The holidays are just around the corner! And you’re freaking out because the geek on your list deserves the best, but you’re just not quite sure how to hit the mark? Astrolabe’s here to help. From big ticket items to stocking stuffers, I’ve assembled a Gift Guide for Geeks that’s sure to satisfy even the pickiest nerd.
I’ve tried to hit multiple price points, good for people of all ages, and, of course, there’s a TON of books.
So, let’s get gifting!
For consistency (despite how much it pains this Canadian) all prices below are in USD. Some links are Amazon affiliate links, which may earn Astrolabe a small commission with a purchase.
Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebooks Gift Set ($170, Wizards of the Coast)
Give the gift of a thousand adventures with this beautiful collection of core rulebooks for Dungeons & Dragons. It includes everything a group of players needs to get started with the greatest roleplaying game of all time. If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, try the D&D Essentials Kit or D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle, both of which come with everything you’ll need to start a new casual campaign with friends.
Game Pass Subscription ($12 or $17/month, Microsoft)
Microsoft’s Game Pass subscription service is one of the best deals in gaming. If you’re gifting a gamer with an Xbox or Windows PC, you can literally put thousands of games under their tree for the price of a Disney+ subscription.
Playdate ($179, Panic)
Created by Panic—the game studio behind Untitled Goose Game and Firewatch—the Playdate is like nothing else out there. This one-bit console features even fewer colors than the original Game Boy, but what it makes up for in colours (or, um, even shades), it more than makes up for with its fun, uniquely designed games. Plus, you know, it’s got a crank.
The next batch of Playdates might not be shipping until 2023—but just think of it as a little Christmas surprise in spring. Because, really, the anticipation is half the fun with new game consoles, right?
Sega Genesis Mini 2 ($99, SEGA)
Micro consoles were all the rage a few years ago, but SEGA wasn’t quite done yet, and this might just be the best mini console of all time. Chockablock full of great Genesis and SEGA CD games—including Crusader of Centy, which alone is more than worth the price of admission, literally—and offers a ton of value for a reasonable price. Whether you’re buying for a longtime retro gamer, or someone who just loves gaming gadgets, this device has a ton to offer.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s House ($5M, Oxford, England)
Want the most unique and amazing gift for your fantasy-obsessed loved one? Originally purchased by Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien in the ‘30s, this house is back on the market for a cool $5M.
Available while supplies last.
90s Hoodie ($68, Retrokid)
Take it back to the glory days of geeky TV with these amazing throwback hoodies to old school favourites like Reading Rainbow and (my personal favourite) Video & Arcade Top 10!
What’s a gift guide without amazing books? I’ve looked back through the year’s Astrolabe issues and pulled out some of my favourite books this year—and a couple of extras, just for fun. There’s something here for every geek on your list.
Monster Kids: How Pokémon Taught a Generation to Catch Them All by Daniel Dockery
Monster Kids author Daniel Dockery’s rich history with the Pokemon series, enviable ability to tie personal experience into larger cultural moments, and top-tier reporting make this a must read not just for Pokemon fans, but for anyone with a passing interest in the rise of Japanese culture in the west. It's a careful, meticulously researched history that helped me appreciate some of my favourite games in entirely new ways.
Gamer Girls by Mary Kenney
Exploring the history of video games through the stories of its creators, Gamer Girls introduces readers to 25 legendary female industry pioneers—from Yoko Shimomura to Rebecca Heineman, Jade Raymond to Roberta Williams. Fully illustrated and packed with information, Gamer Girls is a blast to read, and something I've regularly referenced for my work as a games writer ever since getting my hands on it. I thought I knew a lot about the history of video games and the people featured in Kenney's book, but I walked away with a wealth of new knowledge and appreciation for these amazing creators.
Fight, Magic, Items by Aidan Moher
Speaking of books about the history of video games and the people who make them, I’ve heard this one is decent. Perfect for anyone who loves or has loved Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Kingdom Hearts, Fire Emblem, or anything in between.
Disclaimer: It’s me. It’s my book. I wrote it.
The Cartographers by Peng Sheperd
Thanks to Shepherd's clear, musical prose, instantly relatable characters, and a core concept that puts its own twist on a recognizable thriller structure, The Cartographers is a joy to read from start to finish. It'll satisfy readers who enjoy the puzzle-box nature of Dan Brown's mega-popular novels, the slow unpeeling of history, like that found in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, or the magical realism of Isabel Allende. Shepherd weaves these elements together into a book that's literally impossible to put down, and wraps up leaving you wanting—begging—for more maps and worlds to explore.
Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh
Backing up Sara Alfageeh's artwork is a fun, touching story from Shammas about coming-of-age, crumbling empires, and how our choices define who we become. It's well paced, with the stakes ramping up believably, has a wonderful world, accentuated by its beautiful art, loads of humour, and the final climax is exciting, heartbreaking, leaving loads of room for a sequel without feeling empty.
Ask Iwata: Words of Wisdom from Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Legendary CEO
As I explore in my book, Fight, Magic, Items, Satoru Iwata was a gift to not only Nintendo, but gaming as a whole, and creators worldwide. This book, compiled of various interviews over the years, showcases his unique perspective on creativity, business, and the good in people, and holds lessons for everyone, whether they’re into video games or not.
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
This book is TOO cute, y’all. As someone with a duelling love of classic D&D-style epic fantasy and coffee shops, Viv’s tale of retiring from the adventurer’s life to open up a cafe is exactly the sort of low-stakes, heart-warming affair I needed after a along year. I could not put this book down, and you won’t be able to, either. It’s got big swords, found family, and the best damn cinnamon buns you’ll ever taste.
Cosplay: A History by Andrew Liptak
As far as I’m concerned, pop culture writer Andrew Liptak is the primary source for the history of cosplay and its modern culture. In his first book, Liptak explores the fandom’s long history, unpeels its complexities, and introduces many of the most important figures in cosplay throughout history and today.
Any Boss Fight Books Title
In September 2021, I explored the world of boutique games publisher Boss Fight Books and revelled in their deep library of books covering the histories of games like Majora’s Mask, Goldeneye, and Metal Gear Solid. I love that these books exist, and with over 25 titles so far, chances are they’ve covered a game that’s perfect for your friend, colleague, or loved one. My personal favourites are, not surprisingly, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Video game culture in fiction is hit-or-miss for me. Often I find it devolves into thoughtless window dressing to give the book a geeky flair. But it's so deftly woven into every part of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow—from plot to conflict, character to theme—that it works effortlessly and adds tremendously to the book. It's obvious Zevin not only has a love and long relationship with games, but understands the complexity of their culture and industry. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a beautiful, entertaining, and sometimes harrowing look at game development, but above that, it's the heartache of love and self-loathing, and how sometimes we need to look to others to see the best in ourselves.
Got a few gaps in that stocking that need filling? These fun items will delight the geek in your life whether they’re 7, 17, or 77 years old.
Super Mario: Goomba’s Shoe LEGO Set ($8, LEGO)
Bring Super Mario into the real world with this interactive build based on one of my all-time favourite Mario power-ups: the Goomba's Shoe.
Totoro Crochet Tutorial ($5, Etsy)
Learn how to crochet your very own Totoro with this 59 page step-by-step tutorial PDF. Don’t forget the acorns!
(Note: Supplies not included, just a digital download!)
Tamagotchi Pac-Man ($36, Tamagotchi)
A blast from the past times two! Enlist Pac-Man’s help as you raise (and probably neglect) your adorable-but-needy Tamagotchi.
Dungeons & Dragons: Beholder Figurine: With glowing eye! ($13.95, RP Minis)
How’d this get in here! Oh, well, one does as our Beholder bids, right?
Vinyl Video Game Stickers ($3+, Etsy)
What makes your loved one’s phone case, laptop, or beat up retro gaming CRT even better? Video game stickers!
The Legend of Zelda Socks ($17, Bioworld)
Save Hyrule in style.
Happy holidays to all my readers, however you choose to celebrate! I hope 2023 treats you all kindly, and, as always, I appreciate the support. If you’re still looking for that one final item, or want to spread the holiday love with Astrolabe, please consider a paid subscription!
There are lots of ways to support Astrolabe and my other work. Check ‘em out!