The average age of a video gamer these days is 37, and 58 percent of them are male. That means the odds are pretty good that this Father's Day the man in the household will be getting video games on June 17 from their wives and kids. That's where this comes in.
Even though gamer households are getting more and more common, there's still a lot of well-meaning significant others out there that are going to go frogsticking without a light into a GameStop trying to pick up the perfect gift. This is a handy little guide designed you help you avoid some really common pitfalls.
This is the most common mistake, and you shouldn't feel bad about getting trapped because licensed games are designed to be traps from the get go. These are usually tie-ins for hit movies and TV shows like the Harry Potter series, or the Avengers. Most of the time they're highly rushed in order to get them onto shelves as part of the main vehicles merchandising, and that approach shows in the final product.
Not always. There have been a handful of stellar licensed releases such as Goldeneye, Ghostbusters, and more than half of the Stars Wars games ever made. The difference is, those games were made without any kind of massive Hollywood deadline looming over them, and allowed the designers to tweak and perfect them into hits.
But usually, yeah, licensed games are put on shelves to trick parents and significant others into buying what they think is the game version of the intended recipient's favorite film that week. Don't fall for it.
Dedicated video game stores, even the big chains, are one of the few places in the world you can still get excellent, personal service. I've never, ever gone into a GameStop and found a disinterested, uninformed employee. They love games, play games, and in general know what they're talking about.
So look through the games he has, write them down, and ask the folks behind the counter for a suggestion. I've done this for my wife on numerous occasions. She's addicted to old school, turn-based RPGs on the DS, and when she ran out of Final Fantasy games the clerk suggested I buy her Nostalgia. Likewise, when I ran out of God of War titles, my wife asked a clerk what to get next, and he suggested Dante's Inferno and Shadow of the Colossus.
Granted, they're not always right. Nobody is, which is why you should...
No matter how well you know somebody's taste, buying him art, be it a movie, album, book, or game, is always a stab in the dark. You might think that your selection is perfect. Hell, they might think it would be perfect too, but in the end sometimes you get a few levels in and realize that it's just not for you.
Game stores know this, and that's why the used game market is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. People buy games, beat them or decide they don't like them, then turn them in for a discount on something else. It's the established order.
Games aren't like other gifts. There's no accomplishment in finishing a book. Well, maybe Atlas Shrugged, but in general you're not competing against the medium. Plus, gaming is a commitment. Some games involves months of play for a working dad with limited downtime. I played Final Fantasy XII for a straight year. That's a lot of time to invest in something.
So don't feel bad if your gift doesn't click, and he doesn't want to waste time trying to make it click. It happens, and it's unavoidable.
I covered this a bit over Christmas, but it bears repeating. What if you just can't come up with a title you think he'll like? His tastes are all over the place, the clerk is just as baffled, and time's running out. What do you do?
Does he have a video game chair? They retail for $40 for a basic one, and the surround sound plug-in alone is worth the buy. Is he still using wired controllers on his PS3? Wireless controllers are one of those awesome things that everyone wants and no one ever buys for themselves. How about subscriptions to game magazines? Nobody ever gets over the thrill of having that delivered to their door.
If all else fails, gift cards are a good bet... as is the offer to watch the kids for an hour so he can browse unmolested by the terror of grabby children hands.
UPDATE: My wife read this list, and got me my Father's Day present early, a wireless controller for my PS3. After a year of ownership, guess who just realized that the controller that comes with the PS3 IS wireless, and that the absurdly short cord is just for charging? Me, that's who.
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This is for advanced gamer gifters only. If you've managed a good streak of game buying over the course of a relationship, here's how you can really wow him. Instead of buying new games, head over to Game Over and buy old ones. Really old ones.
Let's say he's one of those guys keeping the first person shooter industry going. Go get him a N64 with Goldeneye, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and Perfect Dark. What about Zombies? Pick up a PS1 and the Resident Evil trilogy. If fighting games are more his speed, grab a Sega Genesis and copies of Eternal Champions, WeaponLord, and Mortal Kombat.
Nothing brings out the joy in a mature gamers heart like suddenly reliving the simple joys of childhood gaming, and it's a pretty cheap hobby to maintain. I have personally seen someone tear up as they unwrapped a classic NES. It just doesn't get any better than that for true gamer.