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Gifts for those glued to the boob tube
By Chuck Adams
Often the best gifts are the most immediately gratifying. This might explain why we gift-wrap so many bottles of booze during the holidays: Nothing says “I want you to be happy” like a bottle of Patrón or Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir. And, sure, its handiness is unequaled for post-dinner political conversations with the relatives. But what about for the morning after? And the afternoon after that? All that free time could be spent on a coastal hike or a game of Ultimate with the siblings, but let’s get real: You’re a couch potato and proud of it. So what in tarnation will keep you entertained in the comfort of your living room through the holidays?
In the category of video games, you’ve got plenty of options. Too many options, it seems. Not being a regular gamer myself, I asked Justin Ravenwood-Field, owner of Big City Gamin’ on 13th and Willamette, to winnow this season’s releases down to the very best. Using his more than 15 years of video game sales experience, Ravenwood-Field named the hits, console-by-console, for this holiday season.
For the Nintendo Wii, Ravenwood-Field points to the popularity of the Wii Balance Board peripheral. With the Balance Board you can practice yoga (Wii Fit), perform a switch kickflip (Skate It) and carve up the mountain (Shaun White Snowboarding), in addition to practicing tight rope walking and calisthenics. Ten years from now people will look back at the generation who turned their atrophied bodies into trophy bodies by staying inside their homes and playing video games and think we were either brilliant or deranged. Our reply: “Lighten up! We’re couch PO-tay-toes! Now, see if you can move jelly beans across the obstacle course with your butt as fast as we can!”
For owners of the PlayStation 3, Ravenwood-Field recommends LittleBigPlanet for those who like building their own avatars and worlds, puzzle-style, and sharing them with others online. For fans of sneak-attacks and spy-actions, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is “huge.”
Then there are the games for numerous platforms. “The best game for a couch potato — for the one-player experience — is hands-down Fallout 3,” says Ravenwood-Field. “It’s supposed to be over 100 hours of gameplay, so that’s just ridiculous.” The action of Fallout 3 (available on PS3 and Xbox 360) takes place in a post-apocalyptic U.S. in the year 2277. When the player’s father (voiced by Liam Neeson) goes missing from their fallout shelter, the player is wrongfully accused of foul play and must retrace the father’s steps to find him. Oh, and you’ve gotta evade mutant government thugs and stuff. “I think it’s going to be game of the year,” Ravenwood-Field says.
Other recommended titles include the parkour-based action game Mirror’s Edge, the “driving game that nobody’s talking about” Midnight Club: Los Angeles and the “so popular you better get it quick” zombie fantasy Left 4 Dead. But what if you want the cinema without having to make all those choices with a controller?
“Blu-ray really is the hot thing in DVDs this season,” says Ravenwood-Field, who sells DVDs at Big City Gamin’ as well. If you have a serious film snob on your list, do not overlook the Blu-ray edition of The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration, which returns all three films to their warm, rich, grainy 35mm splendor, complete with 5.1 digital surround sound. Hours and hours of mob hits and decapitated horses. Of course, there are the requisite comic book flicks out just in time for Christmas: The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Hellboy 2. And then there are the TV series box sets that look oh-so-much better in Blu-ray: Band of Brothers, Planet Earth and, yes, The Sopranos, because, like mob bosses, couch potatoes want hours of entertainment without moving a muscle.