Gaming 101 for Moms: Which Console To Buy For My Kids

One of the more surprising results from my selling off my old Nintendo DS and Wii would be the deluge of emails I received from moms asking for advice about games consoles for their kids. I have been playing video games for so long that it is as natural as brushing my teeth in the morning, I tend to forget purchasing a piece of gaming console can be a scary experience for those who are not a gamer.

So, below some quick pointers if your kids are asking you one for Christmas:

TYPES OF CONSOLE

  1. Broadly, there are 2 kinds of consoles: home consoles (e.g. XBox, Wii, PS) and handheld (e.g. DS and PSP).
  2. Currently there are 3 major manufacturers. There are other smaller brands but these are the giants:
    • Microsoft with Xbox and Kinect (for XBox 360)
    • Nintendo with Wii and Game Boy (which has morphed into its next-generation Dual-Screen version)
    • Sony with Playstation and PSP
  3. The kind of games available would be different from one console to another. The reason is simple – each console is built using proprietary technology so it is very costly for a games developer to create a game that can be played on all machines (the term used for games that are released for multiple machines is “crossplatform”). That is why most gamers tend to own more than one console – you need the Playstation family for Final Fantasy, XBox for Halo, Wii for Zelda and so on.

WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR YOUR KIDS

Tough question to answer for me because I want them all. But here are some things that you may want to ask yourself in the decision-making process:

  1. Is it a specific gift for the kid; or do you want something that the whole family uses and enjoys?
  2. Why are you buying it? Do you intend to use the console as a reward (kids can play only when they behave or help set the table or get good grades at school); or as punishment (kids can play anytime but privilege is taken away when they misbehave etc)?
  3. How much are you willing to pay? Console prices starts from RM600 onwards. Games DVD starts at RM10 to RM200, downloadable games are at RM5 per pop. Please also remember you may need to buy the extras –  like R4i Memory Card for the DS (RM80), additional memory cards for PS2 to save games (RM120), rechargeable batteries (RM60), wireless controller (RM120 for infrared version, RM300 for wireless version), swords, pistols, guitars, dance pads, drum kit, bla bla bla. Yes, there are many peripherals and it can be a costly hobby to maintain.
  4. What is the interest level? This has impact because once you buy a console, you are limited to the games available for it. So if the kids show a lot of interest in playing games, you may want to choose a console that has a lot of kid-friendly, casual games. If it is just a fad, you may want to choose something more balanced and has good range of adult titles so that you can play it once the kid loses interest.

Here is my take on the various consoles, click on it to enlarge. If it’s tough to read then click Console Comparison for the pdf version:

Games Console Comparison, click on pic to enlarge

For a more complete (and very good) comparison table by game pros, go here: Video Games Consoles Review.

My advice (please note that this is my personal opinion):

  • If it’s a gift for the kids, get a handheld:
    • For boys, get them a PSP.
    • For girls, get a DSLite. DSi and DSiLL are nice but I think the additional features are excessive so why pay more for something the kids don’t need? Most of us already have digital cameras and phones that can connect to the internet anyway.
    • Both PSP and DSLite come in a variety of colours, always a good consideration (I like mine in pink, I am sure kids like theirs in specific colours too).
  • If it’s for all in the family, get a Wii. Great socializing tool and the games are easy enough to get into.
  • If it is a gift to yourself for being the great mom that you are, get a DSLite. Fits in your handbag, great to kill some time during lunch breaks playing Sudoku or Cooking Mama. And everyone loves Super Mario.
  • For the dad, if he travels a lot then get a PSP. If you want him to spend more time at home than going out golfing or teh tarik with his friends, the PS2 is a good choice. PS3 is fantastic too but the games library is kinda limited at this point. PS2 still has the edge for overall completeness in terms of price, graphics and games choices.

Hope this helps. Questions?

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