It’s that special time of year when family and friends gather together to celebrate not freezing to death with one another while surrounded by highly flammable, benignly occult decorations. This year, be the stand-up individual who gives good gift to those special somebodies we know as geeks. These Grinches have holiday spirit too, and the perfect gift will make their heart grow three sizes, metaphorically! The first step in geek giving is to identify your target.
Wargamers: Walls of miniature painted figurines and an empty checking account? That’s a wargamer. You can put the jingle back in the bell of this pernicious painter with Warmachine Prime Mk2 softcover (~$30) rules book & a Warmachine Battle Group Box Set (~$50) of miniatures. No wargamer has ever sincerely complained of having too many tiny metal robots to glorify war with.
Role-Playing Gamers: Elaborate facial hair and a small clacking pouch of dice affixed to their kilt? That’s a role-player. Shy away from the latest Dungeons and Dragons books and delve into indie RPG publishing. Fiasco (www.bullypulpitgames.com/store/index.php?cat=7) is a fun narrative RPG where players take on the roles of disaster/caper movie characters; Time & Temps (http://theunstore.com/index.php/unstore/game/98) is a mathmagical puzzler of working poor Doctor Who’s twisting their endeavors to avoid temporal paradox while working for a sub-living wage to fix the past. Both are $20 for book and download, $10 download only.
Board Game Geeks: Boxes stacked floor to ceiling with weird German logos and obtuse rules about tile placement and land management? Board Gamer. No BGG would have a complete collection without the fantasy Risk-on-acid strategy game Small World ($50). Adventerous families with a flair for the theatrical will get a kick from Dread House, a narrative romp through a haunted house that uses your Jenga set to keep the tension (http://theunstore.com/index.php/unstore/game/100) $20 book & download, $10 download only.
Spaaaaaaace Neeeeeerds: Model Sputnik? Carl Sagan magazines tucked under the mattress? First, every zero-g lover needs a ready supply of Astronaut Ice Cream ($5) from the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center science store. While you’re there you should get an individual ($40) or two-person ($60) planetarium membership. Planetarium shows are a great alternative to drinking the pain away; bring an iPod for your own low-budget Laser Pink Floyd in 3-D!
Gadgeteers: You know what makes a house into a home? Love? Ha ha ha! Seriously, though. I’m talking about your very own Tesla Coil. YES! for $230 from American Science & Surplus (www.sciplus.com) you can transmit 50,000 volts of hot electric awesome through empty space and light a big old middle finger in the face of those who dare claim that Franklin was the most badass inventor. Van De Graff generators for making real homemade lightning bolts are also available for $129. Can an iPhone 4 make jagged forks of Zeus’s fury? Didn’t think so.
Console Gamers: If the wires in back of their 56” plasma screen look like the spilled entrails of a possum, you’re dealing with a console gamer. Wii: Super Mario All-Stars 25th Anniversary Edition collects all four original NES Mario games plus a music CD and a history-of-Mario booklet. XBOX: first find out if they’ve played Mass Effect 2, then if they haven’t smack them soundly and grab a copy of this astonishingly good space opera shooter. PS3: do they like driving super fancy cars? Yes? Then Gran Turismo 5. No cars? How about awkward American accents from European voice actors in a multi-faceted murder mystery that uses the Playstation Move controller? Yes? Then Heavy Rain is your safest bet.
PC Gamers: Does his/her computer have glowing tubes a la TRON? Two monitors? A mouse with more than three buttons? You’re in luck! It’s been another great year for PC gamers. If you’ve got your gift recipient’s e-mail address you can check to see if they have a functioning Steam account (http://store.steampowered.com/) and then start ladeling the direct downloads on them (start with the Orange Box ($30) and Left 4 Dead 2 ($20) and go from there). PC gamers will fawn over the world-conquest sim Civilization 5, and even the most casual of strategy fans will get their money’s worth from the stellar (hah!) Starcraft 2 (~$50).
Horror/Fantasy/Sci-Fi Dorks: Do you know any author on their dangerously bowing bookshelves? Of course not. Hand them a copy of Selected Stories by Fritz Leiber ($25). The forgotten bridge between Tolkein, Lovecraft and Gibson holds his own against giants across three geek genres. Ren Faire types will fall for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and The Girl with the Hungry Eyes is one of the first, and most powerful, forays into the horror/urban fantasy realm.
Emo/Goth Kids: Ridiculously asymmetrical hair, overly graphic designed hooded sweatshirts and bad attitude-itis? These precious buckets of “joy” could use a copy of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: The Director’s Cut (~$20) collecting issues 1-7 of this mid-’90s self-deprecatingly macabre alt-comic. Possibly the last delightfully anti-social thing published before vampires started sparkling and the gravitas of my spooky brethren was lost forever to the left jab of a scholastic nanny state and the right hook of Hot Topic. At fine comic stores everywhere.
Cinephiles: Are you getting a gift for The Hippo Associate Publisher and fellow Dork vs. Dorker Dan Szczesny? Well, since you can’t give him the gift of my respect, how about a membership at Concord’s Red River Theatres (www.redrivertheatres.org, $60 for one, $100 for two)? Add a fistful of tickets and you can quell the scoffing of your family Lumiere, Wells or Aronofsky when you have the audacity to admit you liked Armageddon in the presence of their vastly superior judgment. Top it with the Criterion Collection print of Armageddon to make the gift a bittersweet pill.
Comic Books Dweebs: Long boxes of meticulously kept funny books and a false impression that Kevin Smith is artistically worthwhile? Comic Book Dweeb alert! Mass media has been exceedingly kind to Comic Book Dweebs of late, from AMC’s great adaptation of the Walking Dead series (collected editions $35) to the film version of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (paperbacks $12), you can’t swing a cat without hitting a good comic book gift. Superfriends will find a favorite artist; click the internets until you get to their site and commission a sketch.