount of math that's involved in these games. Players calculate firing radii, missile trajectories, whether or not their shots could clear buildings within the game all while keeping in mind the distances their figures are able to move during a turn. But just as important to these games is the setting story.
One game available this holiday season with an appealing, Steampunk-influenced story is the "Warmachine Two-Player Box Set" from Privateer press. It's a fast-paced and aggressive 30 mm tabletop miniatures battle game set in the steam-powered fantasy world of the Iron Kingdoms. In the game, elite soldier-sorcerers called Warcasters wield mighty Warjacks, which are massive steam-powered combat automatons. The point of the game's battle is to destroy the enemy Warcaster.
The "Warmachine Two Player Box Set" contains everything two players need to start a game, including dice, a ruler, 17 figurines that come with explanatory "stat" cards, a game board, a rules book and an introductory guide .
The online competitor
What gamer wouldn't want to have Force powers, whether for the Jedi or the Sith? “Star Wars: The Old Republic” is the new massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) that lets players act out their Star Wars dreams in a vast online environment. And the subset of gamers devoted to MMORPG can't stop talking about it.
This game is also going to be a hit with all fans of "Star Wars," whether Han shot first or Greedo shot first. This type of game allows gamers to play the game online and either cooperate with or dominate the other players. Competitive fires are sure to be stoked in the rush for higher levels, more skills and powers and more in-game prestige.
The game is due to hit shelves on December 20, so avoid the rush and pre-order for the Sith Lord or Jedi Master on your holiday shopping list.
There's an entire subgroup of gamers who are really into board games. On forums such as BoardGameGeek, they discuss the virtues of every category and franchise of board game imaginable, and this year they've been giving glowing reviews to the "Walking Dead Board Game" from Cryptozoic Entertainment.
Aside from the gameplay itself, this board game is a great gift for a gamer because it includes so many different kinds of geeky fans. Does your gamer like horror, comic books, the TV show "The Walking Dead" and/or board games? A franchise like "Walking Dead" allows a lot of different kinds of people to join in the fun, which is an essential part of a board game.
Board games are social experiences, and "Walking Dead" offers players two different kinds: Everyone involved can work together to avoid the zombies infesting Atlanta, Georgia, or players can choose an every-(alive) man-for-himself mode where only the strong survive and the losers become zombies. Players can spring surprise attacks on the living, cause the zombies to frenzy or contaminate the survivors' supplies.
Maybe zombies aren't your gamer's thing? Look for something such as the "Battlestar Galactica Board Game." It's a few years old, but board gamers sing its praises, and it's another franchise that has inspired a devout fandom.
Gamers who play "Dungeons & Dragons" know this much: Of all the monsters in the world, dragons are the most feared. A fledgling group of adventurers might have what it takes to best a weak dragon, but the most powerful dragons are awesome, devastating creatures that rival even the gods. Even though they are formidable foes, D&D players have a soft spot in their hearts for dragons, so any related gift is sure to please.
Inside the limited-edition "Dragon Collector's Set" are miniature sculptures of the five most iconic evil dragons in the "Dungeons & Dragons" game. This is also D&D parent company Wizards of the Coast's only set available this year to immortalize creatures from D&D. Last year, they released a set of Beholders, (monsters who live in dungeons and destroy things with their eyes), which while interesting and cool do not have the same appeal as dragons.
(Photo credits: "Zelda:" Nintendo; "Arkham City:" Warner Bros. Games)