Gifts for Video Gamers

A winning array of gifts for the hardcore gamer in your life

click to enlarge Manifold Garden
Manifold Garden

2021 has teased the biggest technology shifts of the last five years. The whole of Gen Z was born into a gaming world. The generation that held iPads before walking directs the economy with every dollar it spends. VR matures as a viable mainstream platform and tantalizes as a new step in the technological revolution. Even your sweet septuagenarian grandma can strap a VR headset to her face and slam out some songs on Beat Saber. Another shift — content consumers are becoming content creators. Novice gamers looking to stream can hop on Twitch and be up-and-running within hours. The world is progressing anew, and the hot gifts of 2021 jump on board.

BOYFRIEND DUNGEON (RATED T, WINDOWS, MAC)

This game might be a fever dream, but it's certainly a new flavor of dating simulators. Boyfriend Dungeon somehow combines dungeon crawling and finding love. Art style? Very anime-uwu-cute. Premise? As a dating novice, your character can transform potential suitors into people-weapons that represent the date's personality. With your person-weapon in tow, you descend into a dungeon to battle it out against baddies.

"They really will think of everything," was my first response to Boyfriend Dungeon. With modern dating themes (and forebodings), this is a great gift for teens and young adults.

MERINO WOOL UNDIES AND SOCKS

I was turned on to merino wool underthings by a human who spends his free time devoted to researching fabrics. His opinion on merino wool was steadfast — the fabric is the superior material for breathability, absorbing sweat and reducing odor.

Wicking moisture and permitting airflow are particularly relevant to anyone who spends extended time in chairs. Merino is an absolutely stellar gift for gamers holed up in a computer room, butts pancaked on a vinyl or leather seat. A perfect gift for any humanoid who exudes sweat from any sort of gland.

A 100 percent stink-free gaming experience takes several steps. Showering is 70 percent. Changing clothes is an additional 20 percent. The last 10 percent is the glory of merino wool.

BLUETOOTH PHONE CLIP

Start a game on your phone. Grab an Xbox controller. Duct tape both to your hands to create a technological frankenstein mobile-gaming platform. Luckily, you can swap the duct tape for a controller phone clip to take your game on the road. Xbox's bluetooth controllers conveniently connect to most phones, so pick one up if your giftee likes to mobile game.

Big hint — glance at your giftee in the car. Are they precariously balancing their phone and controller on their knees or window sill? Would one deep pothole upend the whole setup? The phone clip might be a good idea.

MANIFOLD GARDEN (RATED E, WINDOWS, MAC, PLAYSTATION, SWITCH, XBOX)

Every couple of years there's "that game," the timeless, intriguing, classy one that promises a place on your game shelf forever. Manifold Garden is just that — a spatial, geometric and gravity-driven puzzler reminiscent of both Portal games. Challenges are intuitive instead of explicit. Levels are challenging, but not sadistic.

If your giftee likes crossword puzzles, enjoys architecture or reads tidbits about outer space for fun, they'll probably like this game.

VUZE XR

Virtual-reality tech is on the rise after Zuckerberg's Metaverse announcement, a proclamation of his intent to create an all-immersive online virtual reality "experience." Dystopian at best, humankind has been edging further and further toward total virtual reality since we figured out how to display cat gifs on computers.

The "metaverse," a term used to describe fully immersive augmented reality, originates from a 1990s science fiction novel that explicitly discusses why the metaverse is a bad idea. It's the plot of Ready Player One. It's the game Sims, but with real people. It's the downfall of humanity, disguised as the next big revolution. The revolutions of the industrial and agricultural variety were fine, but were they faultlessly good for humankind? Jurassic Park once espoused, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." Then everyone was eaten by dinosaurs.

Anyways, the Vuze XR camera captures images and videos with two lenses, producing 3D content perfect for VR headsets. The two camera lenses rotate, allowing users to record 360-degree content as well. Fun!

OCULUS QUEST 2

Oculus has been minting quality VR devices as of late, and its Quest 2 is solid enough to get a thumbs-up. VR tech has clunked along to product maturity over the years, but we've finally arrived at something usable.

There was a bit of backlash over the fact that the Quest 2 requires a Facebook login. This now makes sense with Zuckerberg's Metaverse secret incubation.

BLUE YETI PRO MICROPHONE

In 2021, everyone is a content creator. We have internet followers and carefully curated personas to share filtered pics of lunches, quirky videos of cats sleeping, and sepia sunsets with inspirational and spiritual quotes. When we sit down to game, we turn on a camera and mic, sharing our next hour or two of gameplay with our followers.

The Blue Yeti Pro is a solid mic for streaming, recording, even Zoom calls. If your giftee records any sound at all and shares it online, get them a mic that will record those noises well.

TASTEFUL VIDEO GAME ART

Setting the gaming-room ambience sets gamers up for success. A solid wall-art display is also pivotal for any giftee who spends time on video. Separate your giftee from the common riffraff with some top tier art. Now your giftee is trendy and cool.

Step one — ask your giftee about their current video game obsession. Step two — go to websites like Redbubble or Society6 to find a cool art print of that game. Both sites will canvas mount or frame your selected artwork. Easy peesy.

ICARUS (RATING PENDING, WINDOWS)

I like flexin' my graphics card muscles and really experiencing grass texture and sunlit streams on screen. Icarus (currently in beta) promises to do just that. Minecraft with Skyrim graphics, meshed with the recurring nightmare that you were left to die on an alien planet.

Forest fires, storms, not getting eaten by bears — the classic suspects of survival. But the session-based gameplay adds something interesting: no permanent bases. You're in and out in either solo or co-op mode. Hop on the preorder now to take part in beta weekends until release. ♦

Banff Mountain Film Festival @ Panida Theater

Fri., Jan. 21, 7 p.m., Sat., Jan. 22, 7 p.m. and Sun., Jan. 23, 6 p.m.
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