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Stephen Duetzmann

 

By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

The release of the PS4 and the XBOX One are fast approaching. Is it worth the cost of upgrading now? Or is it ok to wait?

I spent some time last week talking about the differences between the Xbox One and the PS4. A lot of readers shared their opinions, but several of them asked me whether the upgrade was worth it.

As a result, I thought I would take the time today to say, “Maybe.”

Look. Video game consoles are luxury entertainment devices. They are not (no matter how much we might try to say they are) necessary for our basic survival. As a result, I find it really difficult to stand here and define upgrading as a “necessity” for everyone. Instead, the decision to upgrade is going to be a unique decision for everyone who has to make it.

Some people “need” to get the next new toy right away. Those people don’t need a reason. They probably won’t even think much about it and that’s ok.

But, there are a number of legitimate reasons for waiting.

First, we can’t ignore the cost. These machines represent a fair amount of value. They will likely be a large part of our entertainment for multiple years. BUT, there is still a significant up front investment. No one would be skipping monthly bills to buy one of these things (I know some people will… but they really shouldn’t.)

Second, the previous generation of consoles is still alive and kicking. Many of the biggest titles of this holiday season will be launching across next and current generation hardware. This means that holding off on upgrading doesn’t really prevent you from experiencing much right away. Some of the bigger console exclusives will come out in 2014 so holding off will be less attractive than.

I can’t tell anyone what to do, but I can say that my family and I are going to wait. There just aren’t enough games that are exclusive to the next generation consoles to justify the price right now. We’ve got our eyes on Skylander’s Swap Force and Lego Marvel Super Heroes, but both of those games are going to be able on the systems we already have.

What are you planning on doing?

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor and chief

Funcom released a trailer for a new MMO based about LEGO properties called “LEGO Minifigures Online.”

We are short on real details, but the trailer they posted on YouTube today shows off a very ambitious product. There are a TON of different LEGO worlds included here. The timing for this can’t be much better considering there is a LEGO Movie coming out next year.

Take a look at the trailer and sound off in the comments. What do you think?

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief

Grand Theft Auto has found itself in the news again. This time it is being implicated as having helped drive an 8 yr old to murder his grandmother. No one has made a claim that the game or the developers are legally responsible (yet). BUT, the police stated that the child was playing Grand Theft Auto and then stated (falsely) that you earn points for killing people. They might not have mentioned the name of the video game at all if he were playing Mario Kart.

This has led to a number of knee jerk reactions about the video game industry and violence in media and its impact on children. It has also led to a number of people debating the nature of a video game franchise based on erroneous information. In the interest of fairness, I feel that I need to take a minute to clear the air and dispel some of the myths about this game and what it is “about.”

You might be saying to yourself, “Why is the editor of a family gaming website defending a game like GTA?” The answer is that this site isn’t here to spread, or support the spreading, of falsehoods. I think that parents need the truth about the games on the market so they can make informed decisions. That will occasionally result in me coming to an M-Rated games defense for the sake of accuracy. Believe me when I say that I am not endorsing this game for young children to play.

 Myth #1 – You earn points for killing people.

It is true that you play as criminals in these games and are given the freedom to kill other characters in the game. But, the image that there is a score being calculated on top of the screen that counts like you are playing Galaga every time you kill someone is false. In fact, there are no points in the game at all.

The reality is that the game does not encourage indiscriminate killing at all. There is a narrative that involves a criminal participating in a number of violent crimes. That is all true. But, the image of earning “points” specifically for killing little old ladies is just untrue

Myth #2 – It is different from movies about organized crime because it doesn’t have a story.

False.

Each of the games in the series feature a narrative that follows the trails blazed by movies about organized crime like The Godfather, and Goodfellas.

Grand Theft Auto IV is the story of an Eastern European immigrant who comes to Liberty City (NYC) in an attempt to escape his violent past and finds himself thrust into the path of violence again. GTA IV explores a part of the human experience many of us would never see.

The interactive nature of video games makes the story a little difficult to follow, but it is there.

Myth # 3 – It’s just a game.

Look. I may disagree with the idea that exposure to violent media will make children more violent, but I don’t believe that all kids should be playing everything. This game highlights mature themes and story elements that would have no value to a young child.

Even if we ignore the violence there is always the problem of foul language. I know that my kids repeat everything they hear, this is not a game I want them listening to. (The looks I would get at church would be horrendous!)

We can’t just let “it’s just a game” be an excuse to be lax in our parenting. We need to be active participants in their lives. We do it with sports, homework, and school functions. Why would we ignore the games they play?

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in chief

Question: We are going to be inundated with marketing for the PS4 and Xbox One over the next few months. Can you explain the differences between these two systems?

The birth of a new generation of consoles is thrilling for gamers like me, but it can be frustrating for parents who are not as connected to the industry. I’ve actually gotten a fair number of questions like this one. Below is a list of some of the important areas to consider when making your decision.  

1. The hardware specs don’t really matter. 

I could spend time copy and posting the specs from each of the two websites, but it just isn’t worth the space on the screen. The two systems are similar enough that the hardware specs don’t matter. They are both very powerful machines that will pump out some amazing graphics. Certain games might be better in some small ways, but these differences are difficult to perceive for the average user.

2. Both of these consoles will have an impressive lineup of games on launch day.

The good news is that there will be great games available for purchase whether you buy the Xbox One or the PS4. Many games, like Skylanders: Swap Force and Lego Marvel Super Heroes, will be available on both of these systems as well as the PS3, Xbox 360, and WiiU.

3. Microsoft and Sony both have exclusive properties.  

The vast majority of games that are released will come out for both platforms. However, each company has a stable of exclusives that might make the difference.

Sony has a big of an advantage when it comes to having more family friendly exclusives because they have LittleBigPlanet, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper. The issue we run into is that Sony doesn’t have any of these properties available for purchase on the PS4 at launch. Instead, they have the platformer Knack.

Microsoft may not have much in the way of exclusives to compete with that, but the vast majority of the games that are released for use with the Kinect sensor are family friendly.

4. Price. It always comes down to price.

Price is obviously a huge factor when deciding what console to buy. I can’t report that either of them is “cheap,” but both of them present a reasonable value for their cost.

The Microsoft Xbox One is priced at $499.

The Sony PlayStation 4 is priced at $399.

The cost difference is the result of the Kinect sensor that comes packaged with the Xbox One. That drives the price up a bit since it is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology.

5. Which one should I buy?

It is really hard to argue with either console right now; they both pack a lot of potential. I would give the edge to PS4 right now because of the lower price point in spite of similar specs. There just aren’t enough family oriented Xbox One exclusives to overcome $100.

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Nintendo released a lot of information regarding the upcoming holiday season today. The biggest announcement was the impending release of the Nintendo 2DS which I discussed here. But, that was not the only announcement that came from the Nintendo camp today.

Nintendo also announced a $50 price cut on the deluxe edition of the WiiU console. That leaves the console at a price point of $299.99. I think this is a great move. The PS4 is only $399.99 and it was well worth the $50 upgrade to get that kind of hardware improvement over the WiiU. The $100 gap is more significant.

Nintendo also announced that they would be releasing a Legend of Zelda:Windwaker HD bundle on 09/20/2013 that would retail for $299.99 and include a digital copy of Hyrule Hystoria and a download code for Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD at no additional charge. This is a phenomenal deal!

Other announcements include the release dates of several Nintendo titles:

WiiU –

The Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD ($49.99) – 09/20/2013 (digital) and 10/04/2013 (retail)

Wii Party U, bundled with Wii Remote Plus and stand ($49.99) – 10/25/2013

Super Mario 3D World ($59.99) – 11/22/2013

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze ($49.99) – 12/06/2013

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games – Launches this holiday, further details to be revealed soon.

WiiFit U – Launches this holiday, further details will be revealed soon

3DS –

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ($39.99) – 11/22/2013

Mario Party: Island Tour ($39.99) – 11/22/2013

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Nintendo came out with a TON of news today. The biggest announcement of the day was for a new handheld system call the Nintendo 2DS. This is, for all intents and purposes, a stripped down version of the 3DS hardware that is being sold at a budget price of $129.99. The system will launch on 10/12/2013 which is, interestingly enough, the release date for Pokémon X and Pokémon Y.

The there are two main differences between the 2DS and the 3DS. The most significant is that the 2DS does not have the 3D technology that inspired the 3DS’s name. It will, however, still play all of the existing DS and 3DS games. This is a big deal because there are a lot of parents who are concerned about the 3D effect and its potential impact on young and developing eyes. This gives those parents a worry free option for their child.

The other difference is in the actual physical shape of the machine. The 3DS is shaped like a hinged clamshell. The 2DS has no hinge. Both screens reside on one side of a tablet-like device. This has the advantage of protecting the device from hinge breakage (there isn’t one). This does come at the expense of a risk for more frequent damage to the exposed screens.

The lower price point is also welcome. The internet exploded when the announcement was made, but there was universal agreement that a $130 machine being released alongside a Pokemon game is a killer combination that will result in a lot of happy children (and Nintendo executives) this holiday.

What do you think? Are you picking this up for your family?

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor and Chief

The events in Slaughter, LA are shocking. An 8-year-old boy shot and killed his grandmother while she was watching television. He claimed it was an accident, but authorities have indicated that it was intentional. They belief that he may not have understood the consequences of his actions based on his age. Authorities also saw fit to mention that the boy was playing Grand Theft Auto IV in the police report.

This story is tragic. I find myself shaken by it all because my oldest son is almost 8, and imagining him in that situation is horrifying. It is heartbreaking to think that a little boy will have to live with these memories for the rest of his life.

The fact that the police linked Grand Theft Auto IV to the crime has set off the debate regarding violence in video games again. Look at the headlines to these articles on CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and Fox News. All of them mention GTA. None of them address the real concern: How was an 8-year-old boy able to gain access to a gun in the first place?

I’m not here to argue the gun control issue. Guns are a part of our culture and I don’t expect that to change (at least not based on anything I write here). I’m sure we might see a wide variety of opinions on guns themselves. But, I am pretty sure that we can ALL agree that an 8-year-old boy should not have been able to access a gun easily enough that he was able to shoot his caregiver while she was watching television. It feels like the focus has been turned onto the video game and away from that critical issue.

It is almost like we, as a society, have given up on the idea that we can keep guns out of the hands of children. It feels like we have decided that it is ok for parents to have guns in the house and not drill their children on the responsibility of gun use. The reality is that an 8-year-old boy is certainly old enough to understand that guns can hurt people and that shooting at another person is “bad.” But, they don’t automatically know those things. We need to teach them.

Right now worried parents are being encouraged to protect their kids by watching a video game release schedule as opposed to their guns. We are questioning a form of media as opposed to the people who are negligent in the care of their guns in the first place. It is just absurd.

As children develop and grow they can only learn about morally correct behavior through lessons, actions, and experiences from their primary caregivers. It is our job, as parents and caregivers, to educate our children about behaviors that are right or wrong and the consequences of their actions. It is our responsibility to teach our children, not just let their child play aimlessly.  It is this lack of care and attention to aimless play that can lead to horrific consequences.  Children need guidance and discussion to be taught the difference between fiction and reality.  They need help to become aware of the actual consequences of their behavior.  This is our job as engaged parents!

Please don’t blame the game.  Think rationally and intelligently.  We, as parents need to step up.  Let’s ENGAGE!

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann – Editor in Chief

The launch date for the Playstation 4 is fast approaching. With that in mind, Sony has released a list of the games that will be available between launch day (November 15) and the end of the year. Games that are labeled as retain releases will be available for purchase at stores. All of the below games will be available digitally (including retail games).

Family Friendly titles:

  • DC Universe – PSN
  • Doki-Doki Universe – PSN
  • DriveClub – Retail
  • FIFA 14 – Retail
  • Flower – PSN
  • Hohokum – PSN
  • Just Dance 2014 – Retail
  • Knack – Retail
  • LEGO Marvel Superheroes – Retail
  • Madden 25 – Retail
  • Minecraft – PSN
  • N++ – PSN
  • NBA 2K14 – Retail
  • NBA Live – Retail
  • Need For Speed: Rivals – Retail
  • Pinball Arcade – PSN
  • Planetside 2 – PSN
  • Pool Nation Extreme – PSN
  • Resogun – PSN
  • Skylanders: Swap Force – Retail
  • Super Motherload – PSN
  • Tiny Brains – PSN

Games just for grown-ups:

  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Retail
  • Basement Crawl – PSN
  • Battlefield 4 – Retail
  • Blacklight: Retribution – PSN
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts – Retail
  • Contrast – PSN
  • CounterSpy – PSN
  • Killzone: Shadow Fall – Retail
  • WarFrame – PSN
  • War Thunder – PSN
  • WatchDogs – Retail

What games are you going to pick up? Sound off in the comments!

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor In Chief

Rovio, the people behind the MONSTER hit Angry Birds, have released an announcement video for Angry Birds Star Wars II over their website and youtube.

The game will launch on app stores on September 19th and will feature new levels, characters, and the ability to play as “the Pork Side.” That should certainly mix up the game play quite a bit. (I know I’m looking forward to the Mace Windu bird myself.)

Even more interesting is the inclusion of the new feature “Telepods.” These are toys that can be brought into the game to help customize your bird lineup for each stage. This is an interesting mechanic that many of us are familiar with if our kids already play Skylanders or Disney Infinity. We’ll have to wait and see if the levels are harder to encourage the purchase of these extra characters, or if the game is playable without them. I’ll let you know when we review the game in a few weeks.

What do you think? Are you downloading this day one? Or are you and your family “Angry Bird-ed out?”

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor-In-Chief

PopCap Games

Rating: 9+

August 13, 2013

Available on iOS/iPad

Overall Review:

There are occasions where you anticipate a game so much that it can’t help but disappoint you when it finally arrives. This is one of the more tragic things that can happen to game fans like me. It has happened so often in the past that I have trained myself to just expect to be disappointed. There was no need for that when it came to Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time. Every single part of this game was a joy.

This is a sequel that builds upon the original just enough to make improvements without being such a vastly different experience that it feels alien. The same core game play elements are there, but they are given a new coat of paint in the form of sharper and more detailed animations. Everything feels more alive and more colorful. 

The game is more challenging than the original, which is exciting because it forces players to use out of the box strategies for different levels and challenges as opposed to relying on a single strategy throughout.

The biggest complaint against this game so far has been the free-to-play model. But, I have to say that I hardly notice it. The game can be played from start to finish without spending a dime, and even if you went out and purchased all of the one time unlocks, it would amount to a little more than $20. This game is well worth at least that, and purchases aren’t even required.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is all about cartoon zombies and bad vegetable puns. The zombies are cartoonish and lack any of the gore that one would expect if they were “realistic.”

There is really nothing to be concerned about here unless your kids have a serious fear of zombies. (At which point god help you… because they are everywhere in the media right now!)

Playability Assessment:

We’re talking about a very challenging strategy game that belies its cartoon aesthetic. Kids will likely find it very challenging unless they spent a lot of time with the original. Parental assistance may be required even then.

The real charm of Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time is that kids might not even care if they are losing since the game play is so entertaining.

I do have a word of caution for the challenge stages though. These stages will be particularly challenging for kids because they will force them to change their strategies for each challenge.  You know your child better than I do. If they don’t enjoy that type of activity, then you might want to moderate their play.

Conclusion:

Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s about Time is free to play. There are in app purchases, but it is entirely possible to have an engaging experience without spending a dollar. This makes it really hard to think of a reason why anyone SHOULDN’T download this game.

I feel strongly enough about this experience that I would be able to recommend it if it cost $14.99 or more. There is a lot of content here. Since the game is free to play, there is no reason not to try it out with your children.

 

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