Looking to buy something for the gamer in your life, when you aren’t a gamer yourself? Here are some holiday shopping tips to help bridge the gap.
Hello, loved ones of gamers. I know it can seem hard to shop for the people in your life who made video games their hobby. My dad used to agonize over the gifts he got us every year, worried that it wouldn’t be the right game for the right platform, or that we wouldn’t like the things he picked. But I’m here to tell you—it doesn’t have to be so daunting.
With a little preparation, you can find an awesome gift for your child, spouse, relative, friend, or any other gamer on your list.
1) Do some reconnaissance
First, you need to know what you’re looking for. What kinds of games does this person like? What systems do they own, and what peripherals (like controllers or headsets) do they have? Is there something they would explicitly love?
The biggest thing is to know what platforms they own. If they have an Xbox Series S, they won’t be able to play everything that the Series X can. PlayStation 4 games still work on PlayStation 5, but the digital-only PS5 doesn’t have a disc drive to read their old games. And it doesn’t hurt to know what other, older systems they still have—more on this below, but outdated systems may still be an option.
Armed with a little bit of knowledge, it’s really easy to get recommendations from other gamers you know, or the employees at game stores if they aren’t completely swamped. You can also check out gift guides online, like those on this very website listed below. And hey, it usually doesn’t hurt to ask the recipient what they’d like—chances are, they’ll have at least a couple of things they could name.
2) Games aren’t the only possible gifts
The actual software is at the heart of the hobby, sure, but there are plenty of other aspects as well. Could the recipient use a new controller for their system? Maybe their current joypad isn’t holding a charge, or they’ve been lamenting not having enough to go around during game nights.
Headsets are also a great investment, allowing them to hear the audio clearer, giving them an advantage, and not troubling those around them with all the explosions and epic music. Check out the accessories section at your local stores and see if there’s something unconventional that maybe they wouldn’t buy themselves.
Each console also offers a subscription service that allows access to online multiplayer gaming. Stores sell gift cards for these services—Nintendo Switch Online, PlayStation Plus, and Xbox Live—and I don’t know a fellow gamer who wouldn’t appreciate having their next year’s subscription taken care of. If you’re specifically buying for an Xbox player, there’s also the Game Pass, a membership plan that includes online access and a huge library of free games. PlayStation and Nintendo also offer free games with their memberships, but Xbox’s library is easily the biggest, and a huge part of their entire business model.
Games aren’t entirely digital either. Some games are still played analog—like Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs, or board games inspired by their digital counterparts. There are also some great companion tomes at book stores, if you look in the gaming section.
3) Retro game stores are your friend, too
The first instinct is to turn to your local big box or electronics chain store to do your holiday shopping, but they aren’t your only option. If the person on your shopping list is still into older systems, you can also check out retro game stores. You might be surprised, but there are a bounty of great brick-and-mortar used game stores out there—especially in the southwestern Ontario, Niagara, and GTA areas, for CGM’s fellow Ontarians.
While they are secondhand stores and will rarely have anything for the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S, and may require more research on your part, they can be absolute treasure troves for retro gamers. Aside from old games, you can find rarer accessories or merchandise as well. I’ve shopped at many across southern Ontario and found products are thoroughly cleaned and tested before being sold. In the rare instances where something goes wrong, there are policies in place to help fix the situation easily, so you can shop with peace of mind.
The pandemic brought a swell of revived interest for this particular industry while also making it harder for these independent businesses to tread water, so giving them your business can have a strong impact on your local community. And who would expect to get a blast from the past for their favourite outdated system for Christmas?
4) Don’t fear the gift card
There’s something of a stigma against the idea of buying someone a gift card at this time of year. It might seem a little impersonal, sending the recipient out to do their own shopping, and having nothing impactful to open during the big gift exchange. But they actually offer a lot of positives.
There’s a generational divide at play here. Many younger gamers from millennials down to gen-Y don’t have the sort of disposable income to get every shiny new game or accessory that catches their eye. By giving a gift card, you’re not just letting them pick out a present, but also giving them that experience.
Unless you’re able to do your holiday shopping during Black Friday sales, there’s a good chance that you’re paying full price for whatever present you pick out. However, in many markets—Canada, the UK, and an ever-increasing number of other regions—Boxing Day sales offer many of those same things at steep discounts, similar to or even better than Black Friday.
You might buy someone one of the fall’s biggest games, but with the same amount of money on a gift card, they could potentially get that game and something else during Boxing Week. Or maybe there’s something coming out in a couple of months that your gift card could finance for them—2022 is going to start with a lot of monumental new releases.
It might seem underwhelming on Christmas morning, but your money might actually go further in this way. And don’t worry, we remember the things we’ve bought in this way. My dad eventually decided it was easier to go this route, and I can point out every game in my collection I bought this way.
One caveat, however. I would personally suggest staying away from cards for in-game currency, like Fortnite‘s V-bucks. The community is extremely divided on the worth of, and ethics behind, these transactions, and their intangible rewards are definitely less personal.
5) Don’t sweat it
Holiday shopping can be really stressful. Society puts a lot of emphasis on it, and we project countless concerns on ourselves. But at its core, you’re trying to make a nice gesture toward someone who’s important to you. Even if you don’t pick the absolute best gift, that special someone will appreciate the effort that you put into it. I always tried to convey this to my dad after the gifts were opened and the fretting began—maybe that pack of five Star Wars games he bought didn’t work perfectly on our cheap Windows 95 PC, but it was the perfect idea, a sweet gesture, and most importantly, a gift from him.
There you have it! Hopefully this little guide helped cleave through some of your trepidations and presented some opportunities you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. Happy holiday shopping!