Holiday shopping time! It’s a little rough every year – agonizing over finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, wondering if you’ll be able to find that special thing in time. Of course, this year is a bit more difficult, since so many of our wallets are, well, emptier than usual. It’s times like this you want to know the money you spend is going to make your loved ones smile.

That’s why we’re here with our holiday shopping guide all this week. Each day carries a different theme, representing different sorts of people with great gifts sure to be winners. Just find the days that best match your giftees and buy with confidence. Happy holidays!

For an overview of our 2008 Buyer’s Guide, click here.


Is manning your social calendar a full time job? Are you always the first to know all the secrets and gossip? When looking for something fun to do for the weekend, is yours the first number your friends dial to find the hot spots? If you are the social guru who’s always plugged into your network of family and friends, these are the games for you. When it’s time to pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie at this season’s parties, real or virtual, pull out one of these 2008 social dynamos.


Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (PC)

Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is all about playing with friends – whether they’re people you know in real life, or people you’ve never once met in person. Warhammer‘s focus is the struggle between the two warring factions of Order and Destruction, and players are thrust into the conflict from the very beginning. Whether you’re banding together to assault the strongholds and keeps of the enemy faction or just bashing a few heads and contributing to a Public Quest before heading on your merry way, it’s easy to feel like in Warhammer, you’re part of something much bigger than just yourself. Ask not what your faction can do for you, but ask what you can do to crush your ancestral foes and plunder their homelands!

Up next: A test of trivia that would make Alex Trebek and Regis Philbin proud.


Buzz! Quiz TV (PS3)


Showing off your trivia prowess is a sure-fire ticket to fun, but not all party-goers have the attention span necessary for rolling dice or collecting wedges. To the rescue comes Buzz! Quiz TV, a fast-paced trivia game for up to four players – or teams, if your get-together has a lot of know-it-alls. The questions cover all sorts of topics and knowledge bases, so everyone should stand a decent chance of winning. The included light-up wireless Buzz controllers add to the game-show feel, and you can even download new question packs from the PlayStation Network to keep the questions coming for many parties to come. Now you just have to decide which of your pals you want to steal points from or smack with a pie.

Up next: All the fun of rock stardom, minus the groupies… and the stardom.


Rock Band 2 (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii)


Rock Band is the great equalizer among gamers and non-gamers. Grab the mic, and it doesn’t matter how many of The Orange Box‘s 99 achievements you’ve unlocked; it only matters how many gin & tonics you’ve tossed back. Sure, your superior hand-eye coordination and uber micro may help you keep the beat a bit better, but I guarantee you’re not having as much fun as the girl who only plays games on Facebook. And while shredding your way through “Flirtin’ With Disaster” on expert may get the crowd pumping, so too will a couple Pete Townshend windmills and a well-placed high kick or two.

There’s a reason why nearly every party thrown by Escapist staff inevitably ends in a few (OK, a few dozen) rounds of drunken Rock Band, and it’s just not because we’re a bunch of gamer nerds. It’s because Rock Band is one of the few games out there that will get everybody in the room talking, laughing and sharing. Just don’t pick that song by Jimmy Eat World – those guys are terrible.

Up next: It’s good to be the King.


World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King (PC)


Sometimes it feels like World of Warcraft is more of a sweeping cultural phenomenon than it is a mere online game. It’s the biggest MMORPG in the world, boasting a staggering 11 million players – and with Wrath of the Lich King, its second expansion, it just became even bigger. Lich King adds a slew of new features, including a new player class, a gigantic and previously unexplorable continent, and ten more levels of adventuring – and it makes everything else better than ever. WoW‘s incredible popularity has always been due in part to its accessibility to people who’ve never played an MMORPG in their lives, and it’s still the best way to ease into the vast and intimidating world of the MMO. (Fear not – soon, you’ll be ganking noobs with the best of ’em.)

Grab a buddy or two and go on quests or explore the new continent of Northrend. Make a new friend in the middle of a baddie-filled dungeon crawl – so what if Prettykitten the perky Night Elf isn’t the hot Swedish supermodel she claims to be? From librarians and students to lawyers and the next co-chair of the FCC, there’s something in World of Warcraft for just about everybody. Azeroth awaits!

Up next: The zombie apocalypse is here – you might want to bring some friends.


Left 4 Dead (PC, Xbox 360)


We get it. Enough with the zombies already. We’ve every possible variety in every imaginable scenario – global pandemics, mind-controlled Spaniards, walking dead from the North Pole. Hell, we’ve typed the bastards to death. What unexplored ground could possibly be left?

Plenty, it turns out. Leave it to the Best Game Developer in the World to pinpoint the one facet of the zombie mythos that videogames haven’t covered: the feeling that “we’re in this together.” Nearly every aspect of Left 4 Dead‘s gameplay has this communal objective in mind. Lose track of your teammates, and you’re one roving horde away from dying a slow, painful death. Forget to heal the guy limping behind` you, and your odds of survival drop by half. Fail to warn your teammates about that creepy J-Horror-looking girl in the next corridor, and someone’s going to get their face mauled. Valve has somehow managed to take distill everything that is pure and good about cooperative gameplay (communication, spontaneity, altruism) and leave behind all the bullshit (pissing contests, loot squabbles, dead weight). If a game can get the typical Xbox Live mouthbreathers to work toward a common goal, it doesn’t just deserve a spot on this list – it deserves the goddamn Nobel Peace Prize.

Tomorrow: The cream of the crop, for the refined gaming palate of the Connoisseur.

For an overview of our 2008 Buyer’s Guide, click here.

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