Choosing gifts is always challenging, but can be a particular problem for parents or friends who are buying for someone who spends way too much time playing computer or video games.
Aggressive marketing doesn't help, and if you are a parent, your child may have already requested a gaming related gift. Recommendations such as those given by Steve Tilley of Sun Media support the idea of giving gamers gifts related to gaming, which can actually worsen their potential for video game addiction.
Why? Giving someone a gaming related gift may send them a message that you approve, accept or tolerate their frequent game playing, and are willing to enable them to do it more. If you have concerns about their game playing being excessive already -- guidelines suggest a maximum of two hours screen time per day -- this is a bad move.
Appropriate Gift Ideas
So how can you choose an appropriate gift, when all your friend or loved one is interested in is gaming?
The first step is crucial to your relationship as well as the success of your gift -- get to know your gamer. What makes them tick? Talk to them about what they like about video games, use good communication skills, and it may give you some clues for gifts that may bring them back into the real world.
Do They Want Interaction?
If you discover that video games are a way for your gamer to connect with others, either by playing together in the same room, or by playing online, you may find that interactive board games give your relative or friend the opportunity to play in the real world. Although they are still involved in game playing, they are looking at other people, not a screen. Board games offer the opportunity to build relationships with real people, not their fabricated online personas.
Do They Enjoy Fantasy?
If you discover that a love of fantasy underlies your gamer's passion for video games, books or graphic novels may be the answer. Science fiction and fantasy are related to game playing, yet reading is not typically a problematic behavior the way that game playing and screen time is. Reading is a healthy activity that promotes literacy and imagination, whereas video games encourage stagnation through highly repetitive themes. Science fiction also can explore a range of intellectual themes that may stimulate ideas in your relative or friend.
Are They Looking for Action?
It is natural for kids to seek out action and activity, yet many live a sedentary lifestyle that does not allow them to run around. Modern parents often inadvertently reinforce this, by needing to keep track of their kids and keeping them entertained at home. As a result, video gamers tend to spend too much time sitting, and don't get out and exercise enough.
If you feel your gamer would like or benefit from outdoor activity, you could buy them a piece of sporting equipment, such as a tennis racket instead of a games controller. This would be particularly appropriate if they have a competitive streak that is currently being satisfied with video games. By encouraging sports, you will be encouraging healthy outdoor activity and the opportunity to connect and compete with friends.
If you live close to the mountains, what better way of getting your gamer out and active than skiing lessons? With any luck, it will appeal to their sense of adventure and sensory stimulation. Healthy and competitive, it's unlikely that they could get addicted as they can probably only ski for those few months of the year when they normally stagnate indoors attached to their game console or computer.
Do They Have Inner Creativity?
Sometimes, it is the artwork and creative ideas that appeal to video game players. Their love of visual images may mask an underlying artistic talent. If you think this is the case with your gamer, unleash their inner creativity by getting them some quality art materials. Art will also help them to express their feelings, which is often problematic for video game addicts, as well as develop their artistic skills.
For some, sound rather than vision is the way to their self-expression, in which case, a musical instrument may be the way to go. Your gamer can spend hours practicing, and develop a skills that will help them express their feelings, connect with others, and develop fine motor skills. An entry level instrument such as a guitar or keyboard, can be purchased in the $100 price range.
DiNoto, A. Video game addiction expert. Personal Communication. 4 December 2009.
Khan, MD, PhD, Mohamed K. "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games." Report Of The Council On Science And Public Health Csaph Report 12-A-07. 2007. Accessed 10 Feb 2009.
Tilley, S. "Budgeting game-related gifts." LFP.com. Accessed 27th November 2009.