Housing Resources Guide
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Published April 2010

Family game night going digital

By Stephen Wiblemo

Family game night has been a tradition in homes for decades, and while the premise has always been the same – to bring families together for some fun and bonding – the games and technology have continued to evolve with the times.

With the increasing costs of outside entertainment such as movie theatres, concerts and sporting events, staying home for an evening of family fun has become an increasingly popular option these days.

In our digital times, though, the old games of charades, checkers and board games such as Monopoly have started to fade, making way for the new era of video home gaming.

Video games have become the new format for home gaming, and they aren’t just for one or two players anymore. Many games now have the option to have four or more players in one game, getting even more people involved than before.

They are also as easy to set up and operate as a DVD player. You just plug the power cable into the outlet, and the component video and audio cables into the back of the TV, and you are ready to go. There is absolutely no need to rewire your home or anything.

When it comes to playing these games it is just as easy. There may be a short learning curve, but some retirement homes have even started purchasing video game systems for their residents, proving even the most technologically illiterate can learn and enjoy playing.

The costs of these video game systems are also very reasonable. For about the same price it would be for a family of four to go to a Twins game and consume the standard hot dog and soda, that family could have purchased a Nintendo Wii, which is listed at $199.99 at bestbuy.com, and get years of enjoyment from it.

While the reasons to purchase a video game system are clear, some things may not be, like deciding which system to buy.

The three top platforms on the market today are the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox360, and Sony Playstation 3. Each of these systems has advantages and disadvantages over the other, so it is up to the consumer to decide which one is right for them.

Starting with the cost, the Wii is, by far, the most affordable unit at $199.99. While there is a stripped-down version of the Xbox360 available at the same price, most gamers are going to choose the $299.99 version that comes with an external hard drive. The PS3 also comes in at $299.99 for its most humble unit.

There is a reason for the difference in price, however. Both the Xbox360 and PS3 have HDMI outputs to support 1080p resolution on high-definition screens, something the Wii does not have. The Wii is also inferior when it comes to online gaming.

Considering the complete package, the PS3 has more bells and whistles than either of the platforms, including built-in Wi-Fi and a Blu-ray Disc player. If you were considering purchasing a Blu-ray Disc player and game system anyway, this is easily the best deal on the market.

There is another important factor to consider, though, and that is the games associated with each system.

Each platform has a plethora of games to choose from, and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has given each of these one of the following ratings based on the content of the game: Early Childhood (EC), Everyone (E), Everyone 10+ (E10+), Teen 13+ (T), Mature 17+ (M) and Adults Only 18+ (AO).

According to the ESRB’s web site, out of the Wii’s 1,475 game titles, 1,212 are rated “E10+” or lower, 224 are rated “T,” and just 39 are rated “M” or higher.

The Xbox 360 has 997 titles, 511 rated “E10+ or lower, 291 rated “T,” and 195 rated “M” or higher.

Finally, the PS3 has 789 titles, 398 rated “E10+” or lower, 241 rated “T,” and 150 rated “M” or higher.

While everyone should judge for themselves whether a game is appropriate for their family or not, these ratings do give a good glimpse at the markets each system is aiming for.

Judging by the game selections, with over 700 more games to choose from than the other two systems rated E10+ or lower, the Wii is clearly the system more suitable to families looking for some wholesome fun. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of good family games for the Xbox360 or PS3, but the Wii simply has more of them to choose from.

In the end, choosing a gaming platform should be a family decision that takes into account every variable including price, game selection, and what is desired from the system (do we want a Blu-ray Disc player or not?). Whatever you decide, just remember the main ingredient that makes family game night fun is the family. Now get playing!

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