When it comes to buying gifts for your dear gamers this holiday season, know this: These fine people can be terribly picky.
Gamers can be especially particular about which kind of game and which game systems they want to see under the Christmas tree. That means it's risky to walk into a store and simply grab any old game or gadget off the shelves.
But have no fear. There are plenty of other game-related gifts that are sure to please, surprise and even amuse these lovable-if-particular people on your list.
Here are a few suggestions to get you shopping ...
Charging stations - $15 to $30
For something that is genuinely helpful for any video game fan, you can't go wrong picking up a game controller charging station. Whether the gamer on your list owns a PlayStation 3, an Xbox 360, Wii or Wii U, every player needs their controllers fully powered. Charging stations not only keep rechargeable batteries ready to go, they double as handy places to neatly store all those controllers.
You'll find Sony's official DualShock charging station ($30) here. This Xbox 360 Quick Charge Kit ($30) — which lets you power up rechargeable battery packs in a hurry — gets a whole lot of use in my own household. A number of companies also sell Wii and Wii U controller charging stations including Nyko's new Wii U tablet Power Stand ($15, due to arrive in stores soon) and its charging station for four Wii remotes ($35).
Gaming gift cards
No, gift cards aren't the most glamorous gifts to give, but they sure are practical. Also, they fit nicely into stockings and holiday greeting cards.
For the Xbox 360 owner, consider getting them either an Xbox Live Points Card — so they can download games and game add-ons as well as rent and buy downloadable videos — or perhaps a card that buys them an Xbox Live Gold subscription, for online gaming and media services like Netflix. If they already have a year or two, fear not, a gift card will just extends their existing subscription.
Nintendo Points cards are available for the Wii and Nintendo DS owner. (The Wii U doesn't take Nintendo Points just yet, but likely will soon.)
You can grab all of the above cards in a variety of price points, and you can pick them up at many retail stores or order them through online shops such as Amazon.com and GameStop.com.
Meanwhile, for the PC gamer, consider buying a Steam Wallet Code (available in $20 and $50 denominations) and available only at GameStop retail stores.
G155 Sentry Personal Gaming Environment - $250
If you're looking to go big for the gamer in your life this holiday, then the PGE (Personal Gaming Environment) from Gaems Inc. is something to consider for the player likes to take his (or her) console games on the go.
Slip your Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 Slim into this protective case, which features a built-in 15.5-in. HD 720p EL-LED screen, not to mention lockable latches. The company just released its newest model — the G155 Sentry PGE — which you can pick for $250 at BestBuy.com.
Carrying cases and bags - $15 to $100
Of course, you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to help a gamer tote around his or her gadgets. There are some great bags and protective carrying cases out there that will help make sure their machines don't get broken (and neither does your bank account).
CTA Digital offers a universal gaming backpack that fits a Wii, PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360 for $47 on Amazon.com. Meanwhile, Everki is selling a backpack that fits both your laptop and your gaming console (now on sale for for $104 at Amazon.com.
For the handheld machines, Sony offers this travel pouch for its PlayStation Vita game machine — with extra pockets for accessories and game cards. The Nintendo 3DS owner on your list could surely use this Power A 3DS Elite Transporter Case, which is especially nice because it's compatible with the Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo DSi and Nintendo DSi XL systems as well.
Gaming shirts and hoodies -$15 to $40
Here's a gift that's both easy on the wallet and useful for the gamer in your life: a game-themed T-shirt or hoodie.
If you know which particular game or game series the person on your list loves, then you can't go wrong by selecting a t-shirt in that theme. For example, "Minecraft" lovers will want this ThinkGeek T-shirt. And ThinkGeek is currently running a sale on this "Portal 2"-themed hoodie.
If you happen to have an old-school "Tetris" gamer in the house, then they're sure to appreciate this Brick Layer t-shirt over at RedBubble.com.
And here are a few more fun tee options: The You Always Remember Your First T-shirt from IceCreamTeas on Etsy is a good pick. And check out this T-shirt depicting the Resolution Evolution from Redbubble. And shhh, don't tell, but there's one gamer in my own household who will be getting this Controller Family Tree tee from ThinkGeek come Christmas morning.
Gaming jewelry and accessories - $10 to $40
If your gamer's closet is already packed with T-shirts, then what they really need are are some cool game-themed accessories to go with them. And the place to look for these fashionable accouterments is most definitely Esty.
Check out these Xbox 360 and PlayStation controller finger rings. Or how about this laser-cut game controller bracelet? You can even give the gift of extra mana and health with these potion vial necklaces and earrings.
Power-Up Arcade Light Switch Plate - $10
What gamer wouldn't want to find this arcade-themed light switch plate under the Christmas tree? More importantly, what gamer wouldn't want this arcade-themed light switch plate on every light switch in the house? Did I mention it makes arcade lights and sounds?
Video game ornaments - $30 to $35
Nothing says video gaming and happy holidays like gaming-themed ornaments for the Christmas tree. Etsy seller UseYourDigits has a variety of cool, laser-cut ornaments — both in the shape of game controllers (see top image) and in the shape of game machines — for sale.
Game art books
Gamers don’t just play games. They read too, you know. And there are a number of excellent books about video game art and culture that are sure to please the game aficionado on your list.
The very cool "Art of Journey" book is not only a cool book about the making of an incredibly cool and gorgeous indie game (more on that here), it also makes use of some augmented reality technology that literally brings the images to life on the page. Watch this video for a look at how this stunning book works.
Meanwhile, the Halo fan is sure to enjoy unwrapping the stunning concept and character art in "Awakening: The Art of Halo 4" while those curious about the place where gaming and Hollywood meet should enjoy “Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood.”
Xtensor Gamer Hand Exerciser - $40
Know someone who's hands have frozen into that curled-fingered, white-knuckled, claw shape that comes from gripping a controller for too long? As you may already know, convincing this person to put down that controller can be ... difficult. But perhaps the Xtensor Gamer Hand Exerciser (yes, this is a real thing) will give them a good reason to give it a rest ... for a bit.
This space-age looking glove available through ThinkGeek is designed to improve their gaming skills (while also preventing hand, wrist and elbow disorders). According to the sales pitch, "Flexing with the Xtensor between gaming sessions will make your reaction-times much quicker, and will mean no cramping hands after all-night fragging sessions."
Perhaps they will even unclench their hands long enough to give you a thank you hug for all the great gifts.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.