Holiday wish lists are often full of requests for new games, music, movies or books. These are all the results of the creativity of individuals or teams of talented artists who write, direct, design and problem solve to produce something for consumers to buy and enjoy. As we indulge in our entertainment of choice, we learn to appreciate all creators’ mastery of a particular form and how they push the art in new directions.
Your loved ones may be passionate about a certain type of art form and hold strong opinions about what makes a game great or one song being better than another. If you know they are passionate about a field, how about giving them the tools to create their own? It could be the gift to help set them on the road to a career or lifelong hobby.
For the musician—How about getting them creating, mixing and manipulating their own music? Garageband for Mac users (part of the $49 iLife suite from Apple) or Mixcraft for PC ($74.95) would be a great gift that might be the inspiration they need to express themselves through music. If you have a young Mozart or Philip Glass, the excellent music composition software Sibelius has a student edition available for $99.99.
For the artist—A drawing tablet will allow them to learn to express themselves digitally. For a beginner you can choose an entry level tablet such as a Monoprice tablet for under $60 or the Bamboo Create tablet for $199.
For the gamer—Indie gamers are getting notice and making their mark. Designing games for smartphones or game consoles has been democratized with software tools that have come down in price, some even free. Get started with XNA and you can write games for PCs, WindowsPhone and Xbox. Try Microsoft XNA Game Studio 4.0: Learn Programming Now! ($23.99-$32.99) to teach you how. If you want a more basic introduction to game programming consider Programming Games for the Evil Genius ($24.95).
For the writer—Here is where we can go high-tech, but it is best to go low tech. A handsome notebook and a fine pen always make great gifts. The classic Moleskine line is simply beautiful and has inspired many a writer. As this is a tech column, I have to mention that there is a Moleskine App that brings (part of) the journal’s appeal to your iOS device. And for the writer on the go, maybe a LiveScribe smartpen will let them harness their inner Rita Skeeter (I couldn't resist the Harry Potter reference!) by combining the best of both worlds.