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Hello Nerdites! As Christmas approaches I find that probably the greatest gift I could receive is the break I am getting from my Master’s program. Go Noles! Wonderfully the time allows me to actually sit down and type something out and so here I am. With a week to go before the big day, many of us are scrounging around to find last-minute gifts, or more importantly the gift that is going to wow the special nerd in our life. Since many of us are bad at expressing what we want, I thought I would put out my Christmas list as a few last-minute ideas for our worried shoppers.
“Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence–neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish–it is an imponderably valuable gift.” Maya Angelou
Gifts are great, but I have always found that the best part of any holiday is spending it with the ones that you care about. With that in mind, I am a big fan of giving the gift of time and activity. Whether you are volunteering at a shelter, or going to a theme park, the important thing is to match the experience to the person and commit yourself to that time. You are your own greatest gift.
Your family is not the only show in town:
I love going to the movies. I love being wrapped in a story particularly as a vacation from all the stress of the holidays. This Christmas we will be treated to both the theatrical version of Les Misérables and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Either would make a great choice though both would be better.
There is a theatre near me called CinéBistro that has a 21 and up only upstairs (Mmmm alcohol and the holidays). With large leather seats and gourmet dining, this is no slacker gift and you can enjoy it too. If you get a chance to actually visit a CinéBistro, try their gourmet popcorn, served with chopsticks and mixed with calamari and popcorn chicken. DELICIOUS!
Game time is family time:
My wife and I bought our kids a Wii U for Christmas, and after going on strike, the kids and I convinced her to let us open it early. We now play NintendoLand every night as a family. It is probably my favorite time of day and I am itching to open Super Mario on Christmas so we can attack the game as a group. Many things will get blamed for ruining our children, TV and video games not least among them, but remember that they are tools and it is how you use that time that makes an amazing gift. I am also always down for a game of Monopoly if anyone is interested!
“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer.” Neil Armstrong
We nerds love to dress the part. There was a time when we are kids where our dress was ridiculed and we desperately tried to fit in. Those days are long gone, and I now proudly wear my bow ties nearly everyday. So what better way to tell your nerd how much you care than helping them spruce up their nerd attire.
Bow ties are cool:
There are a ton of great accessories, but outside of the pocket protector, few scream nerd like a bow tie. The 11th Doctor’s favorite accessory is mine as well and thanks to Amazon it is not an expensive gift. I have been wanting this one with the skulls for some time now!
T-Shirts are timeless:
We nerdy types hold on to our t-shirts like they are made of gold, then once they become too holey to be suitable for public, we frame them in some weird collection. While I am on a Doctor kick here, I love Threadless and this design makes me giddy all over!
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Pablo Picasso
While we are often considered analytical and schooly, we nerds love our art and collectibles. My one year old bought his first piece of art this year, a wonderfully stylized Mickey Mouse, that months later he carries around the house so everyone knows it is his. He of course got it at a convention, which if you preplanned (too late for this year) is a great place to acquire the gifts all year-long. Countless artists make the trek to conventions both large and small and sell their wares. It is a great place to get fan gifts as well as many of the other things on this list.
Etsy should adorn my house:
Currently my walls are barren and white where I do not have con art gracing them. I can only wish to someday be able to go all interior designer with the countless products that Etsy has to offer. Two of my favorite artists sell their wares there, and I would love to unwrap something from their collection. Check out these Christmas ornaments by the wonderful Janet Lee, and wonderful wall pieces by the terrific Mike Maydak!
They’re not dolls, they’re action figures:
No Nerd is complete without a toy in a box, and Funko’s POP figurines have cornered the market on cute collectibles. Whether you are a comic fan, TV fan, or movie fan they have you covered. I love the DC ones but I have to admit I would be just as happy with the Disney ones.
“I liked to work in a shop down in the basement and invent things and build gadgets.” Francis Ford Coppola
While you may be surprised how many nerds and geeks actually do not get into the gadget craze, you would still be safe in assuming that any Best Buy purchase is going to be a win. The trick with electronics is knowing when to buy so as not to break the bank. Luckily we nerds are collector fanatics of even less expensive things. Movie and TV seasons will go a long way with this crowd and you can often get some great deals on Amazon and other sites.
To tablet or to ultrabook that is the question:
I already have an Acer Android tablet that I love very much, but I have recently been looking to upgrade. The question then becomes do I get another Android tablet, or do I make the move to Windows 8. In addition there is the question of tablet v ultrabook, though admittedly this is probably the biggest pipe dream due to price.
Collector’s editions are pretty:
We have talked about going to the movies and playing games as an activity, but sometimes you just want to give a gift not live it. That is why multimedia’s greatest accomplishment is the collectors edition of anything. My wife has now owned about 5 different versions of Dirty Dancing and Pretty Woman, but I am sure we will be buying the 50th anniversary editions at some point or another. For your nerd, Amazon has you covered with things like Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, or every season of Lost.
“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche
In the digital age music has become a bit of a novelty, but there is always a moment when you hear the right song and your body begins to get goosebumps. Those are the times when you remember the ones you have loved, lost and mourned. I am currently rocking out to Imagine Dragons and the sophomore offering of Mumford & Sons, but might I suggest giving your kids a Beatles’ album, it might just change their life.
Music and comedy make two gifts in one:
While I may have been all sentimental and touchy-feely before, I am also a fan of humor as a gift. As far as funny nerd music goes, few are as successful as the adorable ladies of Garfunkel and Oates. Send your BFF a copy of Slippery When Moist and they will be laughing until long after the new year.
Why listen when you can play it:
I have on many an occasion in my life attempted to learn to play the guitar and it is a dream I still hold on to. Whenever I do finally have the time, I will turn to Etsy again and the wonderful shop by Celentano Woodworks, who make custom guitars of the nerdiest kind. If you are willing to spend some money, $3,000 for the Steampunk Ukulele, these amazing instruments will bring some definite musical joy.
“We read to know we are not alone.” C.S. Lewis
Books can not only be a great gift, but they can be incredibly sentimental. The written word can not only be a friend when you are alone, but also a reminder of all the wonderful people you associate with it. Whether you are buying for a fan of whimsy and fantasy, or dystopian futures and heroic epics, books are always a phenomenal gift.
Comics are great stories too:
Comics are always on my Christmas list and they can be spectacularly great gifts. One of the best books of 2011 was Craig Thompson’s Blankets, an off beat coming of age/love story that is both beautiful and honest. That along with the quintessential Dark Knight Christmas story, Lee Bermejo’s Batman: Noel, and your stockings will be ready to go!
Did I mention Collector’s Editions are Awesome:
Books are amazing and some of them even define a childhood. Few do it in the way that the fantasy genre has. With The Hobbit in theatres and Memory of Light set to end the Wheel of Time series in February, now would be a great time to spruce up the book collection with some nice new collectors sets. Just keep in mind that your Wheel of Time fan may also start crying uncontrollably.
“Even the simplest wicker basket can become priceless when it is loved and cared for through the generations of a family.” Sister Parish
Many of the gifts on this list are not cheap, but that does not mean you cannot satisfy your nerd on a budget. As with many things it is all in the packaging. Baskets allow you to both wow your audience and give a little bit of yourself. Buying candles with their favorite sent, or knickknacks for their shelves is always cute and fun. Additionally it is a great excuse to get into the kitchen and experiment. Everyone’s sweet tooth is in hyperactive mode during the holiday, so bringing the sugar will make you a hero.
Anything with caramel is yummy:
Making anything is great, but making anything with caramel is AWESOME! A holiday staple and everyone favorite is caramel popcorn. Now I know we are not all cooks, but admittedly popping some popcorn in the microwave is something we all do anyways. and caramel is not as hard as it seems. Get some pretty cellophane and some ribbon and you have a great basket stuffer.
Cookies are fun to decorate too:
Cookies are fun to cook because they not only let you customize your recipe but also to really let your artistic side out. Something we will be doing this year is setting up a decoration station and letting the kids make gifts for all our family members. Check out this sugar cookie recipe and then let your creative flag fly!
“Stuff for Smart Masses.” ThinkGeek
There are countless sites with nerdy themes, but few embrace it the way that ThinkGeek does. Whether it is accessories, clothing, or even tools to cook your sweets, ThinkGeek has everything you need to be the ultimate Santa. They run specials all the time and have always had wonderful purchasing with them. Just be wary of the Canned Unicorn Meat, it will get some odd looks.
The Doctor controls my tv:
Clearly I love Doctor Who, but there are few things more amazing than this next gift. The Sonic Screwdriver had until now simply been a novelty accessory, but now you can get one that controls your TV. With a wave of your wand you can slide your TV to BBC America and never miss your favorite time lord.
Jewelry for your physicist:
Jewelry is often a Christmas gift staple, but nerdy jewelry is not going to be found at your local department store. Luckily ThinkGeek has you covered. This atom pendant necklace will not only make you a hero, but will have you feeling like Einstein in your favorite reindeer sweater.
“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” Dr. Seuss
In parting remember that it truly is the thought that counts. I always try to remember that a five dollar gift that actually has the person in mind goes a lot farther than a 100 dollar gift they will never use. When it comes to Christmas shopping “Keep Calm!” there is always a great gift out there, and the internet puts most of them at your finger tips. Services like Wish actually help you find them, and you can always stay tuned to the site for more gift ideas. Let us know what is on your list in the comments section, and no matter what your celebration have a happy holiday!
The first and only Lord of the Rings video game I had ever played up until now was Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. Distributed by EA Games, it came out about eight years ago, and while it was an excellent game for its time, it simply does not compare to this newest (and by newest, I mean it came out in 2011) installment of the epic, fantasy juggernaut that is J.R.R. Tolkien’s world.
First of all, the graphics…oh, holy frak, the graphics!
Now, don’t get me wrong, the graphics for Third Age were very good, but if you compare them to the graphics from War in the North, it’s more than evident what a difference almost 8 years of advancement makes! First of all, mouths move in much better sync with the dialogue. There is a greater sense of movement with the characters’ clothing and hair, as well as with various flora and other parts of the background–whether it be rocks falling from cavern ceilings or steam rising from lava. In battle scenes, actual blood is spilled and even spews from more serious wounds. The entire world around you seems to literally spring to life in ways that its earlier predecessors did not.
Second of all is the actual gameplay.
While Third Age was done in the RPG style, in the sense that you assumed the roles of characters as they worked their way through the backdrop of the trilogy, there was a set course that you could not deviate from. There was nothing but the primary quest. There were no side-quests to be found, and you had no control over what the characters said. There was a set script for all the characters, and all you could do as the player was sit back and watch the show, so to speak.
In War in the North, that is so very far from the case. You assume control of one of three characters…either Farin, the dwarven warrior, Eradan, the human ranger, or Andriel, the elven Loremaster (mage). Once you’ve chosen your character, you have full control over their speech and actions. You decide whether or not to accept side-quests (and there are quite a few in the first city alone), and you also decide what your character says. For example, I had Andriel punch a man in the face after he insulted her. You’re also able to customize your character in this game, though it can only be done if you happen to come across a mirror while in town. Please note that you have to be actively looking for one, or you’ll miss it. I literally stumbled upon the option by accident.
The only character you have to worry about leveling up is the one that you are actively playing. The others level up automatically. You are however able to upgrade the armor and weapons of the other two party members while in-game, and it’s actually quite simple. All you have to do is go into your inventory and ”give” an item that’s specifically designed for the other member’s character class to the right character.
The fighting sequences are also a great improvement.
In Third Age, all the battles were turn-based–meaning that no one could move from their assigned spot until it was their turn to strike. At first thought, that sounds fair and good right? Wrong! In theory it’s a good idea, but it never works out that way in actual gameplay. There were more than a few battles when my party members went without having turns (without being stunned or otherwise able to act, btw). I don’t know if it was a bug in the game, but in those battles, the opponents literally bogarted all of the turns and only when my party was a hair’s breath away from death were they finally allowed to take their turns–turns that were usually spent revitalizing the rest of the party.
This is not the case in War in the North. In these battles, you’re allowed full range of movement. Now, while this does allow you to get swarmed by orcs and goblins (and they will swarm), it nevertheless gives you more of a fighting chance because you can run and put some distance between you and your attackers instead of simply standing there impotently while they continue to beat you into a bloody pulp.
Despite the differences however, there are still some similarities between the two games.
Like in Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, your party functions in the background of the trilogy’s plot. Only instead of trying to find and meet up with the fellowship party, you’re moving ahead of them in attempts to keep the enemy focused on you instead of them so that the fellowship can achieve its objective. Also as with Third Age, cannon characters make appearances throughout the game. In fact, Aragorn is the one to send you and your party on your mission in the first place after you meet him at the Prancing Pony in Bree.
Also, this game allows for a multi-player option that allows for one other player to take control of one of the party members. However, you can still play the game by yourself in which case the rest of the party acts on auto-pilot.
All in all, this game is both enjoyable and challenging, and I believe it’s a strong addition to the LOTR franchise.
My advice for playing?
Be sure to explore because you’ll find treasure chests in hidden nooks as well as junk piles that you can loot.
STOCK UP ON POTIONS!!!!
Believe me…you WILL need them! So either craft as many as you can as you come across materials, or spend the coin to buy them. Either way, never let your supply run low!!