2013 marks the next generation of consoles, the obvious gift for a gaming loved one being their choice of a new gaming system. You'd better love the socks off of your giftee: These consoles aren't coming cheap. Sony's shiny new PS4 runs around $500 while the Xbox One from Microsoft carries a price tag of $600. You'll probably be aware of your giftee's drool-inspiring desire for one of these consoles, as console gamers tend to be opinionated and loyal to their respective brand. An entirely separate issue plagues New Generation Console Season, though. Game development has temporarily plateaued because of the platform changeover. There are no awesome games out for the old console; developers don't want to invest in soon-to-be-outdated hardware. But since the new console is still in its infancy, games for the new platform haven't had their chance to mature (or, in 2013's case, the release of most cool games has been delayed until next year). As far as gift-giving, this is the stuff of nightmares. Do you give them older games from earlier in the year? Do you give them gift cards for when the games come out? Or do you just sit in your house, gift-less, paralyzed?
One of the most overlooked facets of New Generation Console Season is the console paraphernalia. Did a little birdie tell you that little Johnny was getting a PS4 for Christmas? Pick up a nifty spare controller that will be much used and very appreciated. Or try some neat-o customized controller grips. Same goes for cables, which are constantly being lost, chewed on, or stolen. Gamers weep that there are never enough cables to connect and charge (especially since the PS4 isn't sending charge cables with extra controllers this time around). Try an extra-long Micro-USB, the hottest of hot commodities, or an HDMI cable. You can also take a look at the cornucopia of headsets on the market. Turtle Beach headsets are top of the line and have a certain "cool factor" and prestige.
While console peasants are struggling away during New Generation Console Season, the elite race of PC gamers worship Steam, an online retailer of downloadable computer games, compulsively curating their game collection through Steam's library application, exhibiting displays of bravado by comparing libraries with their elite PC gamer friends. Want to be that super-cool gift-giver who knows what's what in the PC world? Get that gamer some good old-fashioned game downloads. Literally any game can be found through Steam or another online game retailer such as Amazon. Buying and sending a gift and email-confirming Steam codes is harder than wrapping up a CD and giving it to them, but PC gamers aren't known for enjoying media the easy way. They do things the PC gamer way.
SIX-PACK OF COORS AND RIDE TO HELL: RETRIBUTION
(Rated M; PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Nothing says "I love and cherish you" like giving someone Ride to Hell: Retribution, possibly the worst videogame ever conceived by mankind. Add a six-pack of shitty beer and you have the best Christmas gift possible. The premise of Ride to Hell is simple: Jake Conway, bad-boy Vietnam vet with a penchant for hookers, must avenge the brutal murder of his younger brother. The power of his mullet and insatiable need for vengeance prompt him to embark on a journey to annihilate the biker gang that stole his brother's precious youth. This game appears to have been inspired by craptastic biker tattoos, or perhaps the results of a 1980s acid trip. Ride to Hell likely was birthed when game developers released scrapped game material last-minute in an attempt to recoup invested capital. This game is so bad, it's a hoot. Properly intoxicated, it's a downright riot.
THE ANNUAL FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER
Gamer gifting inevitably dictates the obligatory "Annual First Person Shooter," an endearing term applied to games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. The story remains exhaustingly similar year after year — the new Call of Duty is released, gamers clamor for the newest edition of online trash talk and newer multiplayer maps, parents/girlfriends/boyfriends break down and buy the game for Christmas... the cycle repeats as long as new first person shooters are released like clockwork every fall. This year is no different. Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 are on the menu for 2013 and your gamer surely wants one of them. Fortunately, the Annual First Person Shooter is so cyclical and predictable, the games make a fairly safe gift if you have an extra $60 laying around.
RASPBERRY PI & ALL THE TRIMMINGS
Though not technically a videogame, the Raspberry Pi remains a strong contender in the "badass and even educational videogame-related Christmas gift" category. Premise? The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card-sized microcomputer that allows complete customization by an amateur computer scientist or programmer. You literally can do anything with a Raspberry Pi, from programming your own robotics control board to running a BitTorrent server. Why did the Raspberry Pi make it onto this list? Because this little computing powerhouse can be programmed to run as a retro console simulator. In non-nerd-speak, this means that you can make it play arcade games, and by extension, create your very own basement video arcade. Cue the heavy breathing and speechless excitement! Although not ideal for kids, the computer-illiterate or the "casual user," there's a certain niche of people who would have a nerd-gasm over the Raspberry Pi as a Christmas gift.
BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS
(Rated Teen; PC, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS3)
Everyone secretly wants to be Batman, and buying the next installment in the series is vastly more practical than having your gamer running around the house, cloaked in a black sheet, whispering "I am the bat." Batman: Arkham Origins, which came out earlier this year, is a well-received prequel to the two existing games we know and love, Arkham City and Arkham Asylum. It's also a good catch-all if you don't know quite what to get someone. Plot and story arc are edgy enough to captivate the mind of an older gamer, while the Teen rating makes it appropriate for younger players. It's also a good gift if you're looking to portray the gift-giver as someone along the lines of "I know enough about videogames not to get you Mario Party for the Wii U, but I'm still nonchalant enough to not be a nerd."
JUST DANCE 2014
(Rated E; PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U)
Family-friendly games that aren't completely lame are hard to come by. On one hand, you might have young kids who need milder game content that's ready to harness their unstoppable waterfall of energy. On the other hand, you might have a surly teenager who isn't about to be involved in anything that isn't cool enough for their swagtastic aesthetic. The Just Dance series has skillfully been able to bridge this gap for years now. The secret? You can't escape fun when you're up twirling around, frantically flapping your arms to your favorite songs on the radio. Some improvements over earlier editions include better motion sensor technology and karaoke modes. Just Dance has been getting a lot of attention from adults for the workout-side of the game as well. After the kids go to bed, sneak downstairs and boogie off those extra holiday pounds with the game's non-stop workout routine.
ASSASSIN'S CREED IV: BLACK FLAG
(Rated Mature; PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U)
You could essentially rename this game "Assassin's Creed: Sneaky Sneaky Pirates on the High Seas, Ho!" and it would have the same appeal. Assassin's Creed fans inexplicably adore everything Assassin's Creed... even this pirate-themed edition, most definitely a thinly veiled attempt at leeching off the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And it worked. Gamers revere this game with enough veneration that the Pope should be jealous. It can be safely assumed that somewhere, some giftee is just dying to chew on their very own copy of Pirates of the Caribbean 2.0. For the whole experience, don't just stop at the game. Your pirate gift bundle should include an eyepatch, pirate hat and a bottle of rum.
THIS MMO OR THAT MMORPG
You know those people who stay in their bedrooms all weekend with the blinds closed, logging countless hours on World of Warcraft or Eve Online? Believe it or not, they're paying for that online access. More unbelievable, they'd appreciate getting a couple of months of subscription for a gift. Basically, this present can be interpreted one of three ways: "I don't want to see any more of you than I already do, so please huddle in your basement and keep playing this game," or "I know enough about you and what you care about to know that you will actually use this," or "An obsession with online game play in which you never leave the house is a good way to get over that particularly nasty breakup." Take it as you will, it's an option. Especially if you're OK with not seeing much of this friend for the next several months. ♦