Gaming grab bag: Gift guide for gamers

Sergeant Thomas Richard, D Company, 39th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (left) and Pfc. Deshawn McFadden, A Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., relax off duty Friday by playing PlayStation 4 games at the Fort Campbell USO, 6145 Desert Storm Ave.

As the holiday season approaches, many people will be shopping for gifts to give loved ones. Shoppers can quickly become overwhelmed with the variety of different toys and games available. This handy starter will help guide you through some of the basics of picking out something that will bring a smile to the face you love.

Physical or digital

One of the first decisions you should make is whether to look for a video game or a physical game. While the trend in recent years is moving more toward video games being the norm, physical games still have benefits.

One benefit is that some games simply are not made digitally. This is the case with the new card game “Relative Insanity.” Created by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, who was inspired by the popular game “Cards Against Humanity,” Foxworthy said he wanted to make a game that would make people laugh out loud, but was not so raunchy so you could play with your grandmother. Played with four-12 players, the game involves a “setup” card, which may say something like, “Having no filter between her brain and her mouth, my aunt said to my sister …” and punch line cards, which may say something like, “Well, at least Jesus loves you,” or “I’m not wearing any underwear.” Points are awarded for the funniest combination.

“Relative Insanity” can be found for around $20 at most major retailers.

Some physical games are puzzles that help growing minds develop tactile problem-solving skills. Three-dimensional wooden puzzle games are small pieces of wood that create beautiful geometric pieces of art when correctly assembled.

A search on Amazon.com for “brain-teaser wooden puzzle” will produce more than 2,000 results including a set of three puzzles sold by ShalinIndia for $10.88, a set of six puzzles sold by Winshare Puzzles and Games for $29.95 and a set of 12 puzzles sold by Ratree Shop for $54.98.

Platforms

Video games take many different shapes and sizes these days. Before exploring different game genres or titles, a shopper must first decide on the platform.

Recent years have shown the meteoric rise of mobile games that are played on smartphones or tablets. If your loved one already has an iPhone, consider gifting him or her a tablet to match. The latest generation iPad (also known as the sixth generation iPad or the iPad 2018) was released in spring of this year. Boasting a 9.7-inch screen, this iPad has the Apple A10 processer, which means even the latest games will run quickly and smoothly. Purchasing the Wi-Fi only version will save you a costly data plan, but you will probably want to buy the more expensive 128-gigabyte hard drive instead of the 32 GB. Devices will start to slow down as hard drives fill up. Few things are as frustrating as having to delete some of your favorite games to make room for a new one.

The iPad is currently in stock at Fort Campbell’s Exchange, 2840 Bastogne Ave., open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7p.m. Sundays.

The Exchange charges $319 for the 32 GB model and $419 for the 128 GB model.

One thing to be aware of with mobile games is while many games are labeled as “free-to-play,” these games will often have in-app purchases. These purchases vary by game, but will cost real money for digital in-game items. Be careful when playing these games and be sure to set up parental controls for your credit card before letting your children play.

The more traditional video game systems are made by Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony.

Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 are very similar systems. Both have premium versions designed to play games in higher 4K resolutions, but all games currently released and announced will run on the base model systems.

Aside from a few exclusive games for each system, the main difference between Microsoft’s and Sony’s devices are who you will be able to play with. With only one exception, all games can only be played with others who are on the same platform, so check with friends to see what they have.

Similar to the iPad, aim toward the higher capacity hard drives. Video games can range from 20-150 GB, so having at least a 1 terabyte hard drive is a must.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service website currently has an Xbox One S with a 1-TB hard drive bundled with an “Assassin’s Creed Origins” game for $299 and a PlayStation 4 with a 1 TB hard drive for $279.

Nintendo’s latest consoles work slightly differently than Microsoft’s and Sony’s.

Nintendo has updated their line of DS handheld consoles several times over the last decade. The current generation has two options to choose from: New Nintendo 2DS XL and New Nintendo 3DS XL.

The “new” designation indicates the device was built with specific components that allow it to play all the latest games. The difference between the two models is the 3DS can display compatible games in three dimensions. All games can be played on both models, only the display differs.

AAFES sells the 2DS model for about $149 and the 3DS model for around $199. Be aware that while the 2DS is sold with everything you need, the 3DS does not include the AC power adapter needed to charge the device. If you or your loved one does not have one from a previous model, you will have to add about another $10 to the total cost.

Nintendo’s main console is a hybrid of the traditional set-top box and a portable handheld. The Nintendo Switch is designed to be able to switch between playing on the television at home to a handheld console on the go.

Essentially it is a tablet you can plug controllers into. The device itself weighs just under one pound with a battery that will last around three hours. When you return home with the Switch, you can continue the adventure by plugging it into the bundled dock and the game will display in high definition on your television.

AAFES sells the Nintendo Switch for $299.

Informed shopping

Once your loved one has a platform to play on, he or she will need games to play.

If you are shopping for young gamers and are not sure whether a particular game is appropriate, look for the Entertainment Software Rating Board rating. Similar to Motion Picture Association of America ratings, (G, PG, PG-13, R) ESRB ratings are designed to provide concise information about the content in games so consumers can make informed choices.

ESRB ratings will have a category to suggest age appropriateness. Content descriptors will give more detail to indicate content that may be of interest or concern.

Interactive elements will highlight online features of the game, such as whether players will interact with other people online or have the ability to make in-game purchases.

If the brief description does not have enough information for you to make a decision, more details for every rated game can be found on the ESRB website at www.esrb.org.

Try before you buy

Video games are expensive. A new game for the major consoles typically costs $60 when first released. If you purchase special or collector’s editions and post-launch downloadable content, a single game can cost more than $100.

Considering that some games can entertain for hundreds of hours of playtime, the investment can be worth it, but a player will want to know he or she will enjoy a game before taking the plunge.

In order to ensure you will enjoy a game, consider borrowing or renting a copy.

Fort Campbell’s Robert F. Sink Memorial Library has a selection of games for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the older Wii U. Patrons with a library account can check out up to two games for one week, and can extend the rental if they are enjoying the game.

The library, 38 Screaming Eagle Blvd., is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Monday.

Redbox also rents games on a nightly basis. For $3 a night, renters can try out some of the most popular PlayStation or Xbox games. Nintendo games are built on memory cards instead of Blu-ray discs, and are therefore not able to fit in Redbox’s infrastructure.

Another service every gamer should consider is Gamefly. Sometimes called the Netflix for video games, Gamefly is a subscription service that allows members to check out either one or two games or movies for a monthly fee.

Users create a list of games on their account online, and when they return a game via a prepaid envelope through the mail, Gamefly sends the next game on the list.

If a gamer enjoys a game so much he or she does not want to return it, he or she can sometimes keep it for a discounted price, and Gamefly will send the next game on the list.

Rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, Gamefly has been renting games since 2002.

If you are buying for a loved one who does not already have a Gamefly subscription, you can purchase him or her a gift certificate for as little as $26.95 for three months of a one game subscription. You can learn more at www.gamefly.com.

Recommendations

Recommending a game to play is similar to recommending a book to read or movie to watch. People have different tastes and preferences, so while one person may enjoy books (or games) about vampire romance, another may prefer a “Game of Thrones.”

Like any other entertainment medium, games are reviewed by professionals who will give their opinion on the quality of a game.

These reviews can be subjective and many will disagree with scores and ratings attributed. This does not mean the reviews are worthless. Ignore the score and read the article written by the reviewer. They will give their thoughts and impressions on various aspects of the game, and will give the gamer an idea of whether he or she will enjoy their time.

YouTube has given thousands of would-be reviewers the means to publish their opinions on the internet. While some gamers may find a voice that resonates with them, a better starting point may be the more established journalism organizations.

Game Informer magazine is a monthly publication owned and published by GameStop Corporation. Available either in print or digitally at www.gameinformer.com, the magazine covers news and features in the video game industry as well as previews and reviews for upcoming and new games.

A 12-month subscription costs around $20, however if a gamer joins GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards program, he or she will get the same subscription on top of rewards that will give discounts and coupons for GameStop goods, all for around $15.

Gamers can join GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards program from any GameStop store. Fort Campbell GameStop is located in the Exchange and is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.

IGN, formerly Imagine Games Network, is a video game and entertainment media website found at www.ign.com. Funded by advertisements, IGN publishes timely news and features in addition to reviews of the latest games.

Featuring handy search filters, IGN’s review section allows users to filter games by platform and genre. Users also can click the “Editors’ Choice” button to see the games that IGN editors believe are must-plays.

System sellers

Some games are exclusive to a particular platform while others are available on multiple systems.

A select few games are almost universally praised and beloved to the point where gamers will purchase the platform it runs on just to play that game. These games are sometimes called system sellers, and are generally considered a safe buy for most gamers.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and cannot tell the difference between a Pikmin and a Pikachu, the following games are a good starting point.

•Nintendo 3DS/2DS:

“The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D” – Rated Everyone 10+ – Considered one of the greatest games ever made, “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” was landmark in game design when it released in 1998 on the Nintendo 64. Remastered with improved visuals and the ability to make use of the new system’s gyroscope, “Ocarina 3D” is an adventure that should be on the shelf of any 3DS/2DS owner. Sold for $19.99 at most major retailers.

“New Super Mario Bros.” – Rated E for Everyone – Released in 2006, this game is no longer “new.” However, the game has held up as a shining example of going back to basics done right. After years of Mario games made in 3-D worlds (which were fun, make no mistake) “New Super Mario Bros.” brought the 3-D characters back to a 2-D side scrolling adventure reminiscent of the original “Super Mario Bros.” If you enjoy this, be sure to pick up the sequel, “New Super Mario Bros. 2.” Both games can be found at most major retailers for around $29.99.

“The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” – Rated E for Everyone – You may begin to notice a pattern forming. As two of Nintendo’s flagship intellectual properties, Mario and Zelda games are given extreme care before receiving the Nintendo stamp of approval. “A Link Between Worlds” is no exception. Playing with the themes of 2- and 3-D space, players will gain the power early in the game to transform himself into a movable painting on walls. This combines with other aspects to make what IGN has labeled the best puzzle game Nintendo has ever released. Sold for $19.99 at most major retailers.

“Fire Emblem Awakening” – Rated T for Teen – The “Fire Emblem” series is known for great turn-based strategy, deep stories and memorable characters. Players will learn to make tactical decisions on the battlefield, become familiar with unique characters who fight alongside them and struggle with the choice on whether to put those characters in danger. If playing on classic mode, characters who fall in battle remain dead, forcing players to make careful choices. If you enjoy this, try the two sequels, “Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright” and “Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest.” Sold for $39.99 on Nintendo’s EShop.

•Nintendo Switch:

“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” – Rated Everyone 10+ – A launch title for the Nintendo Switch, “Breath of the Wild” is what helped the Switch launch with a bang. A grand adventure, “Breath of the Wild” sees players awaken with amnesia after 100 years of sleep. In this world, players are set to learn what has happened in the last 100 years and how to set it right. Sold for $59.99 at most major retailers. The $19.99 Expansion Pass for the two downloadable content packs are highly recommended.

“Super Mario Odyssey” – Rated Everyone 10+ – Players join Mario to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser in this 3-D adventure. Mario’s new friend Cappy gives Mario the new ability to possess villains and use their powers against them. Sold by AAFES for $59.95.

“Xenoblade Chronicles 2” – Rated T for Teen – A role-playing game in which players take control of Rex, a young man of boundless optimism. Explore a world where the last remnants of civilization live on the backs of colossal beasts called Titans and experience more than 70 hours of a new story in the “Xeno” universe. Don’t worry about the “2” in the title. This game is a spiritual successor, and the story stands completely apart from the others in the series. Sold for $59.99 at most major retailers.

•PlayStation 4:

“Ratchet and Clank” – Rated Everyone 10+ – The latest entry is a reboot of the characters that have been turned into a major motion picture. Played in the third person, players take control of Ratchet, an adorable alien who dreams of joining the famous Galactic Rangers. Along the journey, players gain an array of increasingly absurd weapons including the Groovitron, a disco ball grenade which forces enemies to dance. Sold for $19.99 at most major retailers.

“Horizon: Zero Dawn” – Rated T for Teen – In this vast and beautiful open world, players take control of Aloy, a young woman who was cast out from her tribe at birth for unknown reasons. Using a variety of bows and arrows, players hunt robotic animals and uncover the deep and intriguing mystery surrounding Aloy and her world.

“God of War” – Rated M for Mature audiences – An action-adventure game, players take control of Kratos, a Herculean warrior, as he battles supernatural forces with his son. In this game, Kratos grows from the one-note brute of the previous games to a character who must balance battle and fatherhood. Sold for $39.99 at most major retailers.

•Xbox One:

“Halo: The Master Chief Collection” – Rated M for Mature audiences – A compilation of the first four Halo games, players take control of Master Chief, a genetically-enhanced Soldier in the 26th century. Players shoot a variety of weapons from the first-person perspective as they uncover a mystery in a war with an enigmatic alien alliance. Sold for $39.99 at most major retailers.

“Sunset Overdrive” – Rated M for Mature audiences – A third-person shooter in which players take control of a young survivor battling through a mutant apocalypse. IGN calls it the most original, fun experience you can have on the Xbox One. Sold for $19.99 on Microsoft’s online store, this game can be found for less than $10 at major retailers.

“Forza Horizon 4” – Rated E for Everyone – A racing simulator billed as perhaps the greatest racing game of all time. A diverse selection of cars and unprecedented weather system provides players with one of the most realistic racing experiences available. Sold for $59.99 at most major retailers.

Editor’s note: This story is for informational purposes only and should not be considered an endorsement by the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell command or its representatives. Prices for items were as of press time and are subject to change.