Christmas Eve. You hear a rustling in the basement. The dull murmur of perpetually played video games falls silent. Footsteps up the stairs. A door opens. Your gamer, dressed in the uniform attire of nerds across the land, creeps quietly into view. Their pale skin dances with the twinkling of Christmas lights as they wipe Cheeto-ed fingers across plaid pajama pants. They ask quietly, "Is there eggnog in the fridge?"
What gift do you bestow upon this creature of the night? What offerings will they clutch with fervor as they scurry back down the stairs with glee? Is it a game about geese? Is it a video game subscription service? A virtual drinking game? Find out below.
Untitled Goose Game (PC, Mac, Switch, Rated E)
Color me unsurprised that Untitled Goose Game (pictured above) has ballooned into a virulent meme. As a goose, players cruise around a city with one mission — be as much of an asshole as possible to the townspeople. You honk loudly at passing children. You steal picnic supplies. You break things. You are an unstoppable agent of chaos in an otherwise uneventful suburbia. The game puts the reins of petty revenge into our greedy little mitts, enlivening our darkest fantasies of being a minor annoyance.
In real life, when someone is a jerk at work, we fantasize about intentionally spilling yogurt on their keyboards so that every key they press is inexplicably sticky, driving them slowly insane. We want to dent someone's car door when they park three inches away from our car so that we can't get back in without crawling through the passenger's side and over the center console. We want to slowly and deliberately pour soda into the laps of customers who definitely didn't tell us no pickles on their burger and now they're yelling at us because there are pickles on their burger.
People go to strip clubs to live out a fantasy of chatting up beautiful, young women who are actually interested in them. I play Untitled Goose Game so I can live out the fantasy of taking petty revenge on people for no reason.
Untitled Goose Game is a compass pointing straight at a gleefully sadistic lodestone hidden deep in my psyche. But screw it — I can't spill tuna sauce on my asshole boss's computer chair so that the scent of rotting tuna follows him around everywhere he goes. I might as well steal picnic supplies in the form of a goose.
Afterparty (PC, Rating Pending)
My liver was grateful when I picked up the controller for Afterparty, a narrative drinking game, instead of picking up another mixed drink in real life. The premise of the game is pretty neat — you've somehow ended up in Hell, and the only way to get out is to outdrink Satan himself. By cunningly choosing the right drinks and talking to the right people, you have a chance of cheating death.
Afterparty engrossed me with its silly dialogue and witty twists. Refreshingly different, I'd throw this game as a good gift contender for your 21+ friends.
The Call of Duty/Let's Dance/Pokemon/Mortal Kombat Thing
Every single year I write these gift guides, I face a dilemma. Do I include the list of standards like Super Smash Bros and whatever Pokemon is popular that year? After all, a large majority of your giftees will want these games. On the flip side, you'll probably already know your giftee wants these "big box" games by taking a gander at their game shelf. If they have every Call of Duty game since 2003, probably a safe bet that they'll want this year's. So here's a list of the annual must-have franchise games all in one shot: Pokemon, Mario anything, Call of Duty, Let's Dance, Zelda anything, MLB, FIFA, NBA, Madden, Borderlands, Kingdom Hearts. As these game developers have so cunningly figured out, "wash, rinse, repeat."
Hella-Cool New Monitor (a)
Don't get your giftee "just a monitor," get them a "really, really good monitor." When I first started gaming, I played on a monitor with a lower resolution than a potato. I only had one screen. I suffered in ways mankind should never.
Here's a handy guide to point you in the right direction based on what your giftee already has.
Do they have one awful monitor? Get them one slightly better monitor.
Already have one good monitor? Get them a second matching one.
Have two monitors? Get them one of those cool double-wide 38-inch curvy bad boys.
Already have three monitors? Cut a hole in the bedroom wall so they can have a fourth monitor that looks out to the outside world where there is sunlight, nature and socialization.
HDMI switch (b)
You plug a bunch of HDMI cords into this little contraption. In turn, the little box only needs one HDMI cord to plug into your TV. This solves the issue of only having one or two HDMI ports on your TV and having too many consoles to plug in. Bingo! Pro tip — when choosing your HDMI switch, make sure it supports whatever resolution you use with your TVs and consoles.
My Friend Pedro (c) (Switch, Rated M)
An inexplicably sentient banana barks orders and tasks you with missions. There isn't much plot past that — you get assignments to kill people and away you go into the night with weapons and a lustful thirst for death. My Friend Pedro thrives on its stunts and bullet time feature (when a shot slows down during an action sequence so you can see the cool stuff). This really lets you savor every single moment of your dope flips, shots and combos.
Gameplay is short, sweet and action-packed, much like a good jazz jam band session on the streets of New Orleans during a warm, drawling Southern night — a crazy and cool thing to stumble upon, but something that won't toil on forever.
Death Stranding (d)(PS4, PC, Rated M)
I love chaos. I love indecision. I love spice and tension. That's why I like Death Stranding. Keep in mind I haven't played the game (although I watched someone play it at a party drunk). Instead, I've been enraptured by everyone else's absolute-bananas reactions to it.
No one can decide if we, the collective consciousness, like this game or not. One player claimed this game was "one of the most important games of the decade." Some people described it as a snoring bore-fest. Another person liked it because it was insanely tedious and thus extremely soothing to his OCD. The description "strange new post-apocalyptic Amazon delivery simulator" was tossed around... and we all know how fun American Trucking Simulator was.
Who knows what's going on with this game? But I've always found that insanely polarizing things are usually absolutely great or hella weird. But "great" and "weird" things are always interesting, which makes this a strong gift contender.
Monthly Humble Bundle Subscription (e)
Hate making choices? Want to throw money at your problems? Get your giftee unlimited games forever! Humble Bundle is a cool website that puts together curated groups of games that players can buy in bundles at a solid discount. A Humble Bundle subscription signs them up for bundles each month (even cheaper than usual), starting an everlasting conveyor belt of new content straight to their computer. This choice appeals to me because I often don't know what to get a person who has super-tuned tastes, and hate the personal-touch-less feel of cash. ♦