Monday, August 30, 2010

The Best portable gaming units

I've been a gamer for a long time, a very long time. I have owned virtually every and any portable gaming unit at some point. Over the years as technology has improved and the mass acceptance of portable gaming has taken hold products have gotten smaller, graphics better and software delivery more diverse. Several years ago I was part of an effort that was researching hand-held gaming units. At that time we believed that the mobile phone would be the platform of the future of gaming. Well that day has more than arrived!

Trade in or sell that PSP, DS or any single purpose devise because the iPhone, the Droid and probably soon a windows phone is the real choice for hand held gaming. But if you are not keen on getting your child a phone than the iTouch is a great decision too.

Here's why i believe these devises are the new gaming platform.

First there is no Software to break or LOSE!!! 

I can't tell you how many games our kids have dropped, lost, left behind or made vanish into thin air.  With an all digital delivery system games can be loaded again and again if you change devices, lose the device, etc.  Also with platforms like iTouch and iPhone there are so many fun little free or nearly free games the kids have a huge assortment of fun and some educational content to keep them entertained when needed.  And now with such a huge install base of units all the major game Software publishers are releasing versions for phones in a much bigger way.

Controlling what goes on these units is easy too. I set up the user account and password and so when the kids ask to download a new game I am the one that has to enter the info. So only Dad said it's OK games make there way to the units.

Other great features are size, controls  and graphics - small enough for little hands, simple enough to use. and the graphics are solid and sharp - and with new units coming will improve.  And of course as the phones go through upgrade cycles the games can be transferred to the new phone as long as you maintain the same platform. Invest in a solid case and a wrist strap!

There are even more great features like the camera, the GPS locator (and tracker if you want that).  Internet access (with parental control) or not if you choose not to get the data package from ATT no internet access and you can still do all the downloading of content with a wifi connection.

With an iphone 3G or 3GS (if you can live with ATT) at $100 or less (refurbs too!) as an added line it's quite affordable as an added $10 line to the family plan. And for sure cheaper than a PSP or DS at $200 and when have you EVER seen a PSP or PS game for free, or even under $10!!! Or if you are the sort that wants the latest for you and your family the DROIDx or 4G iphone- would be the "bomb"

So before you buy your child a phone or before you buy them a hand held gaming unit, I suggest you consider the iPhone, iTouch or DROID as a great solution

Hope you find this useful.

Dad said it's OK to play game on the iPhone

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Which Video Game Console is best?

This is a question I get a lot from parents. My first question back is how old are your kids? Then I dig a bit more to find out more about what sort of games and levels they would allow their kids to play. As one of the senior members who brought Xbox to market for Microsoft I am of course a bit partial to it. But, I also spent a lot of time studying games, the marketing, the targets, etc of all the platforms.

So my advice is this - For young children or very casual players  - if they are going to play video games i would go for a Wii.  Games are geared towards easy access and control, simple to play, simple to understand, fun without being too frustrating and reading skills can be minimal. The controller is really not the key any longer with both Xbox and Playstation offering similar input devices and Xbox will take motion capture up a huge notch this November with Kinetic. We'll have to see how usable this product really is. But the idea is really exciting and if it catches on we can be sure that improvements and competition will follow.

For older kids to adults it really is a toss up between Xbox and Playstation - both have their set of unique games that can be the determining factor or your interest in online multi player gaming - It can be a model of get what your friends have if the focus is online multi player gaming. That said, LIVE on Xbox has been part of the dna of Microsoft's platform from day one and they have done a great job of building the environment and if online gaming is a leading factor in selection than the Xbox platform is probably the way to go.

On the DVD playback side - the nod goes to Playstation with its support of blue ray - but you have to be hooked up to a newer screen that can support these graphics otherwise you won't experience the graphic enhancements over regular DVD. If you are thinking of buying a Blue DVD player a PS3 is a great choice as it's a solid player and you essentially get the Hard drive, Gaming and Internet access functions thrown in for a few bucks.

Both Xbox360 and Playstation3 have fantastic graphics - HDMI connection to a HD TV is a must - think twice if you don't intend to hook these babies up to a newer screen as you won't get the value out of the price or the effort of the game developer. 

There are some unique PC/network connectivity features of Xbox that make it a great choice for the tech savvy purchaser - but I won't get into that here - better saved for another post.

Lifecyle may be something to think about - each manufacturer plans the lifecyle of each box a little differently and they have been getting longer with each new generation  - on average each platform generation lasts about 6-8 years - with the older platform phased out over 1-2 years after a new release. New game support really depends upon the game and the platform - for now PS2 has the best long tail support of new games as many game publishers still release PS2 games - this due in part to the huge amount of PS2 households out there - I would bet next time around the Xbox360 will see a very good long term game development support.

I could and may in the future take deeper dives into each platform - but I hope this overview give you a basis to make an informed decision for your own gaming console decision

So to recap -
young kids & casual players - Wii
Online fans - Xbox360 and LIVE
Blue Ray DVD/Movie goer - Playstation PS3 

Feedback and questions welcome -

It's OK to play - Dad said so

Friday, August 27, 2010

Video game time

Spending nearly a decade in the Video Games business sort of makes me an expert on the topic. As a dad I have a view that may not be shared by those still in the industry when it comes to amount of time allowed or the effects of gaming on children. Personally I love gaming, have spent many a sleepless night as the master chief or QB, etc. but when it comes to my kids I am pretty protective.

In our house we have all the machines, more games then we know about... but you would never know it by the amount of actual game time.

Game time, like TV time in our house is a privilege, you must EARN IT.  Reading time = Game time. But there is also other requirements like outdoor time.  It's something that works for our family and our kids. There are upper limits as well, no gaming on a school night, no T or M games in the evening and no T or M for those under 10. And M games are highly restricted. No online play without approval, etc.

We certainly see the impact of action and fighting games on them, not so much long term but they are much more animated and aggressive after a round of any fighting game or car crash.  Flushed cheeks, jumpy and a little stressed too.  All fine in short amounts but there has to be a limit.

Because we have these rules and we don't really shy away from the rules, the kids do not rely upon video gaming for entertainment. They play ball, ride; bikes, scooters, boards, build Lego's and a ton of other stuff before they even think about playing a game.

We do have a regular family video game night which we all enjoy.

Like so much about parenting it needs to be monitored and done in limited quantity.

It's OK to play... Dad said

Why I'm here and why you should care

I am a dad of three boys ages 5, 7 and 11. yes you read that right, three boys. All very unique all very much the product of their parents, friends, teachers, coaches and environment. We are a close family and the boys get along quite well - well for boys that is.

Personally I am a former consumer electronics industry senior guy, former Video game executive turned web
entrepreneur now trying to combine my experiences and passion for sports, exercise, technology and the love of my boys into something useful for myself and hopefully for others as well.

My goal is for this blog to be a journal and knowledge base of sorts for myself and anyone who cares to read it.  I'll try and focus on what I know and learn what I don't and share both.

thanks for reading,

Dad said it's OK