Final Fantasy XV (PS4, Xbox One)
I never got weird about Final Fantasy like a lot of people did. But when I asked my ultra-nerd friends why they were so in love with FFXV, the latest installment in the saga, they responded with an incredulous "Why wouldn't you be?" Their eyes narrowed in suspicion at my obviously subpar nerd cred. After all, who isn't absolutely white-knuckle excited about more Final Fantasy?
The release of this newest edition was heralded by the release of both an anime web miniseries and a Japanese fantasy film. Both pieces were planned in conjunction with the game, purportedly to develop the story alongside the game. But we all know the real reason they were made. Anime sings the sweet, lascivious siren's song that no nerd can resist.
It's an integrated home-gaming system. It's an on-the-go game companion. It's a tablet with removable controllers. It's a docking station. It's a social multiplaying game changer. It does your taxes for you. It sings you lullabies at night.
It's the Nintendo Switch.
There is good news and bad news about the Nintendo Switch. The good news is that your child/manchild/lady-gamer will be clamoring for this life-changing, earth-rattling development in console technology. Basically, the Switch aims to coalesce mobile gaming platforms with home integration, working toward a seamless transition between both realms.
Also, all the cool kids will have one. By flashing some plastic at Nintendo, you can transform your aforementioned child/manchild/lady-gamer into the quintessential coolest kid. The bad news? It won't be released until early 2017. So if your giftee is patient and adept with the concept of delayed gratification, settle upon the Nintendo Switch as your gift of choice. If they struggle with the concept of object permanence, move along.
What is even more radical and existence-altering than seamlessly integrated mobile and home gaming? Virtual reality. But VR has only recently started to cut the mustard as an acceptable gift for someone you love. In years past, VR has been buggy, poorly supported and more annoying than usable (a gift better suited to a frenemy). VR simply lacked support and development hours. But no longer!
This year, VR can ascend from the realm of "experimental tech" to the elevated utopia of "actually usable tech." VR games have been developed! There is hope! Rise! Reach for the stars!
The gift? A VR headset, namely an Oculus Rift. This gift is recommended for fully grown humanoids, though (as a gift for kids, be wary). While your child may enjoy strapping on the goggles and going to town, adults have the prowess of maturity to use their VR goggles for more, if they so desire.
The Unspoken (Oculus Rift)
So let's say you dropped some Benjamins and got your giftee an Oculus Rift. Or maybe he or she has had one for a while now because they're a bleeding edge techie. The next logical step is to invest in some games for that bad boy. The Unspoken is this year's hottie favorite for VR, a game centered around fireball throwing and neat mystical magical shenanigans.
But we don't care what the game is about, really. On the surface, The Unspoken is a fighter/shooter combo where players battle royale in versus-style magic duels. Whatever, big deal. What we really care about is that The Unspoken manages to bring that magical feeling to the player — many of the controls are motion-based, meaning that you're blocking attacks, throwing spells, and using your body to play.
Is your gamer a little too engrossed in the game? Are you afraid that your child's ceaseless hours in front of a screen are turning the kid into a vapid, emotionless automaton? Do you want your child to have a marketable, useful skill other than the ability to press "X" on a controller really quickly?
Robotics kits! There are a thousand and one different kits that can guide your child in a thousand and one different projects. Little programmable cars. Cute little robots that wave. Programmable doo-dads. Robotics kits are, coincidentally, the gateway drug to a career in electrical, computer and mechanical engineering. Get your kids hooked on building stuff and they'll be hitting those six figures at their successful STEM job in no time.
Downside? Some of these kits require parental accompaniment. So you must be prepared to get in on the science with your child.
Dead Rising 4 (PC, Xbox One)
Society hopped aboard the zombie train years ago and won't get off that train until it crashes. We will never escape the cultural infection that is zombie movies, games, books, TV shows... So, of course, there is a fourth "Dead Rising." And of course you should get it for your giftee. This beat-em-up horror franchise will feed their insatiable need for zombie media for yet another calendar year.
The game's release carefully notes that this iteration does not, in fact, include a timer system but still revolves around an open world survival setting. But the biggest question remains — will the zombie hype ever end? Probably, eventually. But we birthed the societal obsession with vampires in the 1800s, and still haven't gotten over that.
Overwatch (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
Overwatch, rated for ages 13 and up, focuses on team-based multiperson online first-person shooting and has become stupidly popular. Although the game has been floating around in beta for a while now, it was recently announced that competitive leagues for the game are slated for 2017. So get your loved one set up with the game, and get them practicing before the big kids come out to play.
Maybe you really messed up in 2016 and want to give a gift that says sorry. Maybe it's your first anniversary and you're still trying to impress your partner with thoughtful, slightly overdone gifts. Maybe your giftee has a ridiculously specific use case for making small, plastic models of things.
A 3-D printer can be the gifting solution you desire. Spend anywhere from $200 to $6,000 on one, depending on how much you want to project a message of "I'm trying to buy your love with cool gadgets." Buy this for the hip, techie creative in your life. Buy it for the basement-dwelling D&D player who wants to make his own gaming miniatures. Buy it for the do-it-yourselfer who will have a blast making their own parts and pieces for various projects. n