Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Friday, January 24, 2014

Newbie Gamer Guide

So my mom wants my little cousins visit more and decided to buy a new console for them so they something to do when they come over. I suppose they could use mine but I'm a stingy old rat who doesn't want them to have access to my accounts or have to start dealing with parental controls.

For whatever reason I'm the tech/gamer guy in my house even though it's been a while since I've really gamed seriously. That being said the last time my mom bought a surprise console was my original Xbox a decade ago.

In the discussion I just realized how much things changed and thought it might be a good idea to write some of it down for her. And then I realized it might make a good post so here it is. Keep in mind this isn't for the hardcore gamers who want to really compare specs and features, but mostly for people like my mom who want to buy a nice gift for the kids or maybe want to stick a toe in.

On Generations and Next Gen
My view was that my mother had chosen the worst possible time for this, because this is one of those weird periods in gaming where you have to decide to go with current or next gen.

Alright  for as long as I can remember video game systems have been decide to last about 5 years. In terms of physical lifespan, but more so in technological lifespan. After about 5 year mark the game developers start to hit a wall where they're being held back because there is better hardware technology on the market that the system can't use.  So companies tend to make new consoles every 5 years or so to solve this problem  The Xbox One, Play Station 4, and Wii U are the latest in the eighth generation.

That being said it generally takes a while for new games to be released for the next generation and initially prices for those brand spanking new consoles are pretty high.

You have to remember my mom was buying these for 11-year-olds and right now there just aren't a lot of good games on the Xbox One and PS4 that are "for kids" most of their launch lineups have been designed for guys my age.

In the end she decided to go with an Xbox 360 of the last generation.

Note: I've only played Xbox 360 so the idea of a PS3 didn't occur to me until like 3 seconds ago. Subjectively I would still go with Xbox 360, which feels like it has more games, though you wouldn't have to pay for online service with a PS3. 

If you are deadset on getting the latest though I would reluctantly recommend the Wii U. It's been getting a slogging in the press lately and it's rumored Nintendo is making another console but it does have some good games for kids featuring the Nintendo staples and since it came out about a year ago it has more games in general.  That said if you are going with it I highly recommend buying a pro controller I could never see myself getting used to the Wimote.

Mobile Console Gaming
Yeah it's been a while since I had the cash to dump on a Gameboy, but I've heard good things about the 3DS. It has a lot of games and is probably the best mobile console heck console in general if your looking for variety of gameplay options short of the good ole PC. Not unlike the Wii U it's been out for a while, a long while in fact so it's got something for everybody at this point, with the exception of first person shooters. Other than that, RPGs got them. Puzzle games? Got them. Strategy games. Got them. Platformers? Got them.

You might also consider the Playstation Vita, but I know next to nothing about the Playstation Vita so let's move on.

For The Kids
The industry as a whole has grown up with the guys who were loyal to the medium.  They're making fewer and fewer games targeted at kids. That being said there are still good games out there kids can play. Most people will tell you to just look at the rating. I am not. Getting GOOD games for kids means going in with a certain mindset.

Here's how I put it. You don't want a kid game, but a good game kids can play. What I mean by that is that the priority should getting something fun but safe. And I know people are looking at me crazy right now. Especially the hardcore crowd. Simmer down and let me explain.

Eventually mom settled on Lego Star Wars 2, a game that was in my list of games I personally wanted to play because it's good. It's fun; It's funny. But it's also something that's safe for kids to play.

Though I suppose even it is a little dated.  Well they were also nuts for Minecraft but do I really need to explain how good it is. It's the internet sensation across multiple nations.

Okay back to my point. You want to do some research. Don't just buy something because it has colorful box, or you get Borderlands. Good game by the way, just not for kids.

Here is a Quick list of Recommendations For Kids (Again for the Xbox:360)

Sonic: Generations
Super Meatboy
Castle Crashers
Rayman: Origins
Lego Marvel Super Heroes

Hard Drives and Downloads
Most all of that stuff was relatively easy to explain but Xbox Live, gift cards, and hard drive size were a bit harder.

Okay.  In the before time in the long long ago games only had enough memory to run.  If you lost the game you had to go aaaaallll the way to the beginning. Some genius thought this sucked and then programmed pass codes into the start of each level. But this let the unscrupulous gamer, those ne'er-do-wells cheat rather than, "save" so eventually we got memory in cartridges and eventually "cards".

Okay I'm not going go into the history of game memory. But I thought it would be a good idea if instead of buying a bunch of games mom just bought a gift card or two and let the kids download what they wanted of of Xbox Live Arcade, a service that allows people to buy and download games from home.  I can't really because I have an older Xbox whose 10 gigs are up. So I recommended she spring for the model with the 250 gigabyte hard drive rather than the 4 gig.

That said if you're going go that route you're also probably going to want Xbox live. It allows online multiplayer and the use of apps like Netflix. I don't trust those kids not to buy stuff and mom was lukewarm on the idea of giving her credit card to Big Willie Gates, so I recommended she buy an Xbox Live game code  and gift cards instead.

She took most of my advice except one thing. She didn't buy all of this stuff online.

Don't Get What's In The Store
Microsoft just released a new version of Xbox 360 that looks more like the Xbox One, but it costs more than older models, and comes bundled with games she didn't want the kids playing, Halo 4 and Tomb Raider. Now I'm okay with that because I get those games, but it was kind of a waste especially since Tomb Raider was a download code and I had to jump through some hoops to get it on my system (I needed to buy a format a flash drive).

On the one hand if you were just a gamer I suppose it might be a deal. Two 60 buck games plus the console at $300 sounds about right but I checked and Amazon still has the lower price by a pretty wide margin. The primary reason to walk into a game store is the secondary market. Used games and such. If you are buying new I highly recommend using a trusted online merchant, and that goes for both hardware and software.

However, if you do go into a game store ask the clerk to tell you exactly what you are getting. Did the game have any special codes you needed to play or access a level? Yes that is an issue now days.

Also walk into the store knowing exactly what you want. It's kind of like McDonald's except instead of a $2 drink they'll try to upsell you a $60 warranty, which is almost never worth it.

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