Hello! Welcome to our Christmas gift guide, which we've had percolating over the past few months. What's alternative about it, you ask? Well, uh, there are no actual video games on it. Thing is, you're all smart people who know rather a lot about games, and I'm pretty sure you don't need me or anyone else to tell you what games or consoles you want for Christmas. For the best deals on PS4s, Xbox Ones, bundles and games, be sure to check out our daily deals - there are new bargains there every single day.
What you'll find here is an array of slightly different, more unusual ideas for games-related gifts, from artwork and collectibles to custom consoles and clothing. This is all stuff we'd want ourselves, as grown adults with just a modicum of taste, rather than rubbish merchandise. We've actually already got a lot of it ourselves, so hopefully these recommendations carry some weight. If we haven't actually seen something in the flesh but think it's cool anyway, we'll point that out.
We've labelled things by cost: £ is sub-£30, ££ is £30-100, and £££ is £100-plus.
There is a gigantic range of gaming artwork out there, official and unofficial, tasteful and... well, otherwise. Cook & Becker are the high-end choice if you're spending a lot of money on someone, with extremely high-quality limited-edition artwork from a huge range of games; I own these beautiful Okami prints, sadly sold out now. Etsy can be a bit of a crap-shoot, but you can also find something properly unique. Fangamer's selection is very well curated. I personally love Gametee's video game book covers, and have three of them.
We've actually got a whole comprehensive guide on where to buy great video game artwork right here, if you want to dive deeper.
Absurdly Elaborate Gaming Soaps (£)
These really make me laugh: very accurate recreations of game controllers and Game Boy or N64 cartridges in the medium of soap. They smell really nice, too. You can get them through Firebox in the UK from £8.99-£14.99.
Fangamer has a whole selection of quirky video-game-related jewellery, amongst the billion other things worth buying on its online store. You have to import them from the States, so they might take a wee while to arrive, but the prices are very reasonable.
Custom retro consoles (£££)
If you're looking for an unusual tribute to your gaming childhood, 8 Bit Evolution do rather expensive but pretty excellent custom retro consoles that are properly painted, not slapped with cheapy vinyl stickers. They're really well done, beautiful objects - the Mother-themed NES above is lovely, and I've got this Hyrule-bedecked N64. They don't just do Nintendo, either - there's some Sega stuff as well. It's worth noting that these are NTSC consoles, so unless you have a bunch of US carts, they're mostly decorative - but they're still lovely objects.
Mega Man Coasters and Mug (£)
These are another Fangamer offering - both are available separately, but look, they MATCH!
Zelda/Street Fighter Monopoly (££)
Gaming Christmas Jumpers (££)
BEWARE! There are some shit gaming Christmas jumpers out there. These from Numskull (available from Yellow Bulldog) vary in quality: the Sonic one is printed, not knitted, and looks pretty cheap, but both the Street Fighter and PlayStation designs are knitted. There are lots of these floating around, so keep an eye out for quality: you probably don't want a printed one.
? Block Desk Lamp (££)
This isn't *quite* as cool in real life as it looks in the pictures, but it's still nifty. You have to smack it from below to light it up, and it makes the appropriate coin-block noises. It's USB powered, and eyebrow-raisingly expensive at £59.99 - you can get it from Firebox.
Retro Consoles, Books and Goodies (£-£££)
Funstock is the best UK retailer for all things retro, in my estimation: books on ye olden days of Sensible Soccer or the Commodore 64, licensed SNK Neo-Geo X plug-in consoles, those slightly legally grey retro consoles that let you plug in cartridges from pretty much anything. If you've got a vintage gamer in your life, this is pretty much a treasure trove.
I have three recommendations for headset brands to look for: Sony, Turtle Beach and Logitech. The official Sony PS3/PS4 headset has been a pleasure to use since I got it, and it looks hot. Turtle Beach, meanwhile, has good higher-end headsets, and also has custom ranges themed around particularly popular games. Logitech's headsets are good for the more PC-oriented. This is based on personal usage, rather than extensive testing - our friends at PC Gamer have a more comprehensive guide.
PlayStation Cufflinks (£)
I can see these going down well at a wedding. Well, with everyone under 40, at least. They're available from Gamer Heaven for £11.99 - I've not seen them in real life, but they look good-quality.
POP! Vinyl Figures (£)
I'm not the biggest fan of these wee figures, stylistically, but I've got a few anyway, and I know many more people with little forests of them on their desks or under TVs. They come in pretty much every pop-cultural flavour imaginable, from TV and movies to video games (Assassin's Creed, LittleBigPlanet, Mass Effect, lots more). You can browse the full range at Forbidden Planet.
Super High-End Figurines (£££)
First4Figures' incredible (and very expensive) figurines are irresistible if, like me, you've got a weakness for video game artwork. Any one of them would be the centrepiece of a collection. The Sega and Nintendo ranges are both exquisite - just look at the detail on that Ganondorf. Beware, though, you're looking at £100 at least for these.
Parappa the Rapper Beanie
This is one of many tasteful items of game-related clothing from UK designers/retailers Insert Coin. It's £15, and there's lots more to browse.
Vault 101 Trainers
Bethesda's online store actually has a lot of good stuff on it (I also like this Nuka Cola beer glass). I got these trainers for someone last year and they've been great; good-quality and not TOO ostentatious.
I'm far from an expert in board games, but thankfully our friends at Shut Up and Sit Down most certainly are experts. They have been counting down their top 25 board games over the past few days, which should give you plenty of recommendations to go on.
Got suggestions of your own? Leave them in the comments!