Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts

Over on BGG, the inevitable seasonal question has arrived:

“Well I’ve been wondering a lot about something during this Christmas season. I have people that like to play boardgames with me but it’s not necessarily their favorite hobby or thing to do in the world. Do you think it’s kind of tacky to give these people games for Christmas?”

Geeks tend to do this a lot. Comics geeks like to give people graphic novels. Toy geeks often give people toys. And yeah, gamer geeks usually think of games as good gifts. Often these aren’t bad, because the recipient is also a geek and may have a tangential interest in the item. I haven’t encountered, say, people who enjoy gardening that only give everyone else bulbs. Or photography buffs giving everyone film or tripods. Or people who like sports giving everyone…I dunno, whatever sports fans give people. The only subculture I can think of that enjoys sharing its obsessions with uninterested others as much as geeks do is Christians, which I think says a lot.

I chimed into the discussion with this:

“I aim to give people something I think they’d like, not something I think I’d like, and not something I think they should like. It’s one thing to give a music lover a CD of a band they don’t know but you think they’d like, or a book lover a novel they haven’t heard of but you suspect might be up their alley, but if they don’t play games, why give them a game?”

…which of course seems reasonable to me because I wrote it, though I know I haven’t always followed this code, being a little something of a geek myself.

Some folks agreed with me. Others said things like this:

I play boardgames and that is what I give for gifts. Take it or leave it. I DO do a lot of research however before I do this. I really don’t find many people that don’t like SOME sort of game. Some people prefer party games, others don’t mind light games, others are willing to play medium to heavy weight.

Usually they always have a hobby I can find a game for regardless – be they a trekkie or are single and been looking for a husband (plenty of fun you can have with that one).

Any way you look at it though – they are going to get a game. It is what I am, it is a gift from me that reflects me to them… so there it is.

I do think that games should be personalized to someone’s taste but also gifts should reflect the gift giver. My two sisters are the most difficult people to please and I know some of the gifts I’ve given them were completely off. One of my sisters received a game this year. She may never play it but it will stay in her closet and who knows . . . maybe it will rain and she will have no choice. Seriously though, she is very big into having family time so maybe she will play the Carcassonne game. Or it will go in a closet of stuff she only puts out when I come over.

Giving games is kind of my calling card. People will go, “Oh, a present from Jay, let’s see what game it is.” The catch is that even if the receiver is not a gamer, I hope to find something with an appealing theme, so that he could at least have fun reading the rules and fiddling with the bits.

They may never play the game I give them, but the laugh they get as they open it – knowing who it came from – will be with them long after the toaster is history…

I am sure it can work both ways, and yes there are certainly a couple of people I don’t do this with. But I have never had someone upset with me because I gave with a twist of my own personality.

Maybe I’m misreading these statements or reading too much into them, but to me, a gift is something you give to somebody to show your appreciation for that person. It’s not something, in my opinion, that you give to remind that person of their appreciation for you.

But maybe I’m totally off here. There certainly seem to be a lot of people who feel both ways. And granted, this whole discussion is tainted by the fact that it’s grown out of Christmas gifts. I don’t like to be a Grinch or a Scrooge, but this whole discussion is kind of moot to me anyway, since enforced and obligatory gift-giving defeats the entire purpose of gifts anyway, in my opinion.

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9 Responses to Beware of Geeks Bearing Gifts

  1. Lanf says:

    I’d feel pretty lame if my primary way of identitying myself was “gamer.” And yes, gifts are something you give to people to make them happy. If they aren’t into games, I fail to see how a game fulfills that prerequisite.

  2. CounterProductive says:

    This guy’s comments do not surprise me. I’ve been around a lot of different kinds of folks in my short time on earth, and including myself in the category, gamers are the most egocentric people I know. This might chap your ass Dave, but I’d say gamers are more egocentric than Christians. Sure they’re a hell of a lot brighter, but more self-centered. Granted, this is a very broad stroke to paint and there are plenty of people who break the mold and have a clue about the thoughts and feelings of someone not them. But from my experience, I’d surmise that as a whole, gamers are largely a bunch of people who are just more egocentric than other subcultures.

  3. Dave says:

    If anything, I think your brush is too small. I’ve found geeks in general to be a largely self-centered group.

  4. TJ says:

    I agree with you, Dave. I’ll just add that some of those “give a game” opinions smack of (a) advertising (here’s my hobby, isn’t it great?) and (b) issues with being a gamer (if I can just get enough people into what I do, I’ll be mainstream and people will like me!).

    I have another “gift giving” pet peeve, and that’s when people refuse to give you a certain kind of gift because, even though the recipient might like it, the giver doesn’t like it. i.e. I’m not going to give Dave a plush Willy Wonka candy bar, even though he’d really like one, because plush candy bars are stupid. Which they are, but that’s beside the point. I’d still get you one, Dave, if that’s what you really wanted.

  5. David Thiel says:

    Dave, you and TJ are dead-on target with this one. Yes, it’s very much evangelizing to buy geek gifts for non-geeks unless they’ve expressed direct interest.

    I’ll admit that I’ve very occasionally given gifts of the “I think that you should have this” variety: the most recent was a DVD/VCR combo player that I got my dad for the express purpose of moving him out of the Dark Ages. Still, at least it was a present I knew that he’d use (he rents a lot of videos), and I did talk to him about it first.

    In general, I really do try to buy people things that they have specifically asked for, because I know that I really appreciate it when people ask me what I want, and don’t just go out and buy me a sweater from Big Lots. (True story.) Of course, with some folks you have to employ interrogation techniques just to get a few frickin’ gifts ideas.

    I’m of two minds regarding the above peeve about refusing to buy a certain kind of gift. On one hand, I had no trouble buying a big ol’ Spongebob pillow for a high-school-aged niece. Yes, it was silly and useless, but God knows that I’ve got plenty of silly and useless crap around the house. However, when the same niece wanted a rap album with lyrics that I found offensive, I felt perfectly justified in not buying it for her. She’s not my kid (thank goodness for both of us), and I have no say in what she listens to, but I’m not gonna be a party to it.

  6. Nigel says:

    So to re-cap: Dave does NOT want Power Grid for Christmas, he wants a plush Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar. Got it.

  7. Lyle says:

    I do want my gifts to say something about me, but I’d like that to be a matter of being associated with something that made them happy. Then again, that’s partly because I’ll often look at gifts I’ve enjoyed and think of the gift-giver, especially if they’ve shown insights into my character.

  8. Blasterhappy says:

    Oh… ok, Dave wants a chocolate Sponge Bob….Got it! or was that a plush stuffed Willy Wonka Bar? Oh the hell with it! What does Beebo the Monkey want?!

  9. Dave says:

    So to re-cap: Dave does NOT want Power Grid for Christmas, he wants a plush Willy Wonka Chocolate Bar. Got it.

    Can I not have both?