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GeekDame’s Gift-Giving Guide for Discerning Geeks: Gaming Edition!

It’s December 15th, and that means you still have nine days before your gifts should be wrapped and under that faithful and festooned fir, O Tannenbaum. That’s plenty of time to snag some swag for those remaining on your list (even time to check that list twice!), and I’ve brought in some help today to fill you in on which video games might soothe your gamer giftee’s twitching trigger-finger. Or their need for defensive strategizing, social raiding, or destroying elaborate edifices built by pompously pleased piggies. Whichever applies.

Our first five picks are courtesy of a close friend and old ally of Casa Quixote – Shana Markham! Shana is a designer at Gas Powered Games, where she’s worked on titles like Demigod and Age of Empires Online. I can honestly say that I knew Shana way-back-when, and that she’s the real deal: a hardcore gamer chick from childhood with the chutzpah to break into the business she loves. Let’s see what she recommends:

EPIC FANTASY THAT WILL BECOME YOUR NEW, BETTER LIFE, EXCEPT FOR THAT DAEDRIC THING:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Game Studios.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the continuation of a series that celebrates what makes western role playing games great. Rather than foist a story upon you, Skyrim allows you to discover your own epic fantasy in a rich world in the frozen north. In the end, you will save the world. The question is, what else did you do? PC players will find a strong mod community that is soon to be further bolstered by the release of the Creation Kit, allowing all players to create their own content.

Purchase The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim @ Amazon: On Xbox 360. | On PS3. | On PC.

THAT GAME EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ALREADY. IF NOT, SHAME ON THEM:

Portal 2 by Valve Corporation.

Even though Portal 2 came out in April of this year, there are still people who have not tried this finely-honed experience. New and old players will find a familiar world that begins to reveal itself in its uniquely humorous and dangerous fashion. Everything about this game is polished and tuned to give a challenging, rewarding, and immersive experience. Portal 2 includes a cooperative mode, where two players must work together in a ballet of mind-bending teleportation and physics; however, sometimes it is just as fun to cause some grief.

Purchase Portal 2 @ Amazon: On Xbox 360. | On PS3. | On Mac or PC.

FOR THE ONES WHO WANT TO LIVE EVEN LONGER AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY:

Star Wars: The Old Republic by BioWare.

Bioware is known for its Old Republic series, giving players a glimpse into the golden age of Jedi and Sith. The Old Republic is a MMORPG, letting players come together to act out their story. The mechanics are familiar to players of World of Warcraft, with some additional work to create a more friendly experience. The gem of this game is in its storyline, as each class participates in a deep and fully voice-acted story tailored to their class’s role in the conflicts. Even players who traditionally shy away from MMO’s can find comfort here, as the game is very single-player friendly.

GeekDame’s Note: We here at Casa Quixote have been especially looking forward to this game release! In fact, Star Wars: The Old Republic goes live one day before our third wedding anniversary. Guess what we gave each other this year? G’won, the first guess is free!

Purchase Star Wars: The Old Republic @ Amazon: On PC only.

FOR THAT PERSON YOU ARE ABOUT TO STAGE AN INTERVENTION FOR DUE TO CARDBOARD CRACK:

Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 by Stainless Games.

If you’re like me, then you spent an awful lot of your money on Magic: The Gathering, a collectible card game where players are mages battling with an array of deadly spells and beasts. Duels of the Planeswalkers gives you the thrill of the game without the piles of cards. You are given a number of pre-constructed decks that can be further customized by cards you unlock while playing. The popular ways to play are there, and you can either play alone, with up to three other friends, or even with random strangers. Stainless Games and Wizards of the Coast have been continuing to provide support with new decks every few months.

Purchase Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 via Xbox Live, Playstation Network, or Steam.

FOR YOUR FRIEND THAT PLAYS FACEBOOK GAMES DURING LUNCH:

Dungeon Defenders by Trendy Entertainment.

Dungeon Defenders follows in the line of games like Orcs Must Die! and Sanctum. It is a tower defense game, where you construct a series of defenses to prevent waves of enemies from reaching what you are protecting. Along with an array of towers and traps, Dungeon Defenders allows you to participate in combat directly as one of four classes with their own powers and strengths. If you find your own strength lacking, then join with up to three other friends to save Etheria. Multiple classes with their own level progression and equipment will ensure that you always have something to do.

Purchase Dungeon Defenders via Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam.

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That concludes Shana’s picks for this holiday season, but look out for her in the New Year – she’ll be doing a number of guest appearances here at GeekDame, bringing us a fascinating series of articles on a variety of games that have had a personal impact on her, as well as their social aspects.

Next up, Andy has wrestled himself away from the corpse-ridden fields and flying bullets of Battlefield 3 to give us his holiday recommendations. Okay, I’m fibbing – he’s actually still running around and being “effin’ surgical” with his M60E4 while throwing this advice over his shoulder. And, okay, the first thing he said was “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.” But I dragged him back onto point just for you, loyal readers!

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ANDY’S “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT CUTESY SECTION TITLES FOR?” LIST OF GAMING GIFT-GIVING RECOMMENDATIONS:

Battlefield 3 by DICE.

While aside from graphics the single-player experience leaves a lot to be desired, the multiplayer side of the game offers the same battlefield experience that we have enjoyed since the heady days of Battlefield 1942. If you are ready to grab your rifle and pwn you some n00bs, then Battlefield 3 is definitely money well spent.

Purchase Battlefield 3 @ Amazon: On Xbox 360. | On PS3. | On PC.

Fallout: New Vegas by Obsidian Entertainment.

Fallout: New Vegas is the true successor to the Fallout franchise brought to you by many of the same people who made the first two games! Everything that made Fallout great is present in New Vegas, from the post-apocalyptic retro-50s setting to the irreplaceably macabre sense of humor. Best of all, this game actually continues the storyline of 1 & 2 – unlike the (in my opinion) less-than-stellar Fallout 3. (Not that I disliked Fallout 3, I just don’t consider it the true successor to Fallout. This recommendation comes, of course, with the injunction that your giftee should have played Fallout 1 and 2 – if they haven’t, GOG can help you fix that up for cheap.)

Purchase Fallout: New Vegas @ Amazon: On Xbox 360. | On PS3. | On PC.

Shogun 2 by Creative Assembly.

The latest entry in the mostly superlative and sublime Total War series, Shogun 2 revisits the setting of the original game while allowing for all the lessons learned from Creative Assembly’s many successes and failures since Shogun‘s release in 2000. If anyone you’re gifting has even the slightest interest in the Sengoku jidai, you should snatch this game up for them immediately. Even if they don’t, it’s a cracking strategy game with (finally!) an improved AI. The game stands to get even better with its Meiji era Fall of the Samurai expansion in March, so it’ll be a game that gifts twice! Except for the expansion fee your giftee will have to pay, of course.

Purchase Shogun 2 @ Amazon: On PC only.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution by Eidos.

The third game in the Deus Ex series hits many of the points that made the original Deus Ex a classic. From the excellent graphics and compelling cyberpunk storyline to the refreshingly different gameplay that rewards nonviolence and stealth over bloody slaughter, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the game that is sure not to disappoint if Santa slips it into your stocking.

(It’s worth noting, as well, that Human Revolution is a prequel to the first two Deus Ex games, so familiarity with the franchise is in no way a requirement.)

Purchase Deus Ex: Human Revolution @ Amazon: On Xbox 360. | On PS3. | On PC.

Rise of Flight by 777 Studio.

Rise of Flight is a startlingly complex flight simulation of the first World War. This game is an absolute must for any aviation enthusiast, whether they consider themselves wannabe Red Barons or just want to experience the early era of flight from a painstakingly detailed first person perspective. The game is difficult to get into and many of its airplanes have to be purchased via microtransactions. You should also expect to spend more time actually learning how to get your airplane into the air without crashing than you will spend shooting down enemies over the trenches. But if you can get over that, you will find a diamond in the rough of flight simulations, and each airplane in the game is a visually stunning work of programming art. Joystick required!

GeekDame’s note: I pointed out my husband should probably advertise the fact that a joystick is required: just trying to imagine someone attempting to play this game with a keyboard had him in paroxysms of hysterical laughter on the floor.

Purchase Rise of Flight @ Amazon: On PC only.

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But wait, there’s more! Not much more, I promise – I know we’ve given you quite a few great recommendations already. However, I have several gift ideas that don’t necessarily require pay to play – even free, your giftee will be thankful to be turned on to them, and any paid game time you decide to give them (where applicable) will only make their appreciation all the more avid!

DEBORAH’S “I LIKE THE SECTION TITLES, BUT THERE’VE PROBABLY BEEN ENOUGH IN THIS ARTICLE ALREADY” LIST OF CHEAP GAMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS:

Plants vs. Zombies by PopCap Games.

Plants vs. Zombies by PopCap Games is exactly what it says on the tin: players must use a variety of plants to stop the zombies from reaching their objective – typically, this means you must stop the zombies from crossing your lawn or garden and wreaking their dastardly zombie deeds on your house and, presumably, person. While it sounds stupidly simple, the ease of apprehension and game play gives way to a wholly addictive experience that would make this a cruel gift for people who really need to be more productive. We say go for it! This one isn’t free to play, but it’s worth the money and available on a truly ludicrous number of platforms.

Purchase @ Amazon: On Xbox 360. | On PS3. | On PC. | On Nintendo DS.

Angry Birds by Rovio.

Angry Birds isn’t exactly what it says on the tin, but the title is still pretty dang descriptive: the titular birds are angry because a group of pigs has stolen their eggs and intends to enjoy them cooked six ways from Sunday. Hence, they embark upon a series of adventures (AKA levels) to get back their eggs by surmounting whatever challenges the pigs have put in their path (AKA by blowing shit up using their bodies as missiles). Any game where the player gets to use a slingshot to shoot angry avians at entirely-too-smug snorting piggies is alright with me, and I often find myself unable to put it down until I complete just… one… more… level. Playable on essentially any smart phone, tablet, or browser, this one’s a winner as a holiday gift. Depending on where you play and which version you get, Angry Birds ranges from dirt-cheep (it had to be done! I apologize for nothing!) to free as a bird (okay, I apologize for that one).

Find Angry Birds in a variety of app stores or at the Google Chrome Webstore.

Glitch by Tiny Speck.

Glitch, while still in beta, promises to be one of the most innovative and enjoyable free-to-play MMO games on the web. The design is pleasantly unique, the flavor text is mind-bendingly awesome with sometimes dirty and sometimes meta moments, and the game allows you to learn skills while logged out. While this game doesn’t cost anything, you can choose to purchase time which will grant you access to more options and customizations and grant you a voice in Glitch referendums determining which new features and content will receive priority in the game. If your giftee likes unique quest-oriented gaming experiences, turn them on to this little gem and give them a subscription so they can rock some killer outfits.

Play Glitch @ their site.

Echo Bazaar by Failbetter Games.

Echo Bazaar is another free-to-play game, though this one is largely text-based and controls your number of moves by imposing a daily limit. It’s a perfect choice for downtime on the Internet when you’re between tasks or on your lunchbreak, and opens the player up to an enchanting and sinister crawl through Fallen London – which is literally what it sounds like as, according to the game premise, London was stolen by bats thirty years ago and dragged far beneath the surface of the Earth. Turn your giftee on to this delightful diversion so they may become a delicious friend and discover the starveling cat – and, if they get super-addicted, throw them some cash to buy more daily moves.

Play Echo Bazaar @ their site.

And, er, I’ll sneak one more tiny little suggestion in here at the bottom: Facebook-baseed games often get a bad rap, but there’s worse you could do than start playing one with a friend or loved one this holiday season. I play both Farmville and Castleville by Zynga with my family and, while the increasing pressure to spend real-world money is annoying, the social cooperation required and cute animals and such I can get for my farm/kingdom is enjoyable enough to compensate.

We hope these suggestions may have helped you settle on a gaming selection for your giftee! Next up in the GeekDame’s Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving for the Discerning Geek: Geek Chic! Look for it Friday.

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