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TSA's Guide To Gaming Christmas Presents

Wallets at the ready.

Christmas means a lot of things to different people but, for the majority of us, it’s an annual cocktail of laborious wrapping and crossed fingers as we exchange gifts with friends and family. Oh, and don’t forget the copious helpings of turkey, poorly-delivered cracker jokes and people sneakily trying to bump “Last Christmas” to the top of the playlist.

Before any of that, however, comes the actual buying of presents. It’s a yearly dilemma for some of us: where one person may be satisfied with a few stocking fillers another will no doubt be expecting that ideal gift.

Luckily, if you have a gamer in your life, the process is simplified somewhat. With such a wide spread of video games, accessories, and other merchandise on offer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something that doesn’t hit the spot (or at least come close).

The Casual


The term “casual gamer” gets kicked around a fair bit nowadays. In essence, it describes the bread and butter of the gaming demographic: those who love to game yet rarely stray from a prescribed list of titles they pick up year-in, year-out.

At the very top of this narrow list are the golden three, the crowd-pleasers, a tested trifecta of gaming goodness. Though by no means universally popular, each of the following are safe bets, no matter who you’re buying for.

First in line is Call of Duty Ghosts. Put simply, it’s more of the same albeit with a new cast of characters and a few additional bells and whistles to play with. Call of Duty’s biggest attraction, as ever, is its online multiplayer which still reels in punters by their millions.

Next up is FIFA 14. Naturally it’s one for the footie fans and, like Call of Duty, offers the same core experience wrapped in a new skin.

Making up the three is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Labeling it as “more sophisticated” than the other two isn’t entirely accurate though there’s a lot more of depth on offer. Assemble a rag-tag crew of pirates and take to the High Seas in one biggest and most detailed games of the year.

Given their popularity there’s a good chance that your gamer giftee may have already picked up all three. In that case things get a bit more complicated yet there are still a number of go-to options that should work a treat. For those who already have (and love) Call of Duty, Battlefield 4 is certainly worth a punt. Meanwhile racing fans will welcome a copy of Need for Speed: Rivals.

The Hardcore


Hardcore gamers can be a fickle bunch. They are either the sort of player who dedicates themselves to a particular genre or sub-set of video games or those who will play through just about anything.

Still, there is a shortlist that should appeal to most of them, whether due to innovative gameplay or story-telling. Get this right and expect a big pat on the back. If not, don’t worry: hardcore gamers may appear to be the pickiest of the bunch yet sometimes don’t know what they really want. Take it from me, I’ve been gifted games which I absolutely adore despite feigning smiles as I unwrap them on Christmas morning.

Outside of the actual games themselves, there are other bits and bobs that should appeal to hardcore fans. If your gift receiver is fond of a particular series there will, in most cases, be a collection of novels or comics at hand as well as general merchandise.

For the fashion-conscious, Insert Coin stocks a wealth of exclusive gaming apparel. From tees and hoodies to bags, there’s plenty available through their online store.

If you’re really looking to surprise that special someone, Etsy is also worth a shout. To some it’s largely associated with the arts and crafts crowd yet, if you search long enough, you may find that perfect stocking filler.

If all else fails, there is one last option. Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, and Wii Points cards are available just about anywhere. It’s essentially the same as giving your gaming friend money, just with a more personal touch.

The All-Gamer


Basically a combination of the hardcore gamer and those who take their hobby beyond virtual space. For these types, things will start to get more interesting in the years to come with entertainment media growing a synergetic bond with physical objects. Take Skylanders and Disney Infinity; though perhaps not the best games, the technology they use will continue to complexify and, hopefully, work its way into other applications.

Until then, there are plenty of paper/plastic-based alternatives, starting with Magic: The Gathering. We’ve waxed lyrical about the iconic Wizards TCG for a while now; not only is the Duels of the Planeswalkers video game series an absolute delight, the original card game itself still holds up perfectly. Getting into Magic: The Gathering is as easy picking up one of the new 2014 decks or any of the various combo packs. With rules and a pre-built stack of cards, it’s exactly what you need to get started. From there, a Deckbuilder’s Toolkit is also available. It contains 285 cards and essentially allows players to start modifying existing decks or building their own.

The further you get into the game, the more complex things start to get. 2013 saw the release of the Theros expansion. Carrying a mythological theme, Theros sees heroes and monsters clash with a spread of advanced cards to play with. These influences also trickled into M:TG’s 2013 Commander Decks. Intermediate collectors should also get their hands on a Holiday Gift Box, containing a selection of boosters along with a handy, secure box in which to sort and separate your collection.

Though not a TCG, Cards Against Humanity is another brilliant card game and one that only recently launched in the UK. There are no mechanics of which to speak of; it’s just a really funny and rather unpredictable card game that can push people’s humour to its darkest limits. One player will call out a card with a phrase or question, each one have one or more blank words. Using the cards they are given, players try to make the funniest combinations to win points.

Another favourite here at TheSixthAxis is Games Workshop and its line of wargames. Warhammer and it’s futuristic “40,000” counterpart are fantasy/sci-fi touchstones that offer quality, collectible miniatures which are use to play in either small skirmishes or grand multiplayer battles. GW even has a wargame based on The Hobbit (and the expanded Middle Earth universe) only having just released a Desolation of Smaug expansion. Those who like war/board games may also be interested in Heroclix and their spread of video game tie-ins, including BioShock, Halo, Gears of War, and, rather strangely, DOTA 2.

For the all-gamers, there is an absolute myriad of options on offer. These are merely a few highlights.

The Next-Gen Gamer


The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are no doubt at the top of many Christmas lists. Though we’ve yet to see anything truly ground-breaking from the new hardware, the impulse will be there for many with Sony and Microsoft continually pushing their next-gen consoles throughout the festive season.

This isn’t a forum in which to compare the PS4 and Xbox One. Though the former clearly has an advantage where price is concerned (by around £80-100 on average) there are plenty of other factors that need to be weighed in. Does your giftee like to game and watch entertainment at the same time? Which gaming series are they into? Do they currently own a PS3 or 360? There are loads of variables and, at the end of the day, the decision just requires a bit of common sense.

Aside from software, the only current essentials include an additional controller and subscription cards for PlayStation Plus/Xbox Live. These are two of the very first things any gamer buys when picking up a console, making sure they can access multiplayer whenever, either online or locally.

As for the games you can’t really go wrong. Again, it comes down to common sense. Younger gamers should stick with the likes of Knack (PS4), Zoo Tycoon (Xbox One) and Skylanders SWAP Force (Multi) whereas older, more experienced gamers will be more in tune with Ryse (Xbox One), Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4) and those listed in our casual section.

The Young Gamer


Kids are usually the easiest to buy for. Games which teens and adults may find redundant or plain awful still have an appeal to younger gamers for some reason. It’s likely because they aren’t in search of perfection; they’re just happy to play what’s in front of them.

The two heavy hitters this year share a similar trend. First up we have Skylanders SWAP Force. It’s the third game in Spyro-inspired series and just as good a point as any to join the ride.

In a nutshell, SWAP Force is a simple albeit fun action game that requires users to place figures on a “portal” in order to make them appear on screen. It sounds gimmicky -not to mention expensive- yet the physical interaction it requires is novelty children will continue to revel in.

Hot on Skylanders’ heels is another game that hinges on collectible figures. However, Disney Infinity is arguably the more creative of the two. Through playing the game you will unlock a gallery of items which can be used in Infinity’s “Toy Box” to create your own custom levels.

Not only that, you can of course play as your favourite Disney icons with more characters planned for future release.

The Handheld Gamer


There’s no doubt that some people are more fond of on-the-go experiences. With the PlayStation Vita having some excellent games and the 3DS really hitting its stride this year, you can expect a lot of choice when it comes to portable games.

So: 3DS or PS Vita? Presuming they don’t have either, then you’ve got a big choice to make here. If they’ve got or are planning to get a PS4, then a Vita might be the best choice here, as you’ll be able to play all of the PS4 games via streaming with Remote Play. That’s quite a big deal. However, the library is certainly more limited and focused on indie games.

Nintendo’s 3DS has had one of the best years in gaming, with some incredible exclusive games. There’s everything from the laid-back Animal Crossing: New Leaf and beyond. Some of the other highlights from this year include Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Fire Emblem: Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, Sonic Lost World and of course, the two big-hitters Pokémon X & Y and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

The Vita line-up has been slightly less impressive, though the exclusive games have been of pure quality. Alongside a slew of downloadable indie games too big to mention (including titles such as Guacamelee!, Hotline Miami, and Thomas Was Alone), there has been the excellent console-quality shooter Killzone: Mercenary, which anyone that’s a fan of shooters should enjoy, and the delightful Tearaway, which absolutely everyone should fall in love with. And that’s not to mention the value you’ll find with two free games every month if you pick up a PlayStation Plus subscription.

The 3DS certainly has the stronger line-up, and with the child-friendly 2DS recently hitting the market, it has become extremely cheap (under £100) to start playing these games. Though, that’s not to say the Vita is comparatively expensive, with the system along with Tearaway and LittleBigPlanet going for just under £149.99.

Have you bought anything here for a gamer in your life this Christmas?

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  1. spurs78
    Since: Sep 2010

    Just been out and bought mario kart 7 and animal crossing new leaf for my four year old daughter to go with her new 3dsxl waiting for her currently in packing status on Santa’s sleigh. Hopefully keep her quiet while dad brings the ps4 out to play after Xmas day turkey time!!

    Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 15:46.
  2. carson321
    Since: May 2009

    great article guys, i’m sure a lot of people will find this useful

    Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 15:46.
  3. jimmy-google
    Since: Feb 2009

    Just bought one game for brother but it’s not mentioned. Can’t say what because he’s probably reading.

    Just realised I probably span every category as I’ll be getting some disney infinity bits, nfs for ps4, maybe knack, ratchet and clank and hopefully tearaway.

    Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 16:01.
    • Peter Chapman
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      I know what it is, the lucky sod’s getting this, isn’t he?

      Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 18:11.
    • jimmy-google
      Since: Feb 2009

      My wife already owns it. I don’t let her buy games anymore.

      Comment posted on 14/12/2013 at 17:15.
      • Moonpie
        Since: Oct 2012

        Got the platinum and proud of it

        Comment posted on 25/12/2013 at 17:30.
  4. wonkey-willy
    Since: Jan 2010

    mmmmm decisions decisions….tearaway or not?
    first thing on the fatman’s list is a bigger fekin’ memory card for my vita..
    picked up ghosts for £25.00 from amazon with code and got splinter cell blacklist the one with the watch for £17.99.
    just renewed my ps plus for £33.00 cd keys.
    jeez at this rate i’ll be skint by xmas.

    Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 17:45.
  5. Steelhead
    Since: Oct 2013

    I usually make things easy for my wife by giving her a list of 3-5 games that I want to play. That way it simplifies the issue for her, and I am guaranteed to get a game I actually really want to play.

    Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 17:49.
  6. beeje13
    Since: Jan 2010

    A good guide. Looks like if it weren’t for next gen I’d be a casual gamer lol.

    Comment posted on 13/12/2013 at 20:58.
  7. blackredyellow
    Since: Mar 2009

    Well done guys, this is a great idea executed very nicely. I’ll be sending links!

    Comment posted on 14/12/2013 at 00:55.
  8. salvodaze
    Since: Dec 2012

    Get EVERYONE Tearaway. Seriously.

    Comment posted on 14/12/2013 at 05:24.