The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Holiday Shopping for a Gamer

The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Holiday Shopping for a Gamer

Gaming can be an expensive hobby.  Consoles cost hundreds of dollars and all of those shiny new holiday hits go for $60 on average. While this season’s big titles might be well out of many gift-givers’ price ranges, there are still many ways to help your gamer friends engage in their passions while staying under budget.

Buy a classic:

This season’s major titles might cost a small fortune but the AAA titles of yesteryear can be acquired for a pittance. Help your gamer fill out his library with some of these hits he may have missed.

Grand Theft Auto IV

The latest entry in Rockstar’s epic crime series, Grand Theft Auto 4 is the standard by which all other open-world action games are compared. The story, the characters, the world, everything in this game teems with life. Whether you follow the story of Niko Bellic as he tries to find his way in America or just make your own fun in the massive sandbox of Liberty City, there is plenty of car-jacking, gun-blasting content in this title to keep you busy for the next year by itself.


The kindling for the “are games art?” debate may have been set out before Bioshock, but Bioshock was what ignited it. Not satisfied with creating compelling mechanics and a setting that was enchanting yet horrifying, Bioshock also served as a critique of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Truly a thinking man’s shooter, Bioshock engages the player on all levels, letting the player dispatch a horde of splicers with a gun purchased from a vending machine and then reflect on whether or not capitalism can go too far.

Street Fighter 4

The game that single handedly reanimated the zombified corpse of the fighting game genre, Street Fighter 4 is the game of choice among fighting game purists. The game has a fiercely competitive and passionate community with tens of thousands of dollars won as prize money in tournaments every year. If you have an interest in getting involved in the competitive scene make sure you get the Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition version otherwise you can get a standard copy of the game dirt cheap.


Grand Theft Auto IV might be the best open-world action game but Fallout is the king of open-world RPGs. Fallout, often described as Oblivion (or Skyrim) with guns, allows the player to wander the ruins of post nuclear apocalypse Washington D. C. engaging in whatever adventures come his way. The game’s darkly comic atmosphere is what makes it really shine however, contrasting 1950’s optimism and world of tomorrow technology with the bleak desperation of the Capital Wasteland.


Bayonetta carries the torch of previous third person 3D action games like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry creating a game that screams quality.  Embarrassingly goofy at times, Bayonetta is relentlessly imaginative (you can summon a hair dragon?) and takes full advantage of Japan’s gift for the intriguingly bizarre to create a truly memorable game world.

Alan Wake

Survival horror games are a dying breed. The genre is experiencing a small resurgence with titles like Amnesia: the Dark Descent and The Lone Survivor but it has been largely relegated to the indie community. Modern horror games tend to manifest as action games with horror elements. Horror has become less of a genre and more of a style used to drape games with a certain tone and vibe.  Alan Wake is a great example of this. A third person shooter at its core, Alan Wake manages to rob the player of the feeling of empowerment that is typical of the genre by creating a relentlessly threatening and aggressive atmosphere. Even though you eventually realize just how competent you are at dealing with the terrors of the dark forest, Alan Wake remains one of the best horror games to be released in recent years.

Gaming movies:

Games are great but after hour 8 of their Christmas day gaming marathon, your gamer might want to take a breather and do something else for a little while (unless he was playing skyrim, he won’t stop playing Skyrim until he can’t take the starvation pains any more.) There have been several insightful movies made focusing on gamer culture that can keep your gamer entertained until their fingers stop cramping up.

Indie Game the Movie:

Indie Game the Movie follows the developers of Super Meat Boy and Fez as they deal with the personal and financial challenges of indie game development. The director captures many honest moments, like Edmund explaining how he made the flash game Aether to express the confusion and loneliness he felt as a child and Phil Fish’s freak out when he discovers a game crashing bug at the last second right before he’s supposed to unveil his game to the public. Indie Game the Movie is a fascinating and intense personal journey as three men risk everything they have for a dream.

The King of Kong: a Fist Full of Quarters:

Steve Wiebe, a laid off engineer turned middle school teacher, attempts to get the world-wide high score in Donkey Kong. After struggling for many weeks, he finally achieves it but that’s when the real drama starts. Wiebe’s accomplishment hurls him into the dubious and self-important world of competitive retro arcade gaming. The reigning champ, hot-sauce mogul Billy Mitchel, does everything in his power to defend his previous record, using his influence in the community to make Wiebe leap through hoop after hoop in his quest to get recognized for the record that was rightfully his. The sheer passion the subjects of this documentary display for their endeavor transforms what could have otherwise been a trivial story into something that is gripping and moving.


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