It’s the festive season and for many people, December is the time when they get the chance to dive into a game or two with some days off work or school.
If you are buying a holiday gift for someone getting into some serious gaming after fiddling with those free-to-play casual games on their phones, there are many options today for that big leap into gaming fun.
Good news is, whether they are six or 60 years old, there’s a gift that would bring a smile to their faces.
Game consoles like the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox easy to set up in the living room. These are designed for simple plug-and-play, with connectivity to your TV via an HDMI cable, a power outlet, and Wi-Fi access.
Compared to casual games, say, on the phone, console games offer a much richer experience than in terms of story, immersiveness and enjoyment.
Meanwhile, PC gaming is seen as the most advanced tier of gaming with its many considerations and components for a full-fledged gaming rig. There’s also the higher cost and effort of setup, though there’s no need to go hardcore from the get-go with a killer gaming rig.
Besides letting you play with a mouse-and-keyboard setup, which I feel offers the most accuracy and control especially for first-person shooter games, PC games are also (generally) cheaper than console games.
The drawback is that PC games may need more effort in terms of tweaking and setting up in the operating system rather than the easy plug-and-play convenience offered by consoles.
PC or console? No matter. To make the jump from casual mobile games to console and PC games, here are some suggestions for a gift that would rock:
Your first gaming laptop: Aftershock Apex 15R (from S$1,475)
Laptops are now so advanced that they can almost replace a desktop gaming rig, with the added bonus of system compatibility, portability and a smaller footprint on your desk.
If you are hesitant to commit to a dedicated PC gaming rig, a gaming laptop that doesn’t break the bank is a good start.
Singapore’s own PC builder, Aftershock PC, offers customisable gaming laptops that let you select the components you want. You can pick and only top up for a particular component upgrade, which will work well for restricted budgets.
An entry-level Apex 15R laptop with an AMD Ryzen 7 processor, 16GB DDR5 RAM, Nvidia Geforce RTX 4050 graphics card and 1TB solid state drive is a good option for a first gaming laptop.
To cut all the techy mumbo-jumbo, this means you can comfortably play the latest and greatest graphics-intensive games like Cyberpunk 2077, Diablo IV, Baldur’s Gate 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III, albeit not at the highest possible graphics settings.
It’s a good start to PC gaming and the laptop will function well for other non-gaming Windows applications too!
Game on the big screen: Sony XR-55A80L (S$3,199)
If you decide to go the game console route, don’t forget that a great TV can really boost the experience on any game. To take advantage of modern consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, a TV with HDR (high dynamic range) is a must.
HDR eventually improves the quality of images on-screen by having a wide range between how dark and how bright a TV can get. In other words, you see details otherwise hidden in dim scenarios in a game while also visualising dramatic bright scenes, such as when the sun bursts out from clouds.
Premium OLED TVs, which feature deeper blacks and excellent contrast, let one immerse in a game more as well. One example is the Sony Bravia 4K OLED 55-inch A80L.
With Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos for immersive audio, as well as Cognitive Processor XR for better 4K upscaling, the A80L will serve up both movies and games beautifully.
What a treat it will be to play visually impressive games like Horizon Forbidden West on the PlayStation 5 or Cyberpunk 2077 on the Xbox Series X on it!
However, do note that the Sony TV only has two HDMI 2.1 ports, with one being an eARC port for external speakers. It might be lacking if you have both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S as well as a separate sound system that uses the eARC port.
A fast mouse: Razer Basilisk V3 (S$109.90)
The mouse is probably the most important piece of gear for PC gaming performance and enjoyment.
That said, there’s no need to spring for a pricey e-sport quality mouse — something with a good ergonomic grip, relatively high DPI (dots per inch) sensitivity and customisable buttons can enhance your gameplay tremendously compared to a basic mouse.
For me, the Razer Basilisk V3 is currently the best gaming mouse available that checks all the boxes, except that it is made for right-handed gamers.
With 10+1 programmable buttons, including one by the thumb for dropping the sensitivity to perform precise headshots, up to 26,000 dpi sensitivity and beautiful RGB lighting as well as a decent price, what’s there not to love? Unless you are a left-hander, that is.
Keyboard for long hours: Logitech G Pro (S$195)
Although keyboards do not offer as much differentiation in terms of gaming precision, unlike the mouse, playing for long hours on a suboptimal keyboard can tax your fingers. It’s easy to ignore the strain while immersed in the game and develop health problems later.
Avoid keyboards with flat keys, “chiclet”-type keys (small rounded rectangular keys resembling candies) or ultra-compact layouts, and do yourself a favour and get a keyboard with decent response with a well-spaced layout that doesn’t force you to crimp your fingers.
If you don’t mind annoying those around you, “clicky” mechanical keyboards are recommended as they feel more responsive and register each press you make with the resulting movement on screen.
While not the newest keyboard in Logitech’s lineup, the Logitech G Pro wired mechanical keyboard with noisy clicky keys is at a decent price point with minimal frills, yet offers the trendy RGB lighting, satisfying clickiness and responsiveness suitable for gaming. The tenkeyless design sacrifices the number pad for more real estate on your desk.
Headset for immersion: Creative SXFI Air Gamer (S$139)
For a truly immersive gaming experience, there’s nothing like blocking out all ambient sounds with a good headset. It also helps preserve the sanity of those staying in the same home as you, especially when playing scary games or intensive shooting games late into the night.
And if you are planning to play multiplayer games where you need to chat with others, a headset with a decent mic is essential to ensure no miscommunication while coordinating a critical mission or raid.
The Creative SXFI Air Gamer is a wired headset that connects to your PC via a USB-C cable for the lowest latency.
It can simultaneously connect via Bluetooth to mobile devices, which enables chatting using your phone while playing. What’s also handy is a NanoBoom mic for clearly communicating commands (or expletives) to teammates and opponents.
The Creative headset also boasts the SXFI Battle Mode that lets you hear your opponents accurately and place their location spatially, which is critical in first-person shooter games where someone might be creeping up behind you.
Get control in your game: Microsoft Xbox Elite 2 (S$254.90)
Like the mouse for playing PC games, a game controller can often make or break your gaming enjoyment on the console. Sure, you can stick with the stock controller that comes with your Microsoft Xbox, but it’s hard to turn back after playing on the Xbox Elite 2 controller.
With paddles on the underside, customisable controls, rechargeable battery that can be charged on a dedicated stand, as well as an overall premium feel and solid build, it’s a tangible upgrade from the stock Xbox controller.
Best of all, the Elite 2 works with PC games that run on Windows too. However, don’t hope for the sophisticated vibrations offered by the Dualsense controller for the PlayStation 5, as games on Xbox and PC are unfortunately not made for such sensory pleasures.
Console me: Nintendo Switch OLED model (S$399)
The question I get asked the most from friends planning to dip their toes into more serious gaming is what game console to get. Although rather long in the tooth since its debut in 2017, the Nintendo Switch is probably the most family-friendly and versatile console around.
The 2021 OLED model offers a boost in terms of display but not much else. However, the Nintendo Switch’s portability is a huge plus for frequent travellers. It is essentially a portable game machine you can dock at home and connect to a TV as well.
Games designed for the Switch are enhanced by the detachable Joy-Con controllers and other accessories, which make playing on the Switch so much fun.
Games like Just Dance, RingFit and Nintendo Switch Sports keep you active and are even more fun playing with family and friends. That’s not to mention Nintendo exclusives, such as Pokemon, Zelda and Mario games that are a joy for new and seasoned gamers alike.
The Nintendo Switch is also smaller and less pricey than the Sony PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles, which makes it easy to recommend for those moving up from casual mobile games.