What not to get a gamer for Christmas

It’s fairly simple to shop for a fan of video games; instructions are included in the hobby’s title, after all—just buy them something gaming-related. Unsurprisingly, however, it’s not always that simple. Even after accounting for socks and coasters, there are plenty of things that gamers don’t want to open up. Here are some of the worst ones.

Gift cards

Best Buy

Although a bit of cash to spend at Best Buy or GameStop sounds promising, this is a serious don’t. Gaming, like any hobby, is only as expensive as the individual makes it, meaning it’s important to hunt for the best price. And with holiday sales sprouting up everywhere, the retailer you designate may not have the best price on whatever game or merchandise your friend is after. In short, gift cards are limiting and can lead to some reluctant purchases—good deals, sure, but not the best deals. So unless you’re willing to research every deal available and interrogate your giftee as to what they’re looking for, take the safe route: cash.

Third-party tech

Colorful though it may be, no amount of Mad Catz or other off-brand merch is going to stand up to an official product line. Whether its controllers, cameras, fighting game pads or other peripherals, if it’s not coming from a reputable source, it’ll probably end up returned—and then put toward an official version of that product. Do yourself a favor and skip that step altogether: Spring for the top-tier gear or, if that’s too pricey, aim lower with a game.

“That popular game”

There are two problems with buying someone the big, triple-A title that’s plastered all over electronics aisles: They either already have it or don’t want to play it. However, the sweet spot of this one is if they’re waiting for a price drop on it; if you can get them the game they want early, by all means go for it. And luckily, this fickle situation is easily remedied: Just ask them what they think of the game. It may knock a few surprise points off your gift, but they won’t like the game any less.

A new TV


Not as bullet-proof as it sounds.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to throw my hands up in abject despair upon unboxing a nice new screen. However, games and consoles are finicky; there’s no guarantee that the television you pick out has the ports, response time, resolution, refresh rate and color balance that modern games demand. Fortunately, a little digging can point you toward the genuine best option. Besides, you’ll probably only be buying a friend a brand spanking new television if you’re deeply indebted in the “did you a favor” department, so it’s worth buying right.

“Rare” games

Pikmin 2

As a fan of retro titles, I love receiving—and gifting—hidden gems of bygone eras. However, there’s a certain danger associated with this, one illustrated by the upcoming release of Tales of Symphonia: Chronicles.

Tales of Sypmhonia, the original JRPG for the GameCube, is an exceedingly rare, pricey and excellent game. However, that value will soon vanish—outside of collectability—due to its HD rerelease, due out February 2014. This happens with plenty of hard-to-find games, and as a result, you’re often better aiming or waiting for the new version. This is to say nothing of the fact that rare doesn’t equal great, so you’re better off playing it safe with current titles in most cases.

Let us know what gifts you’d prefer to stay away from in the comments below, and check out our Holiday Game Guides if you’re looking for ideas for what you should buy your gaming friends. 

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Austin Wood started working as a writer when he was just 18, and realized he was doing a terrible job at just 20. Several years later, he’s confident he’s doing a significantly less terrible job. You can connect with him on Twitter @austinwoodmedia.