I've been such a good boy this year! I got into grad school; I rescued a dog from the shelter; and I didn't gloat over Kanye West's meltdown too much.
So why be disingenuous? I could write about the video games and gadgets that you and your loved ones will covet this holiday season, but I don't know most of you. And I don't read minds.
Thus, in the time-honored American tradition of radical individualism, I've decided to bring the focus of my annual gift guide back to me, me, me. These are things I want, and I promise to write you a lilac-scented thank-you note if you buy them for me. I guess I don't care if you poach my wish list for your own selfish reasons—but, really, try to get into the spirit of giving (to me).
To start, why don't we take a look at the video games I've asked Santa for?
Dragon Age: Origins (BioWare/Electronic Arts, rated M) is the latest fantasy role-playing game from the makers of Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. When I run this baby on my PC, I fully expect to immerse myself in a mature game world with kick-ass graphics, high-octane battles and voice acting featuring Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway!) and Tim Curry. Also available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; $49.99-$64.99.
Machinarium (Amanita Design, rating pending) is a point-and-click adventure game for the PC, Mac and Linux, from the Czech makers of Web-based Samorost and Samorost 2. A visually stunning, surreal experience with an eerie score, Machinarium was produced on the development team's own dime. Unsurprisingly, it won an award for excellence in visual art at the 12th Annual Independent Games Festival. Check out the game's Web site (machinarium.net) and play a demo before purchasing; $20.
I saw Brütal Legend (Double Fine/Electronic Arts, rated M) featured on CNN or something and thought it looked interesting. Jack Black and Ozzy Osbourne lend their voices to a heavy-metal tribute that contains "blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, strong language and suggestive themes," according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board. The visuals are colorful; the storyline is humorous; and the soundtrack is chock-full of metal legends. Available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; $49.99-$59.99.
Though I enjoy video-game violence, I also have a soft side. That's why I'm excited about finding Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (AlphaDream/Nintendo, rated E) in my stocking. The latest Mario-themed role-playing game on a portable system is a lot like the others, but developers still manage to keep things interesting. Game play is simple yet engrossing, and the bright, cheerful graphics rarely disappoint. Buy it for me on the Nintendo DS; $34.99.
Man, the Rock Band phenomenon keeps on truckin', and I don't want to be left behind. The Beatles: Rock Band (MTV Games, rated T) mixes the well-known musical format with selected songs from the Fab Four's oeuvre. The presentation is top-notch; multiplayer jam sessions are wicked fun; and the addition of vocal harmonies takes the series in an exciting new direction. Available for the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; $59.99-$249.99.
The onslaught of expansion packs for The Sims 3 has begun. This time, The Sims 3 World Adventures (Sims Studio, rated T) promises to take my slutty Sims to countries like Egypt, China and France, where they'll solve puzzles, interact with ghosts and make out. Available for the PC and Mac; $39.99.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward/Activision, rated M) is the second installment of the Call of Duty shooter series focusing on contemporary battlefronts. The game's protagonists take on terrorists in Siberia, Brazil and other world locations. Buy it for me on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or PC; $59.99.
I'm a big GTA fan, and I've heard Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (Rockstar, rated M) on the portable systems isn't just a scaled-down version of the console series. Like a Chihuahua that doesn't know how small it is, this iteration plays like a much bigger game, with a lengthy, complex story, great controls and new features. Available for the DS and PSP; $29.99-$39.99.
Now, let's take a look at gadgets.
I'm not that attached to paper-and-ink books. For me, it's the content that matters. But even if I were sentimental about such things, I think Barnes and Noble's new nook e-reader would turn my head. It kicks Kindle's ass with two screens—one of which is full color—and its ability to loan titles to nook-toting friends for up to two weeks. Plus, if I take it into a brick-and-mortar B&N store, I can browse through entire books before purchasing them, just like I could with books made from dead trees. It's slated for a mid-December release; $259.
I can't wait to program profanity into my Scrolling LED Belt Buckle II and walk around my neighborhood. I figure it's a great way to meet people, make friends and speak my mind about religion and politics. This belt buckle, with 147 colored LEDs, has a chrome finish and can store up to six messages that are 256 characters long; $19.99-$29.99.
USB flash drives are often just sticks you plug into your computer. That's what makes the futuristic 1GB USB Men, available through United Kingdom-based online retailer gift-library.com, so sexy. They come in silver and gold and look like a cross between a Lego man and a Star Wars stormtrooper; £55, or approximately $90, depending on exchange rates. Or there's the FlashHarp Harmonica USB Flash Drive, which boasts a fully functional, 10-hole harmonica in addition to a thumb drive. It's available in 2GB and 4GB sizes; $44.95-$59.95.
The old, beat-up Nintendo and Super Nintendo systems I use to play my extensive collection of vintage games are taking up valuable real estate in my closet. The Retro Duo NES/SNES Game System promises to ease the overcrowding by allowing me to use a single sleek unit to play both; $44.99.
Gateway's P Series line of laptops offers gamers the best bang for their buck. The P-7915u FX model, available only through Best Buy's online store, comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive and a high-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260M graphics card that should make playing all but the most graphics-intensive games a breeze. The best part? It's only $1,049. Hurry, though, because geeks are chattering about this laptop on the Web, and it's been on backorder at times.
Well, I think that's about it. Thank you in advance for all my wonderful gifts. I love them.