126: Package Tactics

Package Tactics

"You can't underestimate the little guy. To him, the weight difference between a game and an empty DVD case is a dead giveaway. The problem is the game's instruction manual. Simulate the extra weight by stuffing a dozen index cards into each case. Throw in a blank DVD, too, if you have some lying around. Now you have five or six similarly-weighted and -sized boxes under the tree, and he won't know which one is the diamond in the rough."

Andrew Eisen offers several tips for livening up the season of giving.


Wait.. you're giving your kid empty boxes? What kind of sick, sad bastard are you?

If you're going to play decoy, at least do it with real gifts.. Amazon has a whole series of mini pocketbooks of great classic or philosophical authors that you can get for under three bucks. Many of them are even slim enough fit inside a DVD case. So get your kid reading things like Swift, Thoreau, Emerson, and Kafka, or go for the movie Tie in with the pocket-sized Beowulf book, at least.

There's also a number of other options these days, for instance, you can purchase a game on your kid's Steam account and then all you need is a note letting him/her know -- which can be packaged in anything. Alternatively, Wii points can be purchased in card format for a slight premium over the on-site price. I assume that other consoles have the same ability. And even if they don't, with the advent of downloadable content, you can always download stuff to your kids console of choice and then it's just in there waiting.

If you're the sort that wants to support independant games -- or your kid is the type of kid who likes them -- most of them have a "try first" style and require the entry of a registration key-code to get the full game. Pick up a USB memory key and drop the registration key-codes on there. (Personally, I'm waiting for some enterprising console-game companies to start putting their games on memroy cards instead of CDs, just for the size factor)

But man.. empty DVD packages? That's just cruel. (And also a dead giveaway that there's a game in there.. somewhere..)

So get your kid reading things like Swift, Thoreau, Emerson, and Kafka, or go for the movie Tie in with the pocket-sized Beowulf book, at least.

Just to get this straight, you are trying to promote his reading, right?

This really made me smile. My dad has been doing things like that since I was a little kid, and his "specialties" are the disguise and the infiltrator. I have so many fond memories of dad trying to pull one over on us, tricking us with games and toys wrapped in clothes or taped inside larger boxes.

Now the whole family has fun with package disguises, and figuring out new ways to fool each other. For me, though, nothing beats that first Christmas turn-around when I was twelve, and my sister and I had finally managed to save up enough money to buy Dad the new videogame he'd been wanting. He'd been doing the typical dad thing, you know, where he looked at it every time we went to EB games, and kept saying that maybe he could get it for himself after Christmas and our birthdays. I think we stuffed it inside an old t-shirt of mine before we wrapped it. Seeing his face light up like a little kid when he found it inside the padding was amazing.

I think the reason my family is so committed to surprising each other, even at this stage of our development, is because it manages to destroy, at least temporarily, our very modern, adult cynicism about the commercialization of christmas. We all end up feeling like little kids again.


So get your kid reading things like Swift, Thoreau, Emerson, and Kafka, or go for the movie Tie in with the pocket-sized Beowulf book, at least.

Just to get this straight, you are trying to promote his reading, right?

Perhaps I was an odd child.

You're forgetting all the good ones. A few years ago my dad bought me a game, but he bought a soccer ball, cut a hole in it, placed the game in that, and wrapped it.

And for my brother last year he put a DS cartridge in one of those mini-cereal boxes (we got them in stockings every year) and then glued it back shut.

Kafka? I'm trying to get my kid to ENJOY Christmas, not become distraught over the incomprehensible futility of it all.

Should be noted that if the kid is the sort to throw a tantrum if they don't get what they wanted immediately all the creativity is wasted.

That said, I can see a lot of these tactics working better on adults than kids. Certainly The Infiltrator is something I personally am dying to try out on one of my parents.

This feature made me smile and remember my own Christmas stories.

I've always been a Christmas present snoop and my Dad knew it. Years and years of presents with small rips in the corners the paper, scotch tape I had carefully (but obviously) reapplied after lifting the folds, and bows used to conceal precision cut stamp sized flaps in the wrapping.

The giving season had turned into a game of spy vs. spy.

My Dad was never one to back down from a challenge. Most of the gifts were usually clothes, with maybe a few cassette tapes or a Nintendo game. But each year, I would get one or maybe two "great" presents for Christmas. Those were the ones we battled over. Multiple layers of different colored wrapping paper. Boxes placed inside so many other boxes that they resembled russian nesting dolls. He came up with new strategies each year that I would usually defeat.

One year a wooden winebottle box containing an RC car had to be opened with a clawhammer. He found "someone" had drilled a hole in the side just large enough to shine a penlight. Suspicion fell on me when he found I had already built a ramp.

I remember Christmas 1989 when I was caught completely by surprise. Two large and extremely heavy boxes had been sitting under the tree for two weeks with my name on them. Each box was obviously a shell containing an actual present tucked inside. They were too heavy for the "lift and shake" method. Beneath the wrappings, each box had been fully encased in a layer of brown packing tape. Drilling expeditions had only returned shredded cardboard or newspaper-like pulp. I didn't dare drilling too far to risk damaging my unknown present. It drove me crazy.

On Christmas eve, I unwrapped a 50 lb up box of Duraflame fire logs with most of the logs still inside. Under the top layer of logs was my new Nintendo Powerglove. I think I fell asleep wearing it and dreamed I was the Wizard.

On Christmas morning, I unwrapped the second box. It was a three box affair. Inside the outer box was a second box surrounded by phone books (including one with a 2-inch deep hole newly drilled through it). Inside the second box, surrounded by newspapers, was my first Gameboy.

Hey, are you my dad? Because my dad was totally the sort to pull this kind of thing. He is one sneaky mofo. Heck, he bought me and my stepbrother the same portable system one year, right? He wrapped them both differently, but neither one looked the least bit like the box that it really was.

Oh, and the decoy boxes? He put coal in 'em. I have no idea where he found coal, but tht's just how awesome he is.

Mine usually came in a box of towels. The sad thing was, I never got to keep the towels, my parents always stole those back and just gave me the game... stingy bastards...



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