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Black Friday! A day of retail armageddon and full contact-shopping … what could be better? And odds are you’ve got a gamer on your holiday gift list — because they’re everywhere now. Naturally, you don’t want to give them video games. They’ve got those already, and let’s face it, those things all the same, anyway. Better to surprise them with something they didn’t even know existed but always secretly wanted in their heart of hearts. Fortunately, I know what that is. Don’t ask how.
I also know someone will inevitably rope you into buying something for a total dork you despise with every fiber of your being. No worries. You can easily give the gift of sabotage.
So in the name of science, I’ve assembled a list of gift ideas guaranteed to delight your geekish friends and punish your nerdy enemies. That’s what the holidays are truly all about. (See here for other editions of our Alternative Holiday Gift Guide.)
The Nice List
Dark Horse Deluxe Normandy SR 2
Geeks love toys. Just accept this into your heart. This nicely sculpted tchotchke, based on the signature space cruiser from the Mass Effect role-playing game series, is just right at a 6-inch length. It comes in both its Cerberus and Systems Alliance (pictured) liveries, includes a stand, and makes a nice focal point for the entire room. Unfortunately, you’ve got to make your own engine and laser sounds.
$28.75 at Amazon
Portal Companion Cube cookie jar
Finally, an easily attainable product that combines our two favorite things: crunchy, delicious chocolate-chip cookies and unconditional, artificial love. You’re under no obligation to provide the former because you are, after all, a monster. But any true nerdcore human will find this ceramic jar, patterned on our dearly departed friend from Portal whom we did not savagely destroy for personal gain, a necessary and tasteful addition to their kitchen and/or bedroom. Even when they steal all its cookies and hate it for being empty. Because that’s what best friends do.
$29.99 at ThinkGeek
MOGA Mobile Gaming System for Android 2.3+
Have I seen a lot of cheap controller add-ons for smartphones and tablets? Yes. Yes, I have. The Moga, however, feels rock-solid and is ergonomic and smartly designed. Rubber grips, nice action in the buttons, and surprisingly stiff control nubs (perhaps a touch too stiff) single the Moga out, and a retractable arm grips your phone tightly indeed. You’ll have to pick and choose the games you get for it with care (Pac-Man and Sonic CD come free), and it’s only compatible with Android phones, but that just goes to show how good the Moga is. I want it to work with every game on every phone and tablet so I’m never without it again.
$44.99 at Amazon
Super Mario Wall stickers
The geek on your list probably already has these. But just in case, and since you’ll probably want them for yourself, I include them here. Vinyl, reusable, and in glorious 8-bit color, these decals can go up on any wall and come down again without peeling your landlord’s paint off. Easier than painting Koopa Troopas yourself, more legal than armed robbery, and nostalgic enough to bring tears to the strongest of us, these will go up in your friend’s home office before Christmas morning comes.
$68.11 at Amazon
Got kids? Get these. Sifteo Cubes might just be one of the more clever and versatile tech gifts around. The basic set includes three 2-inch square touchscreen cubes that you move, place, touch, and tilt to solve puzzles, cleverly disguised math and grammar problems, and even some light Metroidvania-style dungeons. How? You reveal the maze by moving the blocks around each other. Very neat. More cubes (sold separately) sync right in to add more complexity. It comes with nine games, and you can buy and download more for a few bucks each, and if you’re really lucky, your kids will let you play with them, too. But probably not. Rotten kids.
$129 at Amazon
But what perfect gifts could you bestow on your most hated enemy? We have a few ideas about that, too.
The Naughty List
To game is to constantly struggle against frustration. To PC game is doubly so. You can easily increase that suffering by introducing the MiniStick, a cheap and plastic joystick you Velcro directly to your keyboard’s arrow keys. The MiniStick does work, pressing the movement keys as you shove the stick around, until the Velcro weakens, and then your target has disfigured their electronic equipment for nothing. And if they own an ergonomic keyboard or use the WASD movement keys instead (as all right-thinking PC gamers do), the problems increase, and it serves them right for not having a wireless PC controller in the first place. Finding this in their stocking will have your target idly wondering what White Elephant gift exchange they unwittingly entered and lost.
$9.95 at The MiniStick
Mini controller rings
You know what gamers don’t do? Accessorize. And if they did so with a ring, it would either belong to Green Lantern or have the dark language of Mordor inscribed on the side. These, however, are just stupid. Gifting someone with rings that only superficially resemble their beloved game controller nicely registers your thinly veiled contempt, and when presented with an annoyingly cheerful and earnest “I thought these were just so you!” enthusiasm, they will start questioning all their life decisions. These are also available as necklaces, earrings, and keychains for the particularly malicious.
$16 at Etsy
Xbox 360 controller bra
Let us assume you have a girlfriend … or a female friend you can give lingerie to without it getting weird. Let us also assume she’s a gamer, and that you are a very lucky man indeed. This is what you don’t buy her. As funny as it might seem to talk about “stick clicking,” “twitch gaming,” and “pressing Start” in this context, you will never see her wear this. More importantly, you will never see her not wear this ever again. Besides, she’s probably a total PlayStation fangirl, anyway. The really cute ones always are, I hear.
$25 at Etsy
Dota 2 Inflatable Donkey (aka Flying Courier)
Time for some real talk. If you honestly consider buying someone an inflatable animal in a nonironic way, it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with that person. Yes, it’s Dota 2, and yes, Flying Couriers can be indispensable in Dota 2 (as in real life), but c’mon now. It’s a blow-up donkey. But if you’ve got a frenemy who just won’t shut up about Dota 2, it might just be your moral obligation to gift him with a thinly veiled, video game-themed sex toy. And make sure his mother finds it.
$39.99 at ThinkGeek
Konami Code tie
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War teaches us that to secretly assassinate someone’s dignity, give a gift they will think is superawesome while every other human on the planet knows better. A tie for Christmas seems innocuous enough, but a tie emblazoned with the most beloved cheat code in gaming history will be like a shiny red button with a “Do Not Press!” sign. You will attain your motiveless revenge as, slowly but surely, everyone your victim meets asks him to explain what the hell his tie means, and he bears witness to their bored, unimpressed reaction. Plus, you’ve made him wear a tie.
$33.70 at Zazzle