If you’re a non-geek, trying to shop for the geeks in your life can be daunting, but we’re here to help!
While there are different kinds of geeks, we assure you that buying any of this stuff as gifts for your favorite geek will definitely give you a charisma point bonus and earn you some nerd love.
[box type=”info”]Note: This was originally published on TehAwesome.net in Nov 2008. It’s being resurrected and reposted here, since I’ll be shutting down TehAwesome.Net soon, and it was too good to throw away. [/box]
If you’re a geek yourself and are just looking for some new toys or gifts for your D&D buddies, hopefully you’ll find something new here.
This list is long – it’s meant to be very comprehensive and offer up lots of choices for multiple kinds of geeks, including computer geeks, science geeks, physics geeks, design geeks and, yes, the more traditional basement-dwelling comic book geek.
Geek or Nerd?
There is a fine balance between something that is geeky, and something that is nerdy.
Geek: From the Jargon File entry for “geek“:
“A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance. Geeks usually have a strong case of neophilia. Most geeks are adept with computers and treat hacker as a term of respect, but not all are hackers themselves – and some who are in fact hackers normally call themselves geeks anyway, because they (quite properly) regard `hacker’ as a label that should be bestowed by others rather than self-assumed.”
Nerd: From the Jargon File entry for “nerd“:
“Pejorative applied to anyone with an above-average IQ and few gifts at small talk and ordinary social rituals.”
Chicks Dig Linux t-shirt: geeky
“Engineers are Hot” notepad – nerdy
The difference is hard to explain, but this article at wikiHow does a fine job at trying to help clarify. (The Warnings are particularly funny and accurate.) Fortunately, there is usually some crossover, so whether you’ve got a geek or a nerd on your hands, this guide should help. (I, personally, am probably a mix of both, although more geek than nerd.)
This list does NOT cover items that would be considered “more useful than entertaining.” The items and stores listed here are, in general, not overly useful. It wouldn’t be possible to list everything useful that a geek might want, especially given the variety in the types of geeks you might have in your life. What a design geek might find useful is sometimes not at all the same thing a hardcore purist linux geek might find useful. So this particular list explores the fun and sometimes silly cultural toys that come with geekdom. If you’re looking for something useful for your geek and you’re not savvy in their field, you may be better off with a gift certificate to NewEgg so they can pick what they want. Without intimate knowledge of their gear and their setup, there’d be no way to guess what they will find more useful. Normally, gift certificates might seem a little impersonal, but your geek will appreciate the ability to select exactly what they want.
T-Shirts & Other Wearables
Maybe it makes me lame, but I love me some geeky t-shirts. I work in a casual office, so I can wear t-shirts every day, and my collection of geek/gamer/snark t-shirts is a thing to behold. Seriously, I have an entire dresser drawer devoted to geeky t-shirts.
While that may be a little sad, if you’re looking to beef up your geek/gamer wardrobe, there’s some great stuff out there these days. And, if you’re unable to find what you’re looking for, you can always give PleaseDressMe.Com a whirl and see if you come up with anything good.
And let’s face it, what geek has ever said “No no, I have enough t-shirts, thank you!”
Oh, and ladies, if you’re shopping for yourselves, most of these places carry babydoll styles as well, so you can wear your geek proudly without hiding your curves.
ThinkGeek – if you haven’t heard of them and you’re shopping for yourself, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to buy anything from them, but any geekwear list would be lacking without them. There’s something here for the code slinger, the sysadmin, the gamer, and the ‘net culture geek. And they sell all kinds of nifty cube toys and gadgets as well. And because someone had to do it, the perfect combination of technology and t-shirts, they even have a section devoted to illuminated tees: t-shirts that actually do stuff, like play sounds, detect wifi signals and display lighted life bars.
Jinx – Huge catalog = gamer heaven! The cake may be a lie, but these shirts are the real deal. (I’m so, so sorry for that horrible joke.) Lots of gamer gear, with a whole section devoted to Warcraft goodies, and oodles of old school D&D and RPG love. Jinx was the genius behind the Children of the Cron shirt that I covet so much (and they no longer make. Wah!) At least 40% of my geek shirts came from Jinx.
xkcd store – xkcd is a webcomic that appeals to geeks of many flavors, including computer geeks, physics geeks, math geeks and language geeks. (Truly, one of the funniest and most brilliant comics online, in my opinion.) Their store is very small, but not to be missed.
Penny Arcade – one of the staple web comics of any gamer (and plenty of non-gaming empathizers,) this store is small but has a few absolute gems.
Glarkware – A small, but brilliant collection of not-so-geeky-but-very-snarky shirts and stickers. My favorites here are their I ♥ Irony t-shirt,
the stop-sign stickers (which I have used in my own neighborhood and can say they are the very definition of awesome) and the Urban Asshole Notification cards.
Update: Sadly, Glarkware has stopped carrying the fabulous stop-sign stickers and Urban Asshole Notification cards. That makes me a sad panda.
I will not use Comic Sans t-shirt – ‘Nuf said, really.
SplitReason – A fun collection of geek/gamer/pop culture shirts that are always cute, sometimes really funny, and other times a little cheeky.
NerdyShirts.Com – just what it sounds like! Lots of fun retro-gaming shirts here (Zelda was FTW before FTW existed!) And now, thanks to them, I have the Reading Rainbow theme song stuck in my head. Lucky for me, I have it in my iPod.
Design By Humans has some eye-popping designs. I don’t personally shop there, as I’m not as fond of shirts with patterns that cover the entire tee, but that’s just me. Some simply stunning stuff there if that’s what you’re into, though.
Shirt.Woot is based on the same model as Woot.Com (a domain name I not-so-secretly covet and wish I had thought to buy years ago, like unobtainium dot com.) A new, exclusive shirt a day, and when its sold out, you’re shit outta luck – but many of my favorite geeks buy their threads at shirt.woot.
Made with Molecules -VERY cool sciencegeek jewelry shaped like molecules, made out of sterling silver. These are not only incredibly geeky, but also gorgeous! These are not cheap, but the quality makes these pieces worth every penny.
FractalSpin Geekcessories – Fun earrings, bracelets an other jewelery perfect for your favorite math, science or computer geek. Some of these pieces are actually made from actual capacitors and varistors! Perfect for the glamgeek!
Adorable sterling silver compass earrings and other engineering related jewelry can be found at GiftsForEngineers.Com. This site also has some really fun cufflink designs, such as cufflinks made from recycled circuitboards, or my favorite, the green level cufflinks that are made from real itty bitty levels.
ThinkGeek, of course, has some very cool necklaces, including two that light up – The Fuze Necklace (I own one – its delightful!) and the Crystal Cube Firejewel Necklace (which I just came across while researching this article and am buying NOW – so pretty with the glowwy and the sparkly and the oooooh…)
If your geek is a she-geek with a love for D&D, you MUST buy her the d20 Spiral Necklace. You simply must. Its beautiful and functional, and what geek doesn’t like that?
Not so sparkly, but still very cute, the broken image necklace is a lightweight pendant that looks like, well, a broken image. See for yourself! This would be a cute gift for your favorite web designer or graphic design geek.
Also at ThinkGeek, the Ring Thing (bottle opening ring) is a great gift for he-and-she-geeks alike. I’ve had mine for years now, and it’s come in handy at the most unexpected times. And yes, it really does work – you really can open bottles with it, although I wouldn’t recommend opening cases of them in a row. (Company BBQ, lots of beer, no bottle opener. My finger was a little tender by the time it was over, but BOY was I the hero.)
Mugs and Gadgets
W2 Pantone Series – These are unmatched for the design geek in your life. (Unmatched… get it? GET IT??) Super fun mugs, espresso cups and messenger bags in your print design geek’s favorite Pantone color.
My Cuppa Tea/Coffee from Suck UK – Color matching coffee mugs with shades of coffee and tea. Very cute! Frankly, a lot of their suff is really fun, and sorta geeky, like their alphabet ice cube trays, the alarm clock that runs away while beeping, to make you get out of bed to turn it off, or the Who Tall are You mirror, for your younger geeks-in-training.
If your geek is a coffee-lover, but more of a command line linux geek than a design geek, be sure to check out ThinkGeek’s Mug of Vi. Its okay if you don’t know what Vi is – they will. (Vi > emacs 4evah!)
H.P. Lovecraft is an old favorite of many die-hard sci-fi geeks, and Cthulhu stands tall as the most well-known and revered of his mythos. Fortunately, thanks to teh intarwebs, there are oodles and scads of places to find the most awesome Cthulhu goodies:
H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society – If you buy nothing else for your favorite geeks this holiday season, you MUST buy the Cthulhu Christmas albums, aptly titled “A Very Scary Solstice” and “An Even Scarier Solstice.” The production quality on these albums is a thing to behold, and they are sure to brighten the face of any geek (albeit while darkening the rest of the room.) The set is sold together during the holidays as “An Unbearably Scary Solstice“, and comes with songbooks. Buy it now. It is the embodiment of awesome.
The HPLHS has piles of delightfully horrific gifts in addition to the albums mentioned above, but another personal recommendation is the What part of ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn don’t you understand? t-shirt. The reactions when a guy tries to get permission to stare at your boobs by asking “can I read your t-shirt” is always priceless. “Sure, if you can…”
My Little Cthulhu – an adorable action figure that even has a set of adorable victims (sold separately.)
Plush Cthulhu – there is so much fun stuff here, including Cthulhu plus toys, a Cthulhu hand puppet (the same kind used in the very funny internet show, Calls for Cthulhu), a plush Cthulhu holiday wreath, board games and more. Note: The Toy Vault doesn’t have an online store from which to purchase these goodies, but The Troll and Toad storefront seems to carry all these and more, including themed Cthulhu toys (Cthulhu as Elvis, Cthulhu as a superhero, Cthulhu as a rock star, etc) and additional Lovecraft monsters such as a Hound of Tindalos plush and a Nyarlathotep plush.
Movie, Game and TV Memorabilia
Forbidden Planet – This should go without saying, but Forbidden Planet has the most amazing collection of action figures and other chachke from just about every movie or TV show that would be meaningful to a geek, including (and OMG do I love this one) a Dark Crystal 7″ Chamberlain figure.
WickedCoolStuff – another great site with tons of movie and TV-related toys, as well as some goofy novelty action figures.
World of Warcraft Action Figures – beautifully detailed action figures from the game World of Warcraft.
Adult Swim store – Cartoons are, of course, a staple of any geek’s media diet, and the best place for cartoons is Adult Swim on Cartoon Network. While most of the store is dedicated to selling DVDs and CDs from the network’s TV shows, there are some delightful apparel, print and action figure surprises in there too. (I personally think Assy McGee is one of the dumbest shows ever put on television, second perhaps only to anything Tim and Eric do – they are teh suck, but the rest of the action figures are teh awesome.)
I don’t care whether you’re a geek or a nerd, or whether your geek comes in the form of math, physics, science, computers or something else entirely – every geek used to read Mad Magazine – so what gift could be more fun than 50 Years of Mad Magazine, scanned into PDF in a two DVD set? Nothing, that’s what!
Music is always a little tricky, since the variety in musical taste, even among geeks, is remarkably broad. There are a few genres of music, namely nerdcore and filk, that are particularly well-suited to geeks, however, and I strongly recommend any and all of the following artists. Even if your geek doesn’t absolutely love them, they’ll appreciate the tunes for the novelty alone. If they love the music, you’ll have introduced them to music that will welcome them with open arms.
Nerdcore (sometimes referred to as chip-hop) is hip-hop for geeks; rap for computer programmers, bloggers, gamers and ‘net junkies. Those of you who read Snipe.Net already know that I am one of nerdcore’s biggest cheerleaders, and these are my top picks based on lyrics, production value, and overall awesomeness.
Prefer to Make Your Own?
Gotcha covered. These gift ideas from Instructables have some unique and sorta geeky ideas, with step by step instructions. Also be sure to check out the Make Magazine blog for a weekly lst of fun and nerdy do-it-yourself projects. Or, if your geek is a do-it-his-or-her-selfer and likes to make something out of nothing (or the shattered remains of something else), consider getting them a subscription to Make Magazine. And for the ecogeeks, there’s even a digitial-only subscription option that gives you access to the digital version.
And since we’ve moved to magazines, consider a monthly subscription to Geek Magazine, the most geek you can find in print, which covered movies, tech, music, games and more.
And finally, for the lego lovers, consider using the Lego Digital Designer and coming up with your own fabulous lego gift masterpiece. Freeware application Lego Digital Designer is a virtual Lego kit for your Windows or Mac desktop. Once installed, you can either use LDD to build your own masterpiece from scratch or—if you’re lacking patience—you can get a head start by using one of their starter models. With over 763 brick types to choose from, your LDD-design will have reached well beyond the limits of your normal lego kit. Once you’ve built the perfect prototype, you can upload the results to the Lego web site to order a custom kit with every brick you’ll need included! Lego Digital Designer is freeware, Windows and Mac only.
Box-Toppers & Stocking Stuffers
For smaller gifty-stuff, suitable for people you’re not willing to spend much money on, or for putting on the top of the “real” gift box as an extra something, these stickers and trinkets add that extra something:
Stickers are always a fun, relatively cheap (usually under $5) box-topper, and with all the hardware your geeks are likely toting, they won’t run out of places to put them. Thinkgeek has a great selection of stickers, and Jinx’s collection is perfectly tailored to the gamer geek. Note: the World of Warcraft Horde and Alliance cutout stickers are gorgeous, but larger than you might first imagine, 6″x8″, so just keep that in mind. I really wish they had smaller ones I could put on my laptop. Stickerton also has a small collection of geek stickers, and their anti-OS stickers (MSFT, LINUX, etc) are sure to piss off a few opposing factions.
Or check out the tutorial on Instructables.Com that teaches you how to make the cutest little computer bugs from old computer parts. These are seriously adorable, and pretty easy to make if you’re comfy with a soldering iron.
And of course, the finishing touches are *everything* – so don’t forget to wrap your geeky goodies in the ThinkGeek wrapping paper, featuring gift wrapping paper with emoticons, binary code, mathematical equations and even Klingon.
So that’s our list – do you have your own sources for geek toys, shirts and other fun-but-useless madness? If so, leave it for us in the comments!