Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Gamer Dad And His Guide To What To System To Spend Your Money On

EDITORIAL NOTE: I'm trying a little something new here. If you like it, I may continue...but here we go.

So, here we are: One week before the big Christmas Holiday. Hopefully, you've finished all your shopping and you're getting ready to settle in to enjoy the season. If not, however, I thought I'd share some of my vast knowledge and give you some suggestions on what to give your geeky loved ones.

As you may or may not know, I am a huge video game fan. I thought that last Christmas was tough to decide on videogames to ask for (or if you're married to a gamer, what to choose for your significant other.) I'm sure that most gamer dads have a huge list of games on their list. But what to choose? What's will be fun for your kids and what makes the most sense for family gaming?

I started thinking a bit, and realized that I am in a perfect position to give some advice on gaming choices. The age range of our six kids run the whole gamut from teenager to toddler and I feel that gives me a very unique perspective on gaming. So as a public service, here is my (hopefully) quick snapshot on some recent games and advice on systems - from a gamer geek dad's point of view.

One of the questions I get a lot is which system should I choose? Having all three systems: the XBOX 360, PS3 and Wii, here is what I see as the pros and cons of each:


Nintendo Wii: Ok, here's how I see it. A few Christmases ago, the Wii was the must-have system. Up until recently, they were almost impossible to find and the motion-sensing wiimote made the system a shining star in the console war.

Two years later. the Wii is shaping up to a bit of a disappointment. Only a few third party manufacturers have figured out how to really utilize the wiimote's powers. Because of the limited resources of the Wii (it's only slightly more powerful than it's predecessor the GameCube) most of the games are simply scaled back versions of the big titles that are handled more elegantly and more beautifully graphic-wise on the other two systems. And other than making and sharing miis or voting on other user-created characters, connectivity with your friends is sorely limited.

Don't get me wrong, there are some fun games on the Wii. But if you're looking for a more social experience and better graphics and sound, you'd be better off choosing one of the other two systems.

FAMILY TAKE: The Wii will make a great system for a family with small kids. But if your kids have friends who have one of the other two systems, soon they will be bugging you to upgrade to a 360 or PS3.

PLAYSTATION 3: One thing I'll say about this system: It's EXPENSIVE. The lowest priced system still hovers around $400 and some recent changes have done away with PS2-backward compatibility, meaning that you won't be able to play your huge collection of PS2 games on your new purchase.

That being said, you are getting a built-in Blu-ray player and a beautiful sound and video presentation on all of the games. (The PS3 has some of the best sound of any system I have played). Another new addition is Playstation HOME, a Second-Lifey type interface that lets you run around and interact with online friends. I recently played a Beta version of HOME and found it to be too deep feature-wise to be enjoyable. Granted most of the features such as movies and ads were disabled during the beta, but even with the other features. HOME still seemed a bit useless.

FAMILY TAKE: The kids will certainly love you for this. A gorgeous game like Little Big Planet is reason enough to invest in a PS3. And yes, it will be an investment. But if you have a good HD setup and a decent home theatre set-up, the PS3 will be a bright spot in your entertainment center.

XBOX 360: The 360 has not been without its problems. Poor early manufacturing caused major failures (read Red Ring of Death) in nearly all of the systems. In the past year, Microsoft has stepped it up and the RROD is almost a thing of the past.

As a social machine, the 360 wins hands down. Adding friends is done simply via web or console, and joining friends in a game is simple. A recent upgrade to the interface has given the 360 a beautiful, colorful look and the Mii-like avatar creation system has also added a bit of fun to the gaming process. The video marketplace is a little bit easier to navigate than the PS3 version and if you're a Netflix member, watching movies instantly from your cue couldn't be easier.

FAMILY TAKE: The 360's multiple packages makes it easy for novice gamers to get in the game. A slimmed down arcade version allows you to jump right in, while the more expensive Elite version gives you a bigger hard drive to play movies and install games. Good value. Good gaming.

Well, there ya go. Hopefully that answered some of your gaming console questions and makes your decision a bit easier. If you dig this post, I can write up some reviews of games if ya'll like.