The Non-Nerd’s Guide To Shopping For A Gamer

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If you have a gamer you love dearly in your life, or just a coworker you have to get a secret Santa gift for, you probably went to GameStop to find them something nice for the holidays. And then you probably left in confusion and possibly terror, depending on whether Stinky Bob had been thrown out yet. Don’t worry; here’s how to shop for the gamer in your life when you’re not one yourself.

What Platforms Do They Use?

The first question is the simplest; what do they use to play video games on in the first place? The best way to get this info is to just ask them. It’s good to have this handy for a few reasons, not the least of which is…

Gift Cards Really Are A Good Choice

No, seriously. We get that some people have a moral objection to gift cards or think they’re a lazy way to shop for those you love. But if you find yourself utterly baffled, or are not going to drop $60 on something for an office Secret Santa, get a $20 gift card for the platform of their choice. For PC gamers, buy them Steam gift cards: PS3 and PS4 users will appreciate a card from the PlayStation Store, while Xbox 360 and Xbox One users will enjoy a Xbox Gift Card, and Nintendo fans can use an eShop gift card.

Give The Gift Of Online Multiplayer

If they talk a lot about, say, Call of Duty or otherwise mention playing video games online against somebody a lot, and they use a console, you can also buy them subscriptions to online multiplayer services. They’re generally available in three-month increments for under $20.

Don’t Be Fooled By $10 Games

Video game retailers are notorious for taking advantage of baffled grandmothers and well-meaning parents every holiday season. Little Johnny likes video games, so surely he’ll enjoy this $10 bargin bin game with orcs on it, right? Don’t be suckered by a low price; many video games available for that little are either very old titles, used games, or utter crap tossed on a disc and shoved out the door.

That said, sometimes there are gems in the bargain bin. How should you find them?

Use Metacritic

There’s a lot of argument among gamers and developers about Metacritic as a website, but it’s undeniably a godsend for baffled shoppers buying video games. Just run the game’s title and “Metacritic” through Google; the higher the score, the better the game, at least in theory. On that note…

Only Pay Attention To User Reviews If You’re Going To Read Them

Gamers, as a subculture, are whiners. It’s as fundamental to the genre as arguing over which platform is better, arguing over which game is better, and, uh, arguing. So, if a game has great critical reviews but poor user reviews, look closely at the user reviews to figure out why. Sometimes it’s a genuine technical problem, or issue you should be aware of. Other times, it’s really, really stupid.

Collectibles Are A Good Choice, Too

There’s a lot of video-game related toys and other fun stuff out there. Listen closely for the games they talk about, run the titles through Google, and at the very least you’ll probably find a decent t-shirt. Hey, everybody needs shirts, right?