While more and more videogame retailers close down, shops full of videogame-themed merchandise seem to be thriving. If you want some Fallout socks, Overwatch Lego, a plush creeper from Minecraft, or a hideous Funko Pop figurine based on absolutely anything then they’ve got you covered.
It’s not all garbage, and it does make gift-giving a lot easier once you push past all the Baby Yodas and booby anime lady figures to get to the good stuff. What’s your favorite piece of games merch? Here’s some of ours.
Phil Savage: Tub Geralt
I’m normally not into game merch, which is probably a waste given the sheer amount of it we get sent (there’s a cupboard in our Bath HQ that contains a week’s worth of Overwatch socks). But how could I not love this: a Tub Geralt statue surrounded by issues of PC Gamer, courtesy of CD Projekt Red. Commitment to the joke will always override my cynicism.
Christopher Livingston: Sam & Max pin
Back in the late 1990s I was working in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Northern California while wearing (as I did most days) a small Sam & Max pin on the lapel of my vest (I wore vests to work then). I can’t quite recall where I got the pin from, nor can I find a picture of the exact one online, but it was from the original Sam & Max: Hit the Road adventure game so I think it was a bit of merch LucasArts sold at the time, maybe through mail order. I misplaced the pin years ago so I can’t take a photo of it.
Anyhoo, I was standing at the cash register when a man came up to buy something, saw my pin, and asked me where I got it. I started explaining the game and characters to him, and he said “I know, I created those characters.” It was Steve Purcell, creator of Sam & Max (and later of TellTale games and Pixar). Pretty cool! So I guess that little long-lost pin is my favorite bit of games merch because I got to briefly meet a guy whose work I really enjoyed.
Robin Valentine: Art/lore books
For the most part, I’m a real grinch about games merch. There’s so much cheaply produced tat in this business – I really can’t fathom why someone would want a foot tall plastic statue of anything, let alone a videogame character.
But I have to admit, I’m a real sucker for pretty videogame books. A good art book is always a treat – I’m fascinated by concept art and the process of designing a game’s most iconic elements. There was a tiny little one that came with the BioShock II collector’s edition that I find just fascinating – there’s all these outlandish underwater mutants they designed and fleshed out that never made it into the final product.
And for a series I’m particularly into, I love a hefty lore guide, too. The first volume of Dragon Age: The World of Thedas has pride of place on my bookshelf – beautifully laid out and just packed with Bioware imagination and craft.
Oh, and just to throw in a bit of merch I wish I owned: the most expensive edition of Darksiders: Genesis came with a full dungeon-crawling board game based on the series. It’s such a collision of two worlds I love, but it was way too much to fork out for. Maybe one day I’ll get lucky on ebay…
Lauren Morton: Ridiculously large Solaire of Astora
Normally I’m 100% aligned with Robin. Statues, while neat, are a bit gaudy. I have lots of art books and collector’s edition strategy guides which are more my taste. But I love my 19-inch tall Solaire. The first piece I ever professionally wrote was here on PC Gamer about why we praise the sun and since then Solaire feels to me like he was my guiding light out of the crappy wage job I was working at the time and into games journalism. I spent more money on him than I care to admit but he’s always nearby on my desk now. It’s a silly, very consumerist thing, but he’s my reminder that my future is a course I’ve set for myself. Dang, sorry for being so emotional. I think hard back strategy guides are neato because I enjoy flipping through them while I play, how’s that instead?
Andy Kelly: Remedy tote bag
I’ve been writing about games for almost 15 years now, and in that time I’ve received enormous amounts of promo material, from a Manhunt gimp mask (yes, really) to a vacuum-sealed pig’s heart. Try and guess which game that was promoting. You never will. Boringly, my current favourite piece of games-related merch is a Remedy tote bag. It’s functional, it’s got the logo of a developer I love on it, and it’s the perfect size for a modest amount of groceries. I also used it to carry my camera stuff when I was in Japan the other month. Look, I’m in my 30s. Practical carrying solutions are exciting to me now. Leave me alone.
Jarred Walton: Half-Life 2 t-shirt
I still have an old Half-Life 2 t-shirt hanging in the closet that I occasionally wear. It’s the one with “GOOD D0G” (yes, all caps) on the front and a stylized image of D0G’s head. I sometimes wear it at trade shows to see if anyone says anything, but now that the t-shirt is over 15 years it’s something of an antique. It’s also wearing out, sadly, but I refuse to part with it—maybe it will get replaced with a Half-Life: Alyx t-shirt in a few months? Some day, I imagine my grandkids will see that shirt and say, “Grandpa, tell us that story about how Valve used to make games again!” I’ll take it off its hanger, sit down in my recliner, and drone on about the gravity gun and physics for a while, before realizing everyone has left and I’m all alone talking to myself. It’s what grandparents are supposed to do.
Evan Lahti: Mugs
This Team Fortress 2 mug has followed me across many desks here at PC Gamer. Part of the reason it’s stuck around is because TF2 was the game our staff was playing together when I joined in 2008, so I associate what was a foundational game for me with working here. Other than the turmeric tea incident, which will not be expanded upon, it’s held its color well over the years.
I’ve also been holding on to this absurd GTA collectible. It is extremely not dishwasher safe.
Joanna Nelius: Nuka Cola cup
I can count the number of game merch items I own on one hand, and most of it happens to be from the times I’ve gone to BlizzCon. Most of it is still in the original box, sitting in my closet, but I do have a statue of The Lost Vikings that I keep on my coffee table because the hand-painted faux bronze patina matches my decor. I also have a backpack from BlizzCon 2017 that I use for almost everything; the velcro patches are great conversation starters. Other than that, I don’t have a lot of game merch floating around. I’m not one for knickknacks, although you could say different about my small, Star Trek action figure collection. However, my 16 oz. Fallout 4 Nuka Cola cup from Just Funky I use all the time. I get the best looks from barista’s when I ask them to put my tea in that reusable cup—also a great conversation starter.
Andy Chalk: STALKER patches
Years ago I saw a bunch of STALKER faction patches advertised on a Russian website. It looked a little sketchy, although it was clear enough about where the put the credit card information, which I was obviously not going to do. I sighed, thought about how they were probably printed on cheap paper (if they existed at all), made an offhand comment them to my partner, and went on with my life.
Fast-forward several months to Christmas, and blammo, she gives me the full set of patches—all of them, even Clear Sky—arranged on a sky-blue background in a lovely frame. And they’re actually good! Properly stitched, not stamped, iron-on crapola, and big enough that they wouldn’t look out of place stitched onto the sleeve of a jacket. Not that I’d ever do something so dreadfully nerdy, of course. Big side bonus: No international credit card fraud.
James Davenport: Samus Aran Amiibo
I’m against 99-percent of videogame merch. Cheap videogame clothes are rarely quality or creative, just another annual pile of junk thrown in the greater fast fashion waste pile, part of one of the biggest pollution industries in the world. Plastic toys and plushies aren’t much better. I’d be terrified to find out what percentage of videogame swag is recycled and reused versus what percentage is or will one day coat the bottom of the ocean. But I bought one thing I like to remind me of the things I like: a Samus Aran Amiibo figurine. I love Metroid games. Castlevanais. Dark Souls. Hollow Knight, Blasphemous, any game built around expanding a space via tense ventures into the unknown and then contracts that space through a combination of character progression and map knowledge. And so I figured a little plastic model of the character that kicked most of this stuff off would suit my workspace.
Also, sometimes I get to smash it on my Switch for ephemeral in-game bonuses, but I primarily got it because I used to work at a desk in an office with other people. Personalizing your space was a good way to say to new people, Hey, I’m a guy that’s into Metroid, or, in former PCG editor Tom Marks’s case, Hey, I’m a guy into literally everything. The remaining decorations on my desk were just books and PC components and loose papers, a photo of my nephew crying because his ice cream fell. But now I work from home and no one sees the little Samus but me, my cat, and the occasional friend that already knows I’m into Metroidy games. So for the most part, the figure represents a feedback loop. I see the figurine and am reminded of a fact about myself I already know. Is that affirmation or wasted energy? I don’t know. I do know that I have the Ridley Amiibo on my Amazon wishlist.
I haven’t made the skooma yet, but this book has given me a recipe for double-baked potatoes I use on the regular and both the grilled leeks and baby carrots in moonsugar glaze have also proved pretty tasty.