You know the look. The apprehension creeping into their eyes as the wrapping paper falls away, the brows raising as their face scrunches together, turning their gaze to you from the gift in their hands — it’s a look that communicates a dreaded, unspoken question: Why, exactly, did you think this was a good idea?

For those who don’t play video games, buying a gift for a gamer can be a risky proposition. As with any hobby to which people devote hours of their days, that passion makes them very particular about what they want (or don’t want). To help translate what the uninitiated may consider a foreign language, the Launcher team is here to offer a few ideas.

While everyone may want one of the new-generation consoles — PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, Nintendo Switch OLED — we’re going to focus on some less expensive, easier to find ideas. And if you’re looking for a good game recommendation or two, you can find our own Gene Park’s top titles to pick up here, along with the rest of The Washington Post’s gift guide.

What you’ll find below is a bunch of accessories that can optimize the gaming experience depending on the type of gamer you’re gifting. Take a look to avoid taking an L this holiday season. (And if you don’t understand that reference, you should definitely read this guide.)


For the person looking to deck out their streaming setup

Custom backlit gamertag display

If you want to avoid the minefield that is trying to find the exact keyboard, mouse or other gadget on your gamer’s wish list, this customizable gamertag display from ThatLEDCo is a great option for any streaming setup.

The display comes in 16 fonts, including several inspired by major game franchises such as “World of Warcraft,” “Halo” and “League of Legends." The acrylic display sits on two LED, USB-powered lamp bases that you control via remote. Is it the most practical gift? Of course not. But it would look pretty sweet in the background of a live stream. Just make sure you triple check the spelling of your gamer’s online alias before getting it engraved forever. — Alyse Stanley


For the pink-loving techie

Razer Kraken Kitty gaming headset

I’m not sure what it says about me that my wedding gift registry included Razer’s baby pink, Quartz Edition keyboard and mouse. What I do know, though, is that these kitty headphones would be the cherry on top of my obnoxiously pink gaming PC setup, and I need them.

Aside from being adorable, this over-the-ear gaming headset features THX spatial 7.1 surround sound to create a 360-degree sound environment that reflects in-game audio sources. The kitty ears and sides of the headphone have reactive lighting built in, so they can be programmed to light up in different colors based on different prompts. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves cutesy tech. — Alyse Stanley

For the music fan

Video game soundtracks on vinyl

With vinyl enjoying a bit of a resurgence, chances are you already know a gamer who is a record collector or audiophile. But the high-end soundtracks from iam8bit.com and fangamer.com are more than just high-fidelity versions of excellent video game music. Every lovingly crafted design detail of the packaging and presentation make these albums a tribute piece that any fan would be proud to display.

Soundtracks that are currently for sale range from indie darlings like “Hyperlight Drifter” to more obscure retro titles (“Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll,” anyone?) to massively popular titles like “Undertale” and “Stardew Valley.” Be steadfast in your gift giving pursuit, though. These soundtracks are very popular and sell out quickly. — Joe Moore



For the person who needs more buttons at their fingertips

Razer Wolverine V2 Chroma

You want buttons? Razer’s Wolverine V2 Chroma controller’s got more buttons than a waiter at TGI Friday’s. In addition to the standard set you’d find on a regular Xbox controller, the V2 Chroma has an additional six buttons, four on the bottom of the controller and two more next to the shoulder bumpers. An Xbox app let’s you remap the controller’s buttons to suit your needs. You can also engage locks on the controller’s underside to reduce the time it takes to pull the triggers. There’s even an RGB strip on the hand grips to add a little flair.

The controller works for both Xbox consoles and PC and is available in black or white. — Mike Hume


For the person who needs more storage space on their PS5

WD Black SSD game drive with heatsink

If you’re lucky enough to have snagged a PS5, you’ve likely discovered one of its biggest drawbacks is a lack of storage space on the console. The solid state drive it comes with can fill up fast, particularly when you have a live-service game or two constantly pumping in new content. To keep more PS5 titles on the PS5 (making them playable without redownloading from the cloud or porting them over from an external storage device), you can add an SSD expansion drive like this one offered by WD. It’s important you get a version with a heatsink, however, so your spiffy new console doesn’t get slagged. — Mike Hume


For the gamer on the go

Razer Kishi and Raiju Mobile

Yes, smartphone screens have gotten bigger over the years, but they’ve never gotten any more comfortable to hold for long periods of time while gaming. These two controllers attach to your phone, allowing gamers to use thumbsticks and buttons instead of dragging and tapping their fingers on the touch screen.

The big differences between the two are form factor and operating system compatibility. The Kishi for iOS is smaller and can fit in the back pocket of your jeans, if you’re so inclined. The Raiju for Android looks more like a standard console controller, with the smartphone clipping to the top of it. — Mike Hume

For the person who wants to stand out from the crowd

Xbox Design Lab controller

Whether they’re an Xbox or PC player, the Xbox series of controllers are still considered by many to be the best, most comfortable pads available today. And even if the gamer in your life already has a controller, they’re still going to appreciate one that’s customized to their liking. Xbox Design Lab offers a huge variety of colors and materials to give each controller pop and verve — whatever may suit your giftee’s liking. And you can add optional laser engraving to either have their name, a special message from you, an inside joke or anything you may want to write down etched into the controller. These controllers will be delivered in 28 days, so it’s best to plan ahead. — Gene Park


For the gamer who says: ‘I don’t really have a favorite genre. I play everything.’

Xbox Game Pass

Is the task of gifting a specific game too daunting? Can’t decide between “Forza Horizon 5” and “Far Cry 6”? Microsoft has the gift for you. The Xbox Game Pass, which can most accurately be described as Netflix for games, is a monthly subscription service that allows you to access a genre-spanning library of titles (here are some of our recommendations, in fact) including new releases from studios owned by Microsoft. The plans start at $10 per month, and there are versions for both console and PC. Just be warned: This gift only makes sense for a person who plays on a console in Microsoft’s ecosystem, meaning a PC or one of the Xbox consoles. It won’t work if they have a Switch or PlayStation. — Mikhail Klimentov


For the gamer who is building out their battle station

A bigger mouse pad

A bigger mouse pad is one of those gifts that people don’t know they want — but then, when they get it, it’s a game changer (literally). When the pandemic began, I had a tiny mouse pad that was only good for work-related tasks. Over time, I upgraded, first to a slightly bigger pad, and then to one that covered most of my desk. Each increase in size gave me more space to maneuver my mouse (a necessity for some video game genres, including shooters) and also the peace of mind that a quick flick wouldn’t fly my aim off-target because I had run out of mouse pad. But before you buy that extra-extra-large mouse pad, just be sure to measure the desk. — Mikhail Klimentov

For the person who wants to look good and play good

Two Faced Let’s Play mini palette

Yeah, gaming makeup is a thing. Faring better than blue-light skin care, palettes from “Animal Crossing" and “Tetris” have been making the rounds in recent years. This eye shadow palette from Too Faced was inspired by gamers, according to the product description. For the burgeoning makeup aficionado, this palette lets them add a slight highlight or a pink outline, and it grants them a strong resemblance to content creators like e-girls or Korean pop stars — at least in the makeup department. Oh, and it smells like bubble gum. — Shannon Liao


For the person looking to join the streaming world

Elgato HD60 S Plus capture card

Elgato makes decent capture cards for when you want to stream gameplay from your phone or console to your Twitch, YouTube or Facebook page. The HD60 S Plus takes little time to get working and runs without a hitch. It’s also more affordable and, in general, more reliable than the glitchy 4K60 Pro. As tempting as the promise of 4K might sound, it’s not worth the headache of trying to get it to work properly. The HD60 S Plus, however, hasn’t failed me yet. — Shannon Liao


For the person who thinks bigger is better

Ultrawide PC monitor

Virtual reality might be the video game industry’s trendiest portal to an immersive new world, but between setup, cables and the dreaded act of standing up, it’s a hassle. The next best thing? A PC monitor so wide it nearly wraps around your entire field of view. You’ll feel like you’re inside open-world games, surrounded by sweeping vistas, creamy clouds and lazy rivers. You’ll be so sucked in, you’ll almost forget you’re being attacked by orcs.

As far as specific monitors go, I’m a big fan of Sceptre’s line of curved ultrawides, which strike a good balance between quality and affordability. Others, like the LG 27GN950-B, deliver higher resolutions and other bells and whistles, but they can also break the bank. I’ve had my Sceptre 30-inch ultrawide monitor for over a year, and it remains free of scratches and dead pixels even after multiple moves to new apartments. Grab one for the person in your life who can’t stand it when things are just regular wide. — Nathan Grayson