I hate video game buyer's guides. I know that I'm waging a losing battle, but there's something about them that just doesn't sit right to me. Anybody that is already going to a video game website is already hardcore enough to know what games he wants and what to ask for. What's more, most buyers' guides are completely useless to the non-gamer. At best these guides tell you what the biggest games are, but you can figure that out based on what's on the wall at your local game store. These video game buyers' guides aren't useful, and that's why I have made it my battle to pre-empt the upcoming onslaught of buyers' guides and give you something useful.
That's right; it is my intent to give you a guide that is truly helpful to at least one segment of the game buying population. This is a guide for all of you non-gamers out there who desperately don't want to get the wrong gift. If you're a parent or a non-gamer who plans on buying a game for a child, Don't ..... Buy That Game ... at least, not until you've read the Non-Gamers Guide to Getting the Wrong Gift! Below are eight cautionary examples of what can go wrong if you buy the wrong gift. Don't let this happen to you!
They Asked For Rock Band 2 ...
So Don't Give Them Rock Revolution:
Fake plastic instruments are all the rage these days, apparently making more money than even sports games! But not every music game is equal, so it's your job to not get completely confused when you make it to the game store. It's going to be hard; nobody ever said that shopping for fake plastic musical instruments was going to be easy. For one thing, you're going to be tempted by Rock Revolution's attractive price tag. I know little Timmy had his heart set on Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero: World Tour, but those games are tipping the scale at almost $200. Have you seen the economy outside? It's hard not to be tempted by the $130 price point for Rock Revolution, but it's important to fight the urge. Heck, even the stand-alone game is a whole ten dollars cheaper than Rock Band 2. But this is not a sign; it's just Konami trying to sucker people into buying inferior products.
What about the game store employees, they're here to help me, right? Not even close, let's face it they don't care what you buy. They're getting paid the same whether you buy ten copies of Rock Band 2 or just think about buying Rock Revolution. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if some of those employees make it their mission to sell every last copy of Rock Revolution. Have you seen the kind of jerks that work at a game store? These are people you never want to smell again, which is why you would much rather buy that ungrateful kid a sweater at the Gap. Stupid kid.
The Logical Conclusion:
After spending all their time looking forward to rocking out with Rock Band 2, little Timmy's heart is shattered when he unwraps Rock Revolution. Oh the humanity, it's clear that Santa Claus doesn't really exist and that your parents have been lying to you the whole time. Worse yet, from this moment on you learn to hate all music and refuse to every hear another note made from a guitar or drum kit. This means he stops going to movies, never picks up women at the bar and lives a miserable life in the forests with the coyotes far away from music. All because you decided you wanted to save $50. It's your cheapness that ruins this boy's life; I hope you're happy with yourself.
They Asked For Mario Kart Wii ...
So Don't Give Homie Rollerz:
When you ask little Timmy what a "Mario Kart Wii" is he throws his hands up in the air and concludes that you must be stupid. I mean, it's Mario ... everybody knows Mario. And he's on a Kart, just when you bought him the original Super Mario Kart, or when you surprised him with Mario Kart 64, or when he kept bagging for Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart: Double Dash!! In fact, now that you think about it, little Timmy sure does have a lot of Mario Kart games. Maybe it's time to wean him off of his Mario addiction and give him some variety?
At that exact moment you see Homie Rollerz for a shockingly cheap price. And right next to that you see seven more copies, all used for $7.99. Mario Kart Wii is $50 right now, yet this Nintendo DS kart racing game is less than ten bucks. What's more, you see this as a wise investment, since this may give him some foreign language practice, ultimately helping him pass Spanish class. Even when the well-intended game store employee gasps and tells you not to buy it, you still put the money down. After all, you know these Homiez characters. I mean, you see them every day when you go to your local supermarket. You don't know what kind of trouble those Mario Brothers could be getting into; Homie Rollerz is definitely a safer choice.
The Logical Conclusion:
Given the game's terrible controls and downright racist cinemas, one of two things is going to happen to little Timmy. On one hand he could learn to fear driving anywhere, since apparently everybody has bigger and faster cars. Or he could learn to hate Mexican Americans ... especially when driving on the street. Every time he drives to school he'll worry about what kind of object the next car over is going to throw at him. He'll be afraid that the car in front of him is going to throw down an oil slick, or that the car next to him will get really aggressive after eating a hot pepper. He'll be concerned that everybody is going to run him off the road and get there before he does. This is going to scar him; he'll never want to leave the house again. He'll become fearful of the car and, even worse, xenophobic. All because you didn't buy Mario Kart Wii. What kind of animal are you?
They Asked For Dead Space ...
So Don't Give Alone in the Dark:
Apparently Little Timmy wants to be scared, but he's not willing to wait until next spring for Resident Evil 5. Your job is simple, go to the local game store and get that little guy a truly scary experience. But you have a lot on your mind these days and completely forget what game little Timmy wanted, so what do you do? You look for the scariest sounding game title you can find. You see a lot of terrible names (Wario Land: Shake It!, Skate It, N+, Too Human, etc.), but there's only one scary name that stands out to you: Alone in the Dark. While Silent Hill: Homecoming sounds a little creepy, the prospect of being alone in the dark is just about the scariest thing you can think of right now ... well, standing in the middle of the pee-drenched mall chain buying a video game is the scariest thing you can think of, but Alone in the Dark is a close second.
See, to you being alone in the dark IS scary. It forces you to sit there, all by yourself, thinking about all of the terrible things you've done in your life. How you can never forgive yourself for cheating on little Timmy's dad. Or how you have this secret addiction to pain pills that nobody knows about. Or how much better life would be if little Timmy wasn't always bugging you for gifts. These are the things that keep you up at night, the things that scare you when you're alone in the dark. Unfortunately little Timmy is going to be scared for a much different reason, and chances are he's also going to be a little pissed off that you bought him Alone in the Dark and not Dead Space. Seriously, mom, being dead in space is way scarier than being alone in the dark. Duh!
The Logical Conclusion:
Despite his initial misgivings, little Timmy will reluctantly open up the game and try to get scared. Unfortunately Timmy won't find the New York City setting to be very scary, nor will he be frightened by the silly looking enemies. What will stick with him, much to your chagrin, is a life-long fear of fire. Arsonphobia is what the doctors call it, but to it's just your son always carrying around a fire extinguisher and making sure there's never anything flammable close to fire place. At first it makes sense, after all you can never be too careful when you're talking about fire. But soon enough he's opening doors with his fire extinguisher and having a hard time sleeping knowing that the house could go up in flames at any time. If you had just bought little Timmy Dead Space then he would be afraid of going into outer space, something he would never do anyway. But no, you had to buy him Alone in the Dark. Way to go, I hope you have enough room for all those fire extinguishers.
They Asked For Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood ...
So Don't Give Golden Axe: Beast Rider:
When talking about all of the reasons why he should get Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, little Timmy tells you that it's a brilliant reimagining of a Sega franchise, that it stars one of his favorite Sega characters and that it's finally going to show us the gritty side of one of his all time favorite games. He said a few other things, but you've found that it's better to just tune him out and shake your head in agreement every few seconds. By the time you get to the game store all you remember is "Sega", "reimagining" and "gritty". So, when you explain that information to the game store clerk he has no choice but to show you Golden Axe: Beast Riding.
Despite having nothing to do with Sonic and his animal pals, Golden Axe: Beast Rider is a re-imagined Sega game that is a lot grittier than its predecessors. Little Timmy's mistake was not drilling into your head that it's "Sonic" and he's "blue". How are you expected to know who Sonic the Hedgehog is? You can barely tell the difference between Pong and Grand Theft Auto IV, to you they are all Godless killing simulators that are going to destroy our youth's innocence. Still, you know buying him Golden Axe: Beast Rider is going to shut him up, so you pay the $60 and wrap it up in that novelty Jeff Foxworthy wrapping paper you've been using for five years. You're an awesome mom, and you know it.
The Logical Conclusion:
Expecting cute, adorable Sonic the Hedgehog critters, little Timmy is scared out of his boxer briefs when he sees that dragon thing on the cover. He'll be even more mortified when he discovers that Golden Axe: Beast Rider is a fundamentally flawed resurrection that fails to get even the basics right. His world will be shattered and it's all because you didn't get him Sonic Chronicles. After suffering through Golden Axe little Timmy will start to wonder why he ever loved Sega in the first place, disillusioned by their terrible quality control. He'll start to wonder if maybe Sega has been bad all this time, but he was too blind to see it. He'll start to see his love for what it is, not the lust that it once was. He'll forsake Sonic, NiGHTS and all of the other Sega characters he once loved. Instead he'll get strung out on the harder stuff, like Nintendo games and those movies adapted to Lego. Oh the horror!
They Asked For Penny Arcade Adventures Episodes 1 & 2 ...
So Don't Give American McGee's Grimm:
You thought you were off the hook for this one, since little Timmy insisted that you could buy both episodes of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness online without taking a trip to the game store in the mall. After getting John Scherer (the CEO & founder of Video Professor) to help you get your computer online, you're off to the races to figure out how buy and download the games he wants. And that's when you see the price is $30, lot more than you were expecting to pay for a pair of downloadable game. But that's when you see GameTap's advertisement for American McGee's Grimm. For around the same price you'll get a dozen episodes of Grimm, as opposed to the two you'll get from Penny Arcade. It sounds like a good deal to me.
But wait a second. You stop and think to yourself that this year you would really like to get little Timmy something he wants. You want him to be happy when he wakes up on Christmas morning. You don't want a repeat of last year when instead of getting him Call of Duty 4, you got him Hour of Victory. So you go back to Steam and get your credit card information ready. But just as you're about to click to purchase, you start to think about each of the two games. On one hand you have a game about fairy tales, while the other game is about a web comic? How lame is that? Those Grimm episodes include Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots. What does Penny Arcade have? Robots? Hey, what is that robot doing to that orange?? Yeah, American McGee's Grimm is definitely the way to go.
The Logical Conclusion:
I hope you're happy, mom. Because all of those fairy tales you tell little Timmy as you tuck him into bed are about to scare the bejesus out of him. Think that Cinderella is an innocent story? Just wait until he's done playing through the freakishly twisted version of it in American McGee's Grimm. He's never going to trust any of those stories you tell him, not The Girl Without Hands, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Golden Goose or even A Christmas Carol. Then again, he should have known something was up with The Devil and His Three Golden Hairs. I mean, seriously, it has the Devil right in the title.
They Asked For Resistance 2 ...
So Don't Give Turning Point: Fall of Liberty:
Little Timmy sure is excited about this game, you cannot believe how much he talks about it. And it was adorable how he came up to you and tried explaining that he should get the game because it has historical value. How cute, as if a video game was going to teach you the history of our country. Still, it would be nice to get at least one of the games on his list. But what was the name again? All you remember was that it's a first-person shooter that takes place in an alternate reality where World War II ended in our defeat. What was that game again? After explaining the premise to the store clerk he gives you the recently-discounted Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. It's perfect, the description of the game makes perfect sense and you can understand why little Timmy would try and sell you on the historical narrative. But really, who is he fooling?
As you sit at the red light you start to read the back of the box. It occurs to you that you've been buying your son a lot of war-based first-person shooters these days. You wonder what kind of damage these games are having on your son. Maybe he actually believes that Turning Point is based on history, which starts to make you angry. You wonder if instead of buying him another shooter you should return it and get him something useful, like a subscription to the New York Times or a gym membership. Nah, you're fine with World War II-based video games changing his perception of history. You're sure the school district is good enough to teach him the facts and get him a good education.
The Logical Conclusion:
Unfortunately the public school system isn't good enough to educate your son on World War II. Instead of discussing the important things, they spend half the semester telling you why it's important to vote and how Christopher Columbus found America. No wonder you grow up thinking that the Germans won and we're all living under a Nazi police state. That would explain why little Timmy now has a gun collection that rivals any gang in town and is afraid of his own shadow. If you had just bought him Resistance 2 like he wanted he would have thought aliens had invaded, and since that's out of the realm of possibility, his life would have been spared. But no, you bought him Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. You've ruined him and his future. No wonder he voted for John McCain.
They Asked For Need for Speed: Underground ...
So Don't Give Need for Speed ProStreet for the PSP:
After failing so many years in a row, you know you are going to get the right game this time. You keep telling yourself, Need for Speed. Need for Speed. Need for Speed. You're one-hundred percent sure that this time you're going to remember Need for Speed and get him the right gift. Every time you say that name in your head you snicker a little bit, because it's what you call your husband's sexual prowess. But this is not laughing matter; you have a job to do. You get to the store and ask for "the new Need for Speed." After a short pause the clerk asks you what system you want, and you find yourself caught completely off guard. You think about all of the systems little Timmy has, but the only one you ever see him with is that damn Sony portable thingy. You blurt out the Sony portable part and he reaches for a used copy of Need for Speed ProStreet.
Is this the newest Need for Speed game for the PSP, you ask. He shakes his head and you run out of the store a happy customer. How were you expected to know that Need for Speed ProStreet came out back in February, four months after it debuted on every other console? How were you to know that this is a terrible racing game with a poor sense of speed and abysmal controls? How were you expected to know that there are dozens of Need for Speed games out there? How were you expected to know any of this? That's not your job. You're the person that gets them out of bed each day, the person that takes them to their soccer practices. You're the person that binge drinks when they are away and has a secret obsession with pain pills. You aren't expected to know the difference between Need for Speed ProStreet, Carbon and Underground. That's some nerd's job. You need a drink, it's time to relax.
The Logical Conclusion:
Happy to get a Need for Speed game, little Timmy goes on believing that ProStreet is actually the newest game in the series. From here on out this affects every game he asks for and purchases from now on. With his Christmas money he also picked up Madden NFL 09, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe and Tony Hawk's Proving Ground. But he better save some money, because next year he's planning on going to Quantum of Solace and pick up the new Guns N Roses album. This also affected his grades, forcing him to graduate one year later. It was a total tragedy that would ultimately drive him crazy.
They Asked For Mercenaries 2: World in Flames ...
So Don't Give Call of Duty: World at War:
You've had it with this kid, he's never happy with the gifts you give them. And those stupid retailers, they never let you take stuff back anymore. It's not like the good old days, you reminisce about all of those Holidays when you could take back the crap you didn't want without a receipt. But those days are long gone, and with it a part of the fun of Christmas died. But you're not going to let that get the best of you, instead you're going to go in there and buy Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, just like little Timmy wants. Or was that Universe at War? Or maybe it was Call of Duty: World at War. Oh no, you don't remember. He talks about so many different war games, it's impossible to tell which one he really wants.
You run up to the counter and ask for Mercenaries 2: World in Flames. You explain that little Timmy talks about so many war games, it's hard to keep track. The store clerk grabs Mercenaries 2, but also explains that what he was probably after was Call of Duty: World at War. He regales you with facts and bullet points about Treyarch's new Call of Duty game. Tells you that it supports online play, has amazing graphics and is addictive as hell. He then proceeds to tell you that Mercenaries 2 is a complete waste of money. But you're sure little Timmy wanted Mercenaries 2, it just sounds right. So you tell him thanks, but no thanks to the new Call of Duty game. Then you buy Mercenaries 2 and run home to wrap it. For the first time in years you're absolutely sure that you got the guy the right gift. Good job mom, good job.
The Logical Conclusion:
Unfortunately it wasn't mom that confused Mercenaries 2 with Call of Duty: World at War, it was little Timmy! The moment he plugged the game in he realized the error of his ways. Little Timmy remembered reading all of those bad reviews a few months ago and knew that he was in for a lot of pain. For the first time ever little Timmy got down on his knees and prayed that all of the retailers would wake up and start letting us take back gifts without a receipt. He also made sure to always write down the name of the games he wanted, that we he could avoid all of the pitfalls that come with getting a bad gift. His mom was content, his dad was happy and everything in the world was good ... except for the fact that he got a terrible game, his mom has a drinking problem and his dad has been staying at work late to have a discreet affair with his secretary. Outside of that, everything was peaceful and right.