Father Christmas is getting my eight-year-old daughter and me a game console for Christmas. I’m helping him along by, uh, choosing, ordering and paying for the item. Since I’ve never really used consoles I’m floundering a little. I’m going to the states next week so I thought I’d take advantage of the low dollar, order it online and get it delivered there.

How does this sound for a shopping list, gamers?

  • X-box holiday pack. The bundled games sound boring, but two months of the online gaming stuff might be fun. And people tell me X-box is best, despite the taint of Microsoft.
  • Quidditch for my daughter. She says she wants this. It exists for Xbox, but not at Amazon, so maybe I should find another store.
  • Grand Theft Auto and Fable for me.
  • Will I need a second controller?
  • Wireless adaptor. Since there’s online stuff and I’d need a really long ethernet cable. But no, not for $109.

Am I missing anything? Any suggestions for good games for an eight year old and a thirty-three year old? We both like card games and stories and dancing. She loves Harry Potter and Amber Brown and Kurt and gymnastics and climbing and dancing and pretending and Ludo and Yahtzee and any board game, really, and jigsaw puzzles. I love narratives and interesting ways of interacting and relating to a fictional world or fictional characters and the Sims and Sim City and Myst and Riven, and no, I’ve not played many games in the last few years. I hate it when I get stuck in a game because I can’t figure out what comes next, or because it requires lots of practice and dexterity. I was thinking one of those physical games, maybe, Dance Dance Revolution or something, but goodness it’s hard figuring out exactly what you need to play it (dance mats? online? which version?) online. Suggestions would be much appreciated.
(Psst! Don’t tell my daughter! And no, she doesn’t read my weblog. Yet.)

23 thoughts on “game console advice wanted

  1. Thomas

    What! You are not getting Playstation 2 with Eye-toy? I thought that would be your priority 1! I have heard that X-box dont have that many games for kids. PS2 and GameCube has more of that stuff. Just saw that Dizney is out with a game for EyeToy on the PS2. Both PS2 and GC will be replaced early next year though. And who knows how long X-box will last. I would reccomend buying in Norway, not on Amazon (Can you do that? I thougth they only sold to adresses in the US.) Good luck, can I come and play GTA sometime?

  2. Taurus

    Just to check: you know that if you intend to use any videogame hardware bought in the States in Europe, you’ll need to make sure you use a step-down converter (to convert the power), and you’ll need to make sure your TV supports NTSC playback?

  3. Arnaud

    Beware of games that are made because of a film… they are rarely good. The main reason people want them is because they liked the film and don’t know about the really good games out there.
    My stepdaughter keeps asking for Fimbles-shaped tinned pasta, but once they’re in her plate, she doent like them. So beware… You don’t want to waste your money and your daughter’s time on “film” games…
    Have a look at http://www.gamerankings.com , they list the most critically acclaimed games, sorted by platform. However the reviewers are adults and I don’t really know which games are playable for a 8-year old.
    Beware of the compatibility between US and european games… I suppose that only “PAL” games run in european consoles.

  4. bicyclemark

    All the GTA series games are great, priority to the latest one… whatever its called.. GTA 3 or Vice City or whatever. Garunteed fun and laughter.

  5. Jill

    Oh, I can’t be bothered with the Eye-Toy – we already have a thing that does the same for a mac with an iSight and we can hardly be bothered playing it. As for buying it in Norway or in the States – well, while I haven’t checked Microsoft’s guarantee practices every other mainstream electronic gadget I’ve bought in the last five years has had excellent international guarantee systems, and I’ve tested them on three different continents, usually being on a different continent to where I bought the item. And I’ll actually be in the States, so I’ll have it delivered to me there and schlep it home. You know x-boxes cost 1500 kroner here, which is $239, and it’s only $139 there, which with the lovely low dollar is only 839 kroner? That price difference is my main motivation obviously.

    Taurus, thanks for the hint about the NTSC – I’d forgotten that. I think my TV will play NTSC but I’d better check – if it won’t I’ll have to buy the console here, I guess. Though I remember way back when we bought a VIDEO player that could play NTSC tapes but didn’t have to worry about the television set – isn’t it the player not the television that’s PAL or NTSC?

    The electricity converter I know about.

  6. Jill

    Wow, two more answers while I was writing my own comment.

    Good point about the Quidditch – I’ll try and figure out whether she’ll really play it…

    And I obviously have to check international compatability.

  7. Arnaud

    Only gameboy games will work on european hardware wherever you buy them.
    An american gameboy might not be useable in europe because you need to plug it on the mains from time to time to recharge the battery.
    If you have a solution to that problem, you could even buy a Nintendo DS in the states … it’s not even out in Europe yet.

  8. Jill

    Damn them. Look at the official word from Xbox:

    Can I buy an Xbox in the USA or Japan and use it in Europe?

    Like all video game consoles, Xbox will be available in specific configurations unique to each region (North America, Europe and Japan). Each configuration is designed to work only that region due to numerous issues, such as differing power supplies and television technologies. We do not recommend that gamers purchase an Xbox from another region for the following reasons:

    – Game availability. Xbox will only run games from the region in which the Xbox was purchased. So, a North American Xbox will only run games purchased in North America. Gamers in Europe who purchase an Xbox from another region will only be able to play games purchased from that region for the life of their Xbox. Not only is this inconvenient and expensive, but you will not be able to play many games specific to Europe that may not be available in other regions.

    – Power supply. Each region has differing power configurations. Attempting to operate an Xbox from another region in Europe (without expensive and difficult-to-locate special adapters) is dangerous – it will destroy the Xbox and possibly damage your television, as well as present a serious fire hazard.

    – Video output. Europe’s video output standard is the PAL format, while Japan/North America use the NTSC format. These are not compatible, so if you purchase an Xbox from another region, you will not be able to connect it to your television without special adapters at an additional cost.

    – Product support. Xbox product support in Europe can only provide support for European consoles. If gamers purchase a Japanese or North American Xbox, they will not be under warranty or have access to any support for their console in case of any problems.

    – DVD incompatibility. The European DVD controller will not work with an Xbox from another region, and European (Region 2) DVDs will not play in an Xbox from another region.

    I’m not sure I believe them. “expensive and difficult to find adaptors” – voltage converters are cheap. I don’t want to play DVDs, I already have a zone-free player. It’s nonsense that they’ve made them incompatible due to numerous technical issues. They’re just scared of a free market, they want to limit us as much as they possibly can.

    So I’d have to get an NTSC->PAL adaptor and I wouldn’t be able to play games from Europe. I hate zones! That’s ridiculous that I can’t buy games when I travel! What sort of bonehead came up with that idea?

    Maybe Father Christmas will buy us something else.

  9. Timo

    I think you underestimate the eyetoy, when it’s under your tv and constantly available it’s an amazing thing, much better than the iSight software. Get a little new little PS2 (are you flying through London? it’s only ¬£90 in tax free).

    The PS2 has a much greater number of games, much more suited to children than the xbox. Just look at Katamari Damacy, eyetoy, rez and ICO for examples of the kind of innovation that only seems to happen on the PS2.

  10. Jill

    Hm, I played with the eyetoy thing at a conference and didn’t really think it was that much fun. I *do* want to play rez…

    Oh dear, so a Playstation, huh? Even though the hardware for the xbox is far superior? Any more opinions? I dunno whether to get an xbox, a playstation or nothing…

  11. Timo

    One of the deciding factors for me was noise: I don’t want a PC fan whirring away in my living room. The new PS2 is fanless.

  12. Fiona

    I’m with Timo on the eyetoy, especially if you have a large screen TV and room for movement. I brought the eyetoy out for my hen weekend, and a diverse bunch of 20- and 30- something women wouldn’t put it away. You can also get SingStar.

    Katamari Damacy is the best piece of simple, playable nonsense I’ve ever found.

  13. Taurus

    Just a further note on regional differences; most modern PAL TVs are capable of NTSC playback, so you shouldn’t really need to worry about that. As you discovered though, the real issue is the availability of games. If you buy a US console (Xbox/PS2/GameCube), you’ll need to buy compatible software. One solution is to buy online (mail me if you want a couple of urls); the other is to pay someone to modify your console to make it region-free – although this might be difficult because console manufacturers have won a series of legal victories over people who modify consoles recently. Rubbish, isn’t it?

  14. R.B. Boyer

    Maybe you could have someone make an ethernet cable for you. I recently had to get a 35-foot cable made. I bought the cable itself for 14 cents per foot from a hardware store, and then had a friend in the I.T. building crimp the ends for free. Works like magic, for about five dollars.

  15. H?•kon Styri

    Regarding wireless adapters, you can try a wlan bridge adapter. You’ll end up with an ethernet cable from the adapter to the console, but no need for a long cable running through your house.

    (I haven’t tried, I’ve still got plenty of 100ft cables from my multimedia workshop days.)

  16. Scott

    Well, yeah, you’re gonna need a second controller. I should think.

  17. Jesper

    “So I‚Äôd have to get an NTSC->PAL adaptor and I wouldn‚Äôt be able to play games from Europe.”

    No, you basically _can’t_ play European games on a US XBox. I think you want a European Xbox – having a US Xbox is only for the real game geeks who have a European one already.

    Eyetoy rules!

  18. Jill

    OK – so I won’t get an Xbox in the States. But what about the Playstation vs. Xbox thing? Playstations are more expensive. Ugh.

    Maybe I can get one at the airport in Amsterdam. That’d be European and at least duty free.

  19. MPH

    If you get a PlayStation 2 (totally recommended, I love mine) check out ‘Kingdom Hearts’ – its a combination of Disney and Final Fantasy characters, travelling through all the worlds in the Disney films solving a mystery. I’m told it’s an 8-10 year old’s game but I’m 30 and I spent 3 weeks playing it : )
    PS get SingStar too… superb!

  20. Deb

    My eight year old son says Game Cube has better games for kids (more “E” vs. “T” and “M” rated ones. The ones we play together include Mario Golf and Mario Tennis, Kirby, Shrek, other “movie” games like Spiderman, Godzilla, and Harry Potter. There are of course “girl” oriented games, but who knows what they think “girls” do (though the demo of the dreaded “Barbie’s horse Adventure” was sort of fun). We have four controllers and he and his friends frequently play together. A lot of the games do cross platforms but not all. Merry shopping.

  21. Yashima

    I wish we had bought a gamecube back then. We have a ps2 and all the cute and fun games are for gamecube. Friends of ours have gamecubes and I like the gamecube much more. There are a lot of 4 person games and the most fun of console games is that you can play with others. PS2 only has two person games (well mostly). I like the colorful gamecube stuff best. We never really considered getting more microsoft produce into the house I admit though my boy-friend sometimes whines he wants all three consoles.

    So I can only recommend to follow on the advice of the last comment before mine: four controllers 🙂

    All that is only my unqualified opinion of course.

  22. Liz Lawley

    We’ve got a Gamecube, and have no regrets. They boys love it. There are definitely more kid-friendly games for it, including my personal favorite, Animal Crossing.

  23. Liz Lawley

    Oh, and as to the American Gameboy in Europe question, I can say with some authority that it’s not a problem. We couldn’t get Alex’s US gamebow power adapter to work properly in Greece (even with voltage converters), but were able to purchase a European power adapter at an Athens shop for ‚Ǩ5 and have it work perfectly. He stayed fully charged for the rest of the trip. (A godsend on the airplane.)

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