Virtual Adventures: Holiday Shopping for Video Games and Consoles

By McDermott, Irene E. | Searcher, November-December 2005 | Go to article overview

Virtual Adventures: Holiday Shopping for Video Games and Consoles


McDermott, Irene E., Searcher


Behold the middle-aged librarian with a 10-year-old son. Guess what he wants for Christmas? The latest video games and the machines to play them on. If you are like me, not only do you know next to nothing about video games, you have no room in your mind for them. Consider the news: Iraq, Katrina, Supreme Court appointments, Saddam Hussein's trial. Where is there room in our skulls for artificial conflict, such as that delivered by video games, especially during the holidays?

The brains of our children, especially those with the "Y" chromosome, are not clouded by any such contradictions. They want the stimulation of video games to bring them to the "outer edges" of their competence.Video games help a child learn by "building on the knowledge that the student has already acquired, but challenging him with new problems to solve," according to Steven Johnson in his book Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter (Riverhead Hardcover, 2005; ISBN: 1573223077). The child's concentration on the video game is not a sign of mental atrophy, but of focus on new stimuli.

OK. I buy that. At least it justifies my failure to disengage my son and his friends from an activity that consumes hours on end.

Video games are evolving at the same velocity as all other electronic devices. Heck, for less than $10, I can download a basic shoot-'era-up or a car chase to my cell phone. But here I will reviewWeb resources that cover consoles designed specifically to play the complex video games of the type that will leave "Santa" sweating for the pre-teen set--and the kid in all of us--at the holidays.

For guidance, I turned not only to the Web, but to my boy himself, who broke the big world of video games down to several simple concepts.

"First of all, Mom," Peter explained patiently, "there are three main companies who make video game consoles: Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. Microsoft makes the Xbox, Sony makes the PlayStation, and Nintendo makes GameCube. There are three main kinds of games that you can play on these consoles: racing games, first person shooters, and '3-D' or 'platformer' games."

Thanks, Pete. Even I can understand that. Other game genres, aimed at older players, include sports games, "puzzles" (including poker), and role playing games, or "RPGs."

Games and Console Reviews

Apart from consulting our kids, how can we decide what games or console to buy? Check out these reliable reviewing resources written by grown-ups.

Consumer Search.com Video Game Consoles Reviews http://www.consumersearch.com/www/electronics/game-console-reviews/

Consumer Search.com reviews the reviews about electronic game consoles and consolidates the results. The "Fast Answers" section hits the highlights, offering quick rundowns on the best systems, along with approximate prices and links to online stores. The "Full Story" section offers in-depth analyses of the systems.

G4 Video Game Television http,//www.g4tv.com/main.html

Comcast brings us this channel devoted entirely, all day and all night, to video games. Visit the site to find game and console reviews, news about upcoming video games, and video streaming snippets from the television channel. I particularly enjoyed video of Victor Lucas and Tommy Tallarico bickering, Ebert and Roper style, about the relative merits of new games.

CNET Reviews: Games and Gear http://reviews.cnet.com/Games/ 20019020_7-0.html?tag=cnetfd.dir

CNET analyzes video games, gaming consoles, and PC game hardware. Search for game reviews by name, or view by categories such as genre, e.g., "sports" or "driving"; context ("realistic" or "scifi"); rating; by OS type; or, most interestingly, by learning curve. Can you learn to play this game in half an hour? Or will it take you more like 3 hours just to get into it? Are we talking here about a game or a second job? …

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