They mean well, hoping to get you the perfect thing for the things they don’t understand anything about. Let’s take a look at making sure that everyone has a happy, easy time gearing up for the holiday shopping and that no one gets into fist fights due to dumbness.
That’s not what I wanted at all!?!?!?!
The first of several things to consider is that in most cases, the people making purchases are not gamers. They don’t partake in the hobby, don’t see the value in it, or just don’t get it. That’s okay, everyone has different things that they enjoy, and you need to understand that there are two primary factors that are going to limit their ability to interact with the hobby.
Factor 1: Over-saturation of product lines
“You want which specific little box of tiny plastic mans?” For the folks who don’t game, buying a present for a wargamer can be an exercise in frustration, hair pulling, and in some cases shouting. Without an intimate knowledge of the product line, you can find yourself in quickly over your head. There are hundreds of different products for Space Marines by themselves, and it’s possibly that uncle Larry didn’t realize that Space Wolves are different from Blood Angels. It’s not his fault that their are so many products to choose from.
Factor 2: Lack of product knowledge
“This isn’t even for the right game?” This one is usually the well meaning aunt, parent or grand parent. They took the time and effort to go outside of their comfort zone, enter a hobby shop and find something that they think you’re going to like. Remember that everyone who buys gifts for you is generally in a happy well wishing mood and aren’t buying you gifts out of spite. So how do you manage these factors and make your shoppers smarter and better informed about your hobby needs?
Educate your consumers
You can approach this point from a couple of different directions. First, you can attempt to teach the various people shopping for you the various aspects of the game and grow the hobby. Your mileage may vary, so I would suggest one of the three following options.
Option 1: Make Lists
You know exactly what you’re going to want to tinker with and play around with, so you know what’s missing from your collection. Make a list of the options you want to add to your army and make sure you keep it updated. Keep it where the family can find it. I would also strongly encourage you to find things at a lot of different price points. Not everyone is willing to drop enough money to buy you a new Land Raider or Treeman Ancient. You’re going to need paint, supplies and other things to boot, so make sure you put them on your list. If you’re going for extra helpfulness, send copies of the list to the people who are shopping for you.
Option 2: Use Pictures
I know that if I were to write down specifically what I was looking for and hand said list to my mother, I would get a blank stare of confusion. If I were to print here pictures of the boxes and the model kits I stand a much better chance of getting what I am looking for. She can walk into a store with her picture and say “I want this” and be done shopping faster than you can say Heresy. It works on multiple levels because it helps a clerk at a store identify what her shopping needs are and it meets my hobby needs by making sure we don’t have to try to awkwardly return something.
Consumers, take heart
So far, most of this has been written from the gamer side of the hobby equation, but now I’m going to talk to the spouse, partner, parent etc. of the gamer in question. I know that trying to shop for folks like us is an infuriating task, and we’re super picky about getting just the right thing. Here is my best advice for managing your Hobby Gamer holiday shopping.
Get a Gift Certificate
This is probably the easiest way to handle the Gamer in your life, and is my last resort solution. Gift Certificates aren’t a personalized gift, and on the gift receiving scale are on about the same tier as getting Cash. If you’re going to pick up a gift certificate, you have a couple of options to consider. If you get a direct from the manufacturer Certificate from Games Workshop or Mantic Games, you are making an internet purchase (probably) but open up a full range of the product line for your Hobby Gamer.
You also have the option to get a gift certificate from your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). The advantages of doing so are twofold, one, most retailers offer a discount of some sort on hobby gaming products, and a gift certificate can catch an after Christmas sale. Second, it’s much more responsive for your Gamer, as they can go to their store and buy stuff without waiting for shipping. Make sure you know which store carries what products though, because you don’t want to get a gift certificate for a store that doesn’t sell any of the games your gamer plays.
I would never suggest that anyone walk into a game store, pick a thing at random off a shelf, and say “He’ll Love this.” This is a recipe for disaster barring you being the luckiest person in the universe. I’m not saying that you need to learn how to play the game with your Hobby Gamer, but getting a feel for the way the models look, their relative size, and the colors they are painted in can help. If you want to go shopping for hobby things, here are some research tips
- Take Pictures. If you can get pictures of the entire army, you can take it with you to the store and that can help your shopping tremendously.
- Ask his/her friends. If your gamer is part of a larger circle of gamers (and most of us are), ask his/her gamer friends what they are missing/wanting/begging for.
- Go to the Game Store. The store where your gamer shops is probably the store they play at. This lets you borrow the store’s collected wisdom about purchases they might be interested in. The employees are usually willing to go out of their way to help you find things for holidays.
- Lists! If you have a List, bring it with you.
- Budget. Set a price point you’re willing to spend up to. Make sure that the store you’re at is aware of that limit. Hobby Wargaming can be stupendously expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You can find a variety of options that are cost effective and within your budget.