Gift Guide for Gamers

by Henry B. Cohen

Our Second Annual Shopping List for Prospective Santas

The excitement is building. Christmas and Chanukah are now just a matter of weeks away, and folks from coast to coast are wracking their brains, trying to conjure up the perfect gift for those hard-to-please people on their lists.

If you’re thinking about presents for electronic gamers, though the problem may be quite the reverse. The only thing the typical arcader likes better than a score-doubling strategy tip is a gaming gift. The hard part is deciding which of the hundreds of available items is most likely to light up someone’s eyes when they unwrap it.

On the next few pages, the editors of Electronic Games offer some suggestions for possible gifts for gamers. It’s hardly all-inclusive—we could probably fill an entire issue with delightful gifts—but these are some of the ones we think most arcaders would enjoy.


If your wallet can stand the strain, giving someone a programmable videogame system is a great way to let them in on the excitement of our hobby. See the “Players Guide to Programmable Videogames” in this very issue.


Cartridges are also a great choice as a gift for those who already have one of the eight major home arcade machines. Again, we refer you to the rest of the magazine for some ideas.


What better way to “spread holiday cheer throughout the year” than with a gift subscription to EG? Penned for gamers by gamers, Electronic Games has quickly become essential reading for anyone interested in America’s leading pastime.

And for those who want news and reviews hot off the press, Arcade Express, our sister publication, is a bimonthly newsletter filled with up-to-the-minute gaming information.


For the VCS fan in your life, there’s “The Players Strategy Guide”, a softcover volume that will keep any Atarian scoring high.

Lastly, to let everybody know where you stand, there’s the official EG T-shirt. All cotton, fashionable and comfortable, this stylish topper should top everybody’s holiday gift list.



WICO, the Chicago-based manufacturer of coin-op machine controllers, has a brand new trackball. It offers precise control and comes ready to plug into any Atari-configured game

port. The compatible units include the Atari VCS, 400 and 800 home computer, the VIC-20, and Sears TeleGame System. In addition, there is a two-fire button version for Apple computers and versions for TRS-80 and Odyssey².

To help keep Intellivision games under control, there’s the Injoy-A-Stick disc controller replacement joystick. For only a few dollars, you can obtain better control of your games and maintain total factory appearance. They take but a few minutes to install and only present a problem if your console is fitted into a close fitting game case or center.


An excellent joystick and paddle base, the Pro-Console 1 is attractive and practical at the same time. This unit stores both controller cords and is weighted for better game play when in use. Currently, it is only available for Atari controls, however.

Computability of Milwaukee, WI, has another pair of joystick controllers for VCS-compatible systems. The higher-priced model is the Starfighter, which goes for $16.95, and the Slik Stik—essentially the same stick, but built of slightly less resilient material and offering a nob-top shaft—retailing at $9.95. These sticks will be of special interest to left-handed gamers since an extra ten dollars will buy a lefty-adapter. Five foot long extension cords can also be had for $6.95.

Console fans—players who prefer using a series of directional and fire buttons in preference to stick-type manipulators—will almost certainly get off on the Starplex, a $29.95 button-controller with an auto-fire feature that goes great with games such as Asteroids, where more than a single shot can appear on screen simultaneously. And for that sad, but inevitable, day when the shaft of that Atari joystick comes off in your hand—or the button or board itself breaks down—just give the Midwestern version of the Game Doctor, Cliff Blake of Screensonics, a call. For a mere pittance (under $5), you can get an all-purpose joystick repair kit with a new shaft, action button and board, capable of repairing up to three sticks.


The Vectrex is a self-contained vector scan game machine. Containing a 9-in black and white television screen (with color overlays) and a removable controller panel, there is nothing else like it on the market.


Taro from Fidelity Electronics, reads and predicts your future. If you believe in such wonders, this adorable little darling is a must. Plastic encoded Taro cards are inserted into the base of the machine and from them it calculates and provides your reading. An interesting and entertaining offering from a company best known for advanced electronic devices.

Mattel’s Synsonic drums are a fantastic gift for any current or would-be drummer. They are also a great idea for a child who insists on drums for Christmas but is meeting predictable parental disapproval. Not a toy, but a true drum synthesizer, the Synsonics play into headphones or an amplifier speaker system. In other words, they don’t make noise unless you want it. At the same time, they are suitable for professional use and may be played tom-tom style or with drumsticks. Volume increases with the pressure applied to the “drumheads” and with their ability to synthesize cymbals and other percusive sounds, they’re unique in the world of musical instruments.

If you march to the beat of a different drummer, Mattel also makes some great electronic gifts for the kids in your life.

The Childrens Discovery System is a gem of a children’s computer. It takes audio discs through a slot in its side, and with overlays, both entertains and instructs younger children. This is not a toy.

For the slightly older child, ages 6 - 11, there is the Teach n’ Learn computer. This is a 2K machine that takes both an ROM cart and overlay to teach various subjects. The display is LCD and the library of topics is vast. If you’re looking for something exciting, different, practical and educational, either of these products, depending upon the age of the child, makes an excellent choice for Christmas gift giving.

Going to the other extreme, Mephisto Chess computers are a gift for the adult enthusiast. Not currently marketed in the states, but available from the factory in Munich, Germany, Mephisto is the state-of-the-art in portable machines, and a close contender with Fidelity’s Elite and Prestige console models. What sets the big Mephisto touch sensor board apart from the others is its exquisite all-wood craftsmanship. This is a beautiful piece of furniture and a top flight chess computer. It is generally ranked second only to the aforementioned Fidelity units in strength of play, and many enthusiasts find it plays more like a person than other computers do.


Both of these units are expensive and dollar for dollar a bit tough to rationalize, but for those who appreciate quality and design elegance, they’re outstanding gifts. As improvements are constantly being made in their 12K programs (including increasing the ROM level), they are worth considering even if they can be beaten in tournament play by one or two competitors. A simple plug-in cartridge is all that is needed to maintain the latest in Mephisto chess programs.

For the disk flipping crowd, both Gabriel’s portable Othello and Fidelity’s Reversi are outstanding choices. The electronic Othello is attractively well made and features an excellent LCD display. The Reversi Challenger is all but unbeatable at its strongest level. You make the choice, we love them both.


Coleco, not content to shatter the gaming world with its excellent ColecoVision “third wave” programmable videogame system, has produced another stand-alone gem, Frogger. It provides a brighter display than its predecessors, Pac-Man and Galaxian. Virtually anybody would be charmed and thrilled to find this Frog in their Christmas stocking.

More stand-alone items that look to be good gift-giving bets include: the GCE game-playing wristwatches, such as the original Game-Time and the newer additions, Arcade Time, which plays a series of four space games, and Sports Time, which offers wee simulations of several popular team sport contests.


GCE has also introduced “N-Counter”, a series of game playing pocket calculators. Chase-N-Counter offers maze-chase challenges and Space-N-Counter treats stand-alone fans to state-of-the-art LCD arcade-action games in addition to tallying digits.

Reversi fans will want to look at Fidelity’s excellent Reversi Challenger system, part of their famous “Challenger” line that includes chess, checkers and backgammon computers, among a host ot other skill contests.



Recreational Products Play-n-Store is one of our favorite videogame centers. It isn’t expensive and yet manages to attractively hold an Atari VCS or Intellivision and 21 game carts. It will store the Intellivision with Injoy-A-Sticks installed, or it has room for a pair of WICO joysticks and the VCS. A best buy for the gamers in your life.

Southern Case’s universal game case will enable you to carry a VCS, Intellivision or Atari 5200 in style. It will also house game carts and controllers, the number varying with the console used, and it’s both lightweight and attractive. Who knows, with the case in their hand, it may even get some players away from their TVs long enough to actually receive the gift.


The Arcadia Supercharger is a must for any VCS owner. This unit, a great favorite of ours, gives the VCS enough of a kick to make it competitive with the best of ‘em. It will not turn your VCS into ColecoVision, but it will add life and sparkle and make you feel you have a brand new system at a most reasonable cost.

And speaking of gifts, not electronic, there are Beamscopes. A full discussion of these products will be found in “Test Lab”. Those with a 13- to 19-in. TV can work wonders in blowing up your picture. The console model is a bit more expensive and so we recommend appropriate time spent when considering it, and a personal audition in this case is a must.

As the years go by, each holiday season becomes a bigger and better fantasy land for electronic gamers. Beyond even the games themselves, the afterburner market—deluxe joysticks, system holders and the whole, wide, wonderful world of gaming paraphernalia—is lighting up the holidays for all of us.

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