Gifting, fantasy, games

We have an ongoing joke in our household about products, marketing, websites, ideas, that purport to be their user’s fantasies, but are actually a brand or product manager’s fantasy. For instance, in an otherwise wonderful application that I use all the time and do in fact love, the new 1password for iPhone has a ‘demo mode’. It’s great when I ‘need to show someone how 1Password works.’
Yes, yes, need. Whose fantasy is this?

But this is of course just a line in a settings panel. My latest favorite is the commercial we saw for the board game The Logo Board Game.
crappy game
The pitch for this game is that “the Logo Board Game entertains the entire family with fun facts about your favorite companies.” You can test your knowledge about your favorite brands and logos! What I like about this is that the game creator probably gets paid twice – once from the companies whose popular logos are in the game, and again from people buying the game. Synergy!

I was thinking about all of this while reading the Wirecutter’s Gifting Guide for Weird and Wonderful Humans. The guide is sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes pretty spot on, sometimes funny. But at the end, you get this:

The truth is, I’m not so into gift guides this year, and I’m not so into generic guides. After a year of working on Wirecutter, its hard to see things as anything but the most utilitarian terms, aiming for the things that have not too much or too little; in other words, my mind is in the exact opposite state ideal for finding presents for people.

I also thought back on gifts I received this year and couldn’t think of much. I did a lot of really stellar borrowing and trading–I borrowed a nice woodblock print from Nicole for my new apartment, and traded a handplane and fins for a nice sheepskin rug with Bilton.

But the best things people did for me were to show me places, teach me how to do things and to give me a couch to sleep on for a few nights.

My friend simon took me spearfishing and on hikes, friends at One World One Ocean took me on shark tagging and undersea research lab expeditions, and other friends took me to secret spots to surf.

Carolyn did buy me some nice short fins to replace a set that broke, and I got some tupperware for a housewarming gift. But mostly, this was the year where I was focused on shedding things and discouraging people from giving me things.

I don’t even want Christmas cards this year. Just give me a call and let me know how you are doing instead.

So, use this list. But let’s acknowledge that gifting is kind of weird, and maybe I am into it but I am more into showing people new things and taking them places than buying them stuff. So if you don’t feel like gifting, that’s cool to me and that’s cool of you.

I know this is the kind of statement that grates on some (probably Jenn, for instance), but I somehow find the juxtaposition of an honest-broker technology review site talking down the end of year holiday gift-cycle thoughtful, or at least thought-provoking.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, the best board game reviews consistently come from Defective Yeti’s end of year lists.

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