A better reality awaits was the tagline of 2018’s Ready Player One, the gaming adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. The feature was half acted, half digital gamescape, literally. At the time of its release there were more than 70 U.S. colleges and universities hosting varsity eSports teams. Since then, that number has nearly doubled.
Video game gifts are hot this Christmas. An industry report published earlier this year concluded that consumers will spend over $152 billion on games in 2019, an increase of nearly 10% over the previous one. This year, too, Google unveiled it’s cloud-based video game streaming service, Stadia.
Google, the company built on cloud computing, has already mapped what one gaming site called “the logical next step for video games [that] does away with the need to download software.” Or run updates. Or check available hard drive space.
All you have to do is click play.
Top Video Game Gifts
This year was another exciting one for gameplay, headlined by four that are making most every top games list this year:
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (Rated Teen) This fall the Star Wars franchise hits the trifecta — movie (The Rise of Skywalker), television (The Mandalorian) and, last month, the video game. Set in the Star Wars universe somewhere between the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Rebellion, the narrative follows a Jedi padawan completing his training and restoring the Jedi Order while being pursued by the Empire and a curiously named antagonist, the Second Sister. If your gamer hasn’t had their fill of Star Wars already, this game is getting a warm reception from the critics. (Respawn Entertainment for PS4, Xbox One and Windows)
- A Plague Tale: Innocence (Rated Mature) Set in 14th Century France, orphans — the hero a teenager, guardian of her five-year-old brother — navigate the horror of the Middle Ages (the Plague, the Inquisition) in maze and challenge through a sumptuously realized world. What do gamers want? Games like this. (Asobo Studio for PS4, Xbox One and Windows)
- Sayonara Wild Hearts (Rated Everyone) This one’s a celebration of movement and joy as players move through kaleidoscopic landscapes and futuristic cities on a skateboard, a motorcycle or a car. A brokenhearted girl is drafted to set things right in faraway lands, chief among her antagonists bikers, dancing gangs and wolves. With an incredible soundtrack, this one is really meant to be enjoyed over and over, irrespective of quest.
- Mortal Kombat 11 (Rated Mature) Though premiering this spring, one of the top video game gifts this year is the latest installment in the Mortal Kombat franchise that began in 1992. Proving that karate can’t be killed, the team at NetherRealm Studios is gunning for James Bond-level longevity. (PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Windows)
Game Systems Gear
There’s video games and then there’s all the accessories. Here’s a short list of the best gifts for gamers who already have their favorite games in the bag:
- Rocker gaming chair Among the accessories filling the video game gift ideas lists is this one. Why? Gaming chairs can be moved around as easily as folding chairs, and they’re slung low so that the elevated horizon line makes the screen feel more adventurous. PS. They’re fun to sit in regardless of the entertainment.
- Oculus Quest VR headset Setting aside the clumsy headset and lack of olfactory and touch inputs, this virtual reality experience is as immersive as panoramic IMAX built for today’s graphic effects. Move your head and see different parts of the gamescape, lift your hands and fire and eliminate the hordes, or the coin-hording bystanders.
- Hyper X Cloud Mix headset Today’s gamers aren’t just sitting quietly fiddling with joysticks — they’re talking; often, to no one in the room. The most popular games today are multiplayer and enjoyed within virtual rooms with voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Add the HyperX Cloud Mix to your video game gifts list. It follows in the footsteps of the Audeze Mobius, with both Bluetooth and wired connectivity — an excellent listening experience for wired games and wireless music.
- Elite Series 2 Xbox Controller Xbox’s controller is a critical asset with a signature pain-point, like keeping a pet cobra, or Taylor Swift’s breakup songs. At $300, it’s roughly the price of one of its consoles. It’s also among the very best gifts for gamers. It features shorter hair-trigger locks, adjustable-tension thumbsticks, wrap-around rubberized grip and a couple dozen other accessories.
- Fortnite-themed anything What would a video game gift ideas list for 2019 be without stuff to get the Fortniter in your life to emote, or at least turn away from the screen to look.
The year 2019 didn’t bring any new game systems, per se. That doesn’t mean new spins on those oldie-but-goodies won’t make our video game gift ideas:
- Nintendo Switch Lite For the young gamer, and especially for budget-minded parents, there’s this $200 handheld with built-in parental controls. It’s cool and sophisticated, but not too-too much. Hit them with this before they inevitably migrate to multiplayer online battlefields.
- For the Switch Lite, check out the latest in the Mario universe — Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Next Level Games), which, like Fortnite and more advanced playscapes, features an improved multiplayer function so players can engage in cooperative gaming, together or in online communities.
- Super NES Classic Edition For the Gen Xer in your life, this pretty affordable gaming console features all the classics — Super Mario Kart, the Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting and others. At $150, it’s OK to indulge nostalgia a little. Just be in bed by 10.
- Pac-Man/Galaga/DigDug Arcade Machine OK, Boomer. Here’s one for you. A fairly true-to-the-original cocktail table arcade piece with 8-in-1 games including all the ones you might have played inside a Pizza Hut in 1982.
2020 and Beyond
What do gamers want next year? More of the same, but loads better. Get ready for highly anticipated sequels!
And look forward to new advancements in things like facial recognition that can put a facsimile of you in the game. Whoa, watch out for that uncanny valley! There’s also gesture control that’s helping to merge gaming with, well, games — like team sports and recreation.
One of the obstacles gamers throughout time have faced is the cost. Increasingly, cloud computing is making the price of top-of-the-line physical hardware — say, an Xbox with a terabyte hard drive — less critical. Beautiful gamescapes can be enjoyed with pedestrian game consoles and desktops.
Of course, the more modest the hard drive and processor, the more meaningful the pipeline.
When you weigh video game gift ideas, consider the quality of experience. Like video streaming, seamless entertainment is modulated by bandwidth — the network connection “feed.”
Over the last year Windstream’s been plowing its high-speed Kinetic Internet to tens of thousands of households. Whether it’s video games or IoT innovations, Americans’ way of life is increasingly lifted or sunk by the utility of their digital pipeline.
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