So, the last post before Christmas, and it’s about Christmas presents! Oh joy of joys! No, I’m not asking any of you to buy me goodies (although I assume some I know certainly WILL be reading this with curiosity and panic…), but just a general gift guide for the gaming sort who kind of keeps on top of their hobby…
There’s always an awkward moment when my friends ask me what it is I want for Christmas.
You see, I already save up for the games I want, the consoles I enjoy and other little bits and pieces. So for their benefit, and those who may otherwise not know what to get those of us who seemingly blow our savings on the latest bits and pieces, I’ve drafted up a selection of items that are necessary and useful without being inherently insulting and churlish.
Got it? Good. Let’s start.
This is probably one of those things that aren’t just a gift; they’re an absolute necessity.
For those with a myriad of gadgets each requiring their own power source, you can never have enough mains sockets. But you do need to make sure of a few things – the first is to remember that mains adapters vary in shape and size, which means that you need to ensure that the power sockets are either well-spaced or set at an angle so that it’s pretty straight-forward to plug a new item in, rather than mucking about with the usual dance of taking plugs out and trying to put them in in the kind of manner that becomes a less-fun real-life version of Tetris.
The other thing to make sure is, of course, they are surge protected. Seeing as most gadgets can be quite sensitive to that sort of thing, it’s not a lot more money for a lot more peace of mind. Surges in power can damage items worth thousands of pounds, so it makes absolute sense to spend the little extra money to protect all those lovely gadgets.
MICE AND KEYBOARDS
If you have a PC, then you’ll know that these things don’t last forever.
However, it’s important you make sure of a few things – my first suggestion is unless expressly asked, try not to get anything that specifically tailored to gaming. I was given a SteelSeries MERC Stealth for my birthday a few months ago and truth is, I used it for a day or two before realising that actually I still much preferred a fairly basic sort of setup. That’s not to say I want a basic keyboard though – with the amount of typing I do and gaming, the keys need to be cushioned and the board needs to be comfortable. Ergonomic keyboards are usually great for this sort of thing because they’re rather comfortable to use and quite capable of standing up to abusive gaming sessions, as well as often having cushioned keys and very comfortable padded wrist rests. These usually cost from £40, and mine has lasted a good year so far.
Mice, on the other hand, I’m more than happy to invest a bit of money in. Don’t be fooled by mice with dozens of programmable buttons – this is just more to go wrong. Some extra buttons on the sides can be appreciated, but if it looks a bit scattershot, best give it a miss. Also make sure that you do not buy a cordless mouse – although same goes for keyboards too. Wireless mice tend to have a slight delay, and of course if the batteries start playing up in the middle of a raid or battle session, then bad things will go down. I’ve personally been using a Christmas present from last year – a Warcraft Legendary mouse, which came with a two-year warranty that I’ve had to use. My backup is a cheaper Cyborg R.A.T.-3.
Of course, if in doubt, check it out. Or simply ask. Most will have a good idea of what they want.
Headsets are fantastic and always appreciated for those in busy/noisy homes.
Again, the general rule of thumb here is comfort over style – some may want to suffer for fashion, but you’re not buying heels here. You’re buying a headset. So if in a shop, ask to try them on. If they’re not comfortable to you, they probably aren’t. If buying online, make sure it looks comfortable – I tend to avoid square earcups as they generally don’t cling as much as you’d like. A detachable mic is a matter of personal preference; I don’t think it’s necessary. Others do. Noise suppression/isolation is certainly appreciated though.
It can be quite easy to splash a lot of money on headsets – they can go into several hundreds of pounds/dollars – but the last time I did have a super-expensive headset, it didn’t stand up to the constant on-off abuse that a gamer will subject it to. Durability is the order of the day, so try not to go for anything with thin rods and lots of gaps – one snap and it can all be over. A chunky, firm brace will be more practical over anything fancy, and good closed-earcups can be a godsend when you need to drown out the background.
Just two things to remember – wireless is bad. Lithium ion batteries tend to die out quite quickly if and when not treated right (drained completely on use then recharged to maximum). Also, having to resync a headset in the heat of a game can be quite a pain. Secondly, 3.5mm Jack or USB – it’s quite the debate. This will depend on the individual – if they have invested in a good sound card, then 3.5mm Jacks will allow them to take full advantage of that investment. If the sound card isn’t that great or integrated, then a USB Headset can offer a higher quality of sound without going through the onboard. If in doubt, ask
If there’s one thing I know, that is you can never have too much space as a gamer.
The first thing I want to do is, for now, steer you clear of Solid State Drives (SSD). They are very expensive, and I recommend them as your main Windows drive – but that’s about it for the moment. The difference is more noticeable on a reboot then it is in game loading times, which can vary wildly depending on the programming involved as well as the memory.
If you’re buying an internal hard drive for someone, make sure that it comes with the proper SATA leads for it. You have no idea how many times I’ve had to go and buy separate cables for them. Internal hard drives are not altogether hard to install – it’s sliding the drive into an available slot in the tower unit, and connecting it to the power via your SATA cable. As 1 Terabyte/TB (1024 GB) is relatively common and inexpensive, this is a good size to get. Games vary in size but 15GB is a round average, so it’s plenty of space.
External hard drives can be trickier. Ideally you’d want an external hard drive with its own power adapter, but sometimes this isn’t possible. If there are issues with power (some drives take their power from the USB socket), a USB Split lead, or Y-Cable, may be needed. Just ensure you know the connection type into the external hard drive – Micro A and Micro B are very different connections. If in doubt, ask the person selling it to you. If they don’t know, then go to a shop that does. Seriously. Why would you buy from PC World, anyway? 😛
If this is too complex, then an SD Card can be an inexpensive and thoughtful gift – those with a 3DS or a passion for digital photography can make a lot of use of these. It’s even better if you can get a Micro SD Card with an SD Adapter bundled in for those addicted to their mobile phones and smaller devices.
I’d recommend avoiding USB Flash Drives. They have their place and uses, but very few people I know use them much these days. Those we do have tend to have been bundled with games or gift-packs. We’re just a bit blaze about them.
AND… PHYSICAL STORAGE…
I am not joking, when you buy games both new and used/ex-rental like I do, as well as having lots of other little items scattered about, actual storage is a godsend.
Try to avoid shelving and cupboard units – these are a pain and they need to get a drill and the connectors and the bits and the brackets and yeah just don’t. Flat-pack is also nice, but can be quite fiddly for some. So try and look for things that fit together without needing screws and brackets. Plastic tends to be the order of the day, and comes in as wide an array of colours as you can think of. Try to keep in mind though that ordering online can be deceptive; images can look bigger than they are. In in doubt – buy by dimensions (Height/Width/Depth) rather than by capacity (2.2 Litres Capacity isn’t really that descriptive…).
Tower units are obviously a great investment in this regard, but you can get stacking large boxes which are also very useful. Airtight plastic containers can store things for long periods of time without the risk of damp or dust. If you must buy wooden units, make sure they are pre-assembled by the store or your own fair hands before handing them over.
Anything larger – such as free-standing bookshelves and large desk units – may need measurements taken prior to ordering, so you can be sure that you have the correct proportions. It’s obvious really but don’t order something without making sure it will fit, because if it doesn’t then it’s a bit of a faff to find somewhere – or someone – it will fit. And the idea of a gift is for the receiver to use it, rather than them trying to find someone else who might be able to use it…
THINGS TO AVOID…
Seriously, there is a fairly long list of things to avoid. So here goes;
- Nerdy clothing. Like, with game logos on. It’s never really as amusing or awesome when someone gets it for you…
- Cables on their own. Cables are a few quid. Come on, don’t be cheap…
- USB Flash Drives. They don’t have as much a use now as they used to…
- Anything that turns a controller/Wii Remote into something else. No. No. Just no.
- Windows 8. If you value your friendship, this will not darken the halls.
- Anything that requires a subscription. MMOs, memberships etc.
- Third party accessories. Some are great, I know, but as a rule of thumb – unless you know, don’t.
- Batteries. Charge and Play kits are very cheap. Batteries more so.
- Books based on video games. Please, spare us the agony of awful lazy writing…
- Books based on World of Warcraft. Yes, these get their very own line. Aren’t you just special, Blizzard?
- Strategy Guides. This is what Miiverse and GameFAQs were made for.
- Multi-use adapters. Seriously, who uses those things any more? Why do they still sell them?
- Anything featuring The Simpsons. That stopped being funny a long time ago. Sorry.
- Socks. Especially those with The Simpsons on them. Someone will buy socks. They always do. You don’t need to.
- Anything featuring Family Guy. American Dad is alright though.
- Charity Donations. Because there’s nothing quite like shame and guilt to go with that disappointment, is there?
- And most importantly, avoid anything where the recipient may ask “What’s this?”. Especially if you’re not sure either.
Keeping to some basic principles is good. And as much as I know people are all “Want want want”, I still think the nicest gifts are the most practical ones. Things that can be used and will be used for long periods of time, rather than kicked to the side after a few days or weeks. There’s something great about that, as a grown-up, because it’s more appreciated than tacky tat.
Failing all of these, gift cards and/or money can always be appreciated.
Anyway, with that, I’m off on my own little Christmas break to recharge the internal batteries and get some sleep, as well as knuckle down with some new fun things. I shall see you all on Thursday 27th December, when I am back from my own little brief haitus.
Until then all, have a very happy and joyous Christmas!
Yes yes, even you, Peter Molyneux.