It was once so simple, wasn’t it? You could grab the nearest object with Star ____ on the box and your holiday shopping was complete. Pick up any video game with the word “War,” “Storm” or “Reckoning” in the title and hours of borderline seizures were destined to flicker across their precious retinas. But now we live in a post-prequels world. Here any game, flick, toy or tchotchke you gift could be a gaily wrapped ticking time bomb of abject failure.
Today, more than ever, it is crucial that when you present your presents to the family geek you make a favorable impression. I don’t know if you’ve looked around but those girls, they’re the ones keeping your company’s network running smoothly. They are the guys whose Fortune 500 company has a dozen meeting rooms each named after a vintage video game. They are lurking in the next cubicle, they are writing out your checks and the future is increasingly being placed into their hands. These aren’t the folks you want to disappoint with an ill-chosen gift, or worse, the hollow platitude of a gift card.
Since it is highly unlikely that you can score a personalized letter of apology from George Lucas during this year’s holiday season, here are some other ways to please those who top their trees with blue police boxes and who celebrate a Festival of Lightsabers with the original, un-tampered VHS copies of the Holy Trilogy. I present my humble Wookie Life Day wish list.
1. The Protomen, Act II — The Father of Death, $10
Nerd cred doesn’t run any deeper than 8bit Mega Man for the NES. What better way to celebrate the noble tale of one robot fulfilling his human father’s dream by liberating a future from the robot army of an insane doctor than by telling the story though prog-metal. Hailing from Nashville, The Protomen’s epic electro rock is the perfect soundtrack to night-long campouts in front of the PS3.
2. Chocolate Dice, $15+
Colorado nerd Mario Lurig is on deck to strike the critical hit … of deliciousness! His kickstarter.com project, chocolates molded in the shape of traditional RPG dice, is a guaranteed hit among geeks. Though it won’t see delivery until after the holidays, the combination of crowd-funding goodwill and yummy treats is exactly the type of I.O.U. that your nerd will treasure. Go to www.kickstarter.com/projects/ucffool/gaming-dice-in-chocolate-and-sugar.
3. Leviathan, Behemoth & Goliath by Scott Westerfeld, about $40
Now that Justin Bieber has officially jumped steampunk over the clockwork shark with his “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” video abomination, you have precious little time to enjoy the heights of the genre. This lusciously illustrated tale of an alternate WWI where battleship- sized mechs fight flying mutant whales is thrilling and approachable for all its fancy. The camaraderie between the on-the-lam Archduke’s son and a scrappy British lass (cross-dressing for military duty, no less) is fun and warm in a Twelfth Night-meets-Moonlighting kind of way. Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy is both the height of Young Adult fiction and one of the best exercises in “whatever”-punk on shelves.
4. A one year comic subscription, about $50
Despite the half-step of DC Comics’ recent relaunch there are more interesting, exciting and engaging titles in the funnybook boutique than ever before. Take a trip to your local comic retailer and strike a deal. While you can simply get a gift certificate to cover the cost of 12 issues, it would be far more thoughtful to work with the clerk to set aside a book each month for your giftee. Alternately, you could subscribe for direct mail or digital delivery of most big publisher titles, but for geeks, supporting the friendly local comic shop is half the allure. Who knows? While you’re there you might find a title for yourself.
5. Super Dungeon Explore, $90
This thudding doorstop of a box scratches a very particular itch. It’s an anime-themed designer board game built to emulate Gauntlet-style video games and contains dozens of fantasy wargame miniatures. After hours of superglue-ing Chibi knights, wizards, kobolds and dragons together your favorite geek will be able to host a surprisingly accessible hack and slash adventure. www.sodapopminiatures.com.
6. 53 Pouches of Astronaut Ice Cream, 6 hours of patience and a steady hand, $157
By my calculations, with 53 pouches of the freeze-dried delight known as Astronaut Ice Cream you should net about two and a quarter pounds of chalky, scrumptious building blocks. This should be enough to construct a 1/200 scale, 11 x 9.5 x 7 model of the NASA Space Shuttle. You can use the chocolate-flavored fragments to LEGO together an external fuel tank and construct the remaining shuttle and recoverable boosters. Use any confectionery compound such as Nutella or frosting to mortar the pieces together. What better manner to honor the triumph of our sadly abandoned manned space program than by eating a replica of its greatest engineering triumph? Proper devouring order would be Boosters, Fuel Tank, Shuttle.
7. An Arcade Cabinet, varies wildly, at least $150, plus transportation
Everybody wants to tie a huge bow around something in the garage and present it to a blindfolded family member. Sure, you could get them something lame and “useful” like a car, but wouldn’t we all rather have a cocktail Dig-Dug or Joust cabinet for the lounge, rumpus room or foyer? I thought as much. eBay and Craigslist are sure to turn up semi-local sales on classic arcade machines that are a borrowed truck and a dolly away. Make sure you test out the button and controller responsiveness as well as inspecting the monitor for display errors.
8. Maker Bot Thing-o-matic, $1,099
Let’s get serious here. If you don’t know what to get for the geek who already seems to have everything, get him the means to make everything else. The Maker Bot Thing-o-Matic is a compact 3-D printer capable of extruding practically anything you can model on a computer. Is it “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” level of future-tech? No, but you can use it to print the parts of another Thing-o-matic which puts us one step closer to the Singularity (or extinction via Grey Goo). Also you can substitute frosting for plastic and make the nerdiest cupcakes in the known universe. Go to http://store.makerbot.com/thing-o-matic-kit-mk7.htm