The Buyer’s Guide to Buying Video Games for Children

Remember when we were kids how we would play cops and robbers with those little cap guns that would make satisfying little pops when you pulled the trigger? Remember how bad it stunk when you’re buddy Timmy said you didn’t get him, although he was point blank (“you didn’t get me, I have on armor”). Well, the days of playing cops and robbers may now be few and far between for us, with the advent of Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and laser tag (Ha, take that Timmy, try and wear armor now.). Of course, I’m sure now Timmy uses cheat codes so he can’t be hit, but that is besides the point.

Video Games are no longer a guilty pleasure you have after three beers and the ghosts from Pac man were giving you the evil eye (Yes, three beers gets me drunk). Video Games have become the pass time of today’s youth, and will ultimately be the pass time of tommorow’s work force too. Video games are here to stay, and they are here to stay in many different forms.

So now, I know what you’re thinking, you don’t want your child to sit around all day on his or her butt playing Playstation 2, Xbox or Game Cube. Right. His time would be much better served sitting on his butt watching Reality TV star boxing. I’ll admit video games can be quite a violent medium, and you don’t want to expose your children to the likes of hookers, and 12 gauge shot guns at a young age, I understand. The thing is though, not all video games are about smackin hos and pimpin, uh, more hos.

Now, before I tell you what to get and how to get it, there are some ground rules you should know about buying video games for your children. These rules, laid out in an easy to read, simple fashion, will clear the much touted video game sterotypes that have hampered the region.

Rules:

1) Video Games are not toys. Never refer to them as toys, or buy them from a toy store. If you refer to a video game as a toy, you will ultimately be disenfranchising the dozens of people who work hard hours to turn out a quality gaming product. if you buy video games from a toy store, you will end up not getting the most for your money, due to special stores, like EB Games and GameStop having deals on a lot of bargin games that while older, are perfect for you’re younger son or daughter. (Example: Spider-man 2 is still Fifty dollars at KB Toys and 19.99 used at EBGames)

2) If a video game console is turned on and your child is not around -do not- shut off the console. Odds are he left it that way for a reason, and needs to return to it in a timely mannor. Shutting off the console could erase hours of his hard work. When it doubt, don’t touch.

3) Show a vested interest in his play, don’t look at the screen in passing and then turn in disgust when he turns a bad guy into Rings/Coins/dust/goo without understanding the motive.

4) When and if your son or daughter does something wrong in school/home/ with friends don’t automaticly blame the video games, media doesn’t directly influence people. Frank Zappa once said that it’s obvious that media doesn’t directly influence people because there are more love songs than anything else, and not everyone is in love. So if you child gets into a fight or whatnot, don’t automaticly assume that Fight Night Round 3 led him to that end. And if it is found that he was imitating something he did in a video game, don’t immediately ban him from all interactive fiction that has ever existed. heres a concept: Talk with him. Explain to him the difference. You, as a parent, should be the best gauge of your child’s maturity/grasp of reality. At the same time, don’t be quick to blame his passion for any of his problems. Again, talk to your child.

5) Don’t use video games as a carrot/stick type arrangement. If you use video games as a tool for chores or other things he has to do, will only create a dependency on them as a reward, or as an adiction, versus as a fun way to pass time. Don’t get me wrong, don’t give your kids carte blanche but when using video games as a reward, explain that it is an analogy for real life, and that with hard work does come many rewards, but that isn’t why you should work hard.

6) If your child wants a specific Game/Console/Controller for his system, ask him and write it down word for word. It’s okay if you don’t understand it. Video games are generally non-returnable after being opened, and the last thing you want to do is buy him the wrong game that he or she can’t play and be out fifty dollars. Hint: games generally have the logo on top of their cases, Xbox cases are green, playstation cases say Playstation 2 on it, and Game Cube cases look different from those two, and say game cube on them.

So now you know what to do/not do, now you need to know what to get. Well, there are three (four counting xbox 360) main gaming systems out right now, and trust me, it can get confusing. If you were standing in line a few months ago looking for an “Xcubestation3” then allow me to breakdown the systems, explain the positives and negatives, and allow you ultimately decide which is best for you and your family.

XBOX360
Price: $299 – $399

The newest and most powerful gaming system, the XBOX 360 costs about as much as an insurence payment, and should only really be purchased if there is an older tennager/parent who is really into the gaming expierence.

Pros: Cutting Edge Graphics, great for all ages.

Cons: Expensive, not a lot of little kid friendly games, games cost an upwards of 60 dollars.

Must Haves: Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion,

The Kids will say: I want more games, Oohh it’s pretty.

Xbox
Price – 99.99 – 149.99

The Xbox, of all the current systems (Gamecube, Xbox, Playstation 2), has the best graphics, if you’re kids are into that thing. However, the thing weights a ton. Seriously, I’m not kidding. If you ever needed to weigh down the back of your truck during a snow storm throw a Xbox in the back there. Also, if you’re buying used, one or two of the older models had a habit of catching on fire. Just one or two though. Howevever, the system does have a pretty good selection of games (not as many as Playstation two however).

Pros: Best graphics of the three not 400+ plus systems, quality games availible cheap, system comes with a built in hard drive so buying an expensive memory card is not required.

Cons: The controller is quite big if you don’t purchase the S style contoller, which is made for little hands. Also, the system is quite heavy and big, and might not fit in very well in the DVD player and TV.

Must Haves: Sonic Mega Collecton, Halo 1 & 2 (for the mature ones)

Kids will say: “This controller is too big” (if you don’t buy the “S” style controller.)

GameCube
Price: 49.99 – 99.99

The Gamecube is the least expensive/ kid friendly of the machines, with a contoller that is easy to use and games that are fun and easy to play, games range from the classics of “The Legend of Zela: The Wind Waker” and “Mario Sunshine” to games such are “Wario Ware Inc” which is essentially just a quick twitch game for the kid with ADD in all of us. for the current price of 49.99 (used) this system is your best bet for small children ranged from 4-12 who enjoy gaming but aren’t terribly deep into it.

Pros: Cheap, large selection of cheap games, easy to use, many games parents can get into easily

Cons: Not a lot of new games coming out for the system, so their won’t be a new Mario, or Zelda game availible for some time for example. While a small system, it has a handle on the back of the cube structure, making the system combersum at least, portable at best.

Must Haves: Super Mario Sunshine, Sonic Heroes, Sonic Adventure II battle.

The Kids will say: “I want that one” (Reffering to the multiple colors the system comes in)

Playstation 2
Price: 99.99 – 149.99 (slim line)
Price: 49.99 – 100.00 (regular)

The playstation 2, in my opinion, is the best gaming system for the family, and here’s why: It plays Dvds, has plenty of family friendly attachments (DDR Pad, Eye Toy). It’s also the only system, in my opionion, that fits in well with the Stero, The VHS player and the other electronic devices housed around your main TV. The controller is easy to use, and the games range from 2.99 (Older sports titles) to 49.99 (Newer sports titles) and everything inbetween. The controller is more than likely the easiest to use for all ages, and when playing DVD’s it’s very easy to use as a remote.

Pros: Fits in nicely with other electronic devices, easy to use and operate, fun for the whole family with various add ons such at the Eye Toy and Dance Dance Revolution Pad.

Must Haves: Eye Toy Add on, Dance Dance Revolution.

Cons: Gets dusty easily, keeping the system in it’s vertical position can damage games.

Kids will say: “It looks cool”

So with those five rules and four systems in tow in the back of your mind, please induldge me in helping you locate some of the perfect games for your little ankle biter (Note: Ankle Biter IX is not a good game, don’t buy it). Listed are some games, the pros the cons, and what gamers of various ages would say about said game.

Animal Crossing
System(s): GameCube

In a completely non-violent affair (sans a bee sting or two) Animal Crossing truly is a game for all ages, as both teens and kids alike love this game. By creating a caring community, the goal of this game is to become friends and be a good upstanding citizen and to upgrade your house and attain independent wealth. Maybe a tad boring for some of our more hyper active children, I’ve found that girls and boys alike tend to love the decorating aspects of this game. (Note: This game contains several older NES games for added replayability, allowing for hours upon end of twitch action.

Ages 4-8 say: They look funny.
Ages 8-12 say: This is boring
Ages 12+ say : This is fun!
Parent’s say: I don’t get it.

Price: around 10 dollars if you look around.

Spider-Man 2
System(s): GameCube, Xbox ,Playstation 2

Spider-man 2 is an easy, fun, thrilling game that even manages to throw in a moral or two in there, by hammering home the concept of “With great power comes great responsibility”. Also, the game is pretty darn challenging and will entice kids to strive to become better at the game, and perhaps better at everything they do. Also, it’s a great game if your child has a big brother gamer as well, who may be able to help him out with some of the harder parts.

Ages 4-8 say: this is hard (but they’ll love watching someone play it)
Ages 8-12 say: This is great!
Ages 12+ say: This is great!
Parents Say: This is pretty fun to watch

Price: 19.99

Mario Sunshine.
System(s): GameCube

Mario is a character as timeless as Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, how a fat little plummer became the flagship for video gaming for the past twenty years I will never know, but one thing I do know, is that Mario Sunshine is a darn fun game. A bright and colorful game, this is the perfect game to play with your son or daughter on a friday night while relaxing with the family, allow him to tell you all the details and the ins and outs of mario’s world, and I’m willing to be you’ll become interested.

Ages 4-8 say: This is hard (but fun to try out)
Ages 8-12 say: This is funny and fun
Ages 12+ say: This is fun
Parents say: This is cute.

Price: 7.99 (used) in most EBgames stores.

MLB 2005

If your child is into sports, odds are at the age of 12 he’s more into the game then the players, as a result, save yourself 45.99 and purchase a baseball/football/hockey/volleyball game that’s two-three years older than the current year, the entirety of the game is still there, just not the most up to date roster. MLB 2005 includes a dynasty mode which teaches children how to deal with things like buisness management and problem solving (Example: Pedro Martinez wants to make more money next year and you can’t afford him. Do you A) trade him B) Release other players C) offer him a big deal you can’t afford ).

Ages 4-8 say: I don’t get it
Ages 8-12 say: I like this
Ages 12+ say: I really like this
Parent’s say : This looks amazing.

Price 2.99-49.99 depending on year (I’d go for two years before the current year)

So now, again depending on the maturity level of your child, you should be able to make some logical conclusions to what your child can handle and can not. If your child wants “Super Death Kill X” and you think he or she can handle it, get it for him or her. And if not, don’t say “No you’re too young” and let that be that. If you do, he will become more enticed to play it over a friends, and resent the lack of explaination.

I’m not claiming to be a family shrink or a child pyscologist, just a person who has seen what happens when people treat video games like a stigma, and what it leads too. Video games are here to stay, and well, So are the people playing them.

Oh, one more tip, when the time comes when your child gets stuck on a level, the website www.gamefaqs.com will be your savior.

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