According to the 2008 Game Crazy Holiday Gift Tracker, a nationwide survey of kids and parents, a whopping 96 percent of kids have a gaming system, and 90 percent of kids are planning to ask for at least one game this year, up from 80 percent in 2007.
So begins an email from my friends over at Game Crazy, and I am not the least surprised to discover, hey, kids like videogames! So, without further ado, here are my top holiday picks for gamers.
First, if you aren't familiar with Gamefly, you should definitely give them a look. Why? Well, imagine this scenario: you buy your kids an expensive new video game, and after just a few weeks, they never look at it again. I'm betting you are nodding your head along with me; that's a familiar story to you, too, isn't it?
Gamefly is a the leading online game rental service, sort of like a Netflix for games. Kids play a game, then send it back once they have tired of it. Gamefly has over 6000 titles, on all the popular platforms--Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, etc. There are no contracts, due dates or late fees, so a Gamefly gift certificate makes the perfect gift for any gamer on your list (Gamefly gift certificates are available for as little as 15.95/mo for up to 12 month increments).
I want to be open with all of you and say that, since I am a gamer myself, I allow my kids to play M (Mature) games as long as I am with them. It's important, as a parent, to understand the ESRB ratings and make your own game-purchasing decisions based on them.
If you are interested, the M games we play include Call of Duty: World at War (the CoD games were previously rated T for teen), and Fallout 3 (Xbox 360). The Rhino has learned more history (really!) from playing the Call of Duty games than he has, sadly, from his social studies classes. He knows details about WWII that are really fascinating as a result of playing those games (just ask him about Operation Market Day, for example). And Fallout 3, a post-apocalyptic game that posits an alternate timeline in which a nuclear war took place early in the twentieth century, sending most of the population into fallout shelters (vaults), is full of historically accurate detail, like the Cole Porter songs officially licensed for the soundtrack, and the tongue-in-cheek title song, "I Don't Want to Set the World On Fire." You can check out local game stores, like Game Crazy, to find out more about those games.
I know that many of you feel uncomfortable with either some or all M (Mature) games based on the graphic content. I'm listing below my personal fave picks for computer and console games that are rated T or below, suitable for teens and 'tweens.
Need for Speed: Undercover (Xbox 360, Wii and PS3)
The Need for Speed franchise is insanely popular among teens who love racing games, while nowhere near as violent or lewd as the Grand Theft Auto series, which earns it a Teen instead of Mature rating. In my opinion, this latest version of Need for Speed is an excellent substitute for GTA that you can feel good about! It is sure to win over all the gearheads in your home (Need for Speed: Undercover 59.99).
Neopets Puzzle Adventue (DS)
Neopets are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, so the popularity of the Neopets cannot be questioned, and the (FREE!) Neopets.com virtual world is a friendly place for kids to hang out online and interact. In Animal Puzzle, kids can accessorize and customize one of 12 cute neopets on their epic journey through three lands of Neopia and over 150 puzzle quests. (Neopets Puzzle Adventure from Capcom, $29.99 ).
Seven Wonders: Treasures of 7 (PC)
This is the third installment in the 7 Wonders franchise, a puzzle matching game that has you building the wonders of the world each time you complete a puzzle. The rhino and I play the DS version of the original 7 Wonders all the time. The graphics are great, really colorful. Cute little dudes build the wonders as you make matches of three or more on the puzzle grid. In this newest PC version, Treasures of 7, there are nine new wonders to build, and the puzzle board actually rotates! (you can buy the PC version of Seven Wonders: Treasures of 7 for under $20 or download from Mumbo Jumbo).
Nintendo DS Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades We have the original Guitar Hero for the Xbox 360 and my kids love it, so I especially wanted to include a Decades review here. Now, having played the game myself, I can say that it is absolutely one of the hottest gift ideas for gamers ever. Not only does the game feature songs from a variety of artists, to please everyone from tween to Mom, but it also includes a special attachment for the Nintendo DS, as well as a guitar pick stylus, that lets kids play in style. You can see what it's like to actually play the game in this video.
Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades from Activision is obviously the next best thing to playing the original Guitar Hero games--but in some ways it's even better, since kids can play in the car, while waiting at the orthodontist offic, anywhere a real guitar isn't practical (which is a lot of places. Some people have no appreciation for guitar playing in public. Especially, for some reason, when it's me playing...hmm. Wonder why that is?)
I've also amended this listing to include names of some of the musical artists featured in the game, which is really important just now, as my fabulous contact came through with not one, not two, but FIVE copies of Activision's Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades for the Nintendo DS to give away! So you need to know these names: Blondie, Bon Jovi, , Linkin Park, Seether, Smashing Pumpkins. Got them? Good! Now go enter the giveaway. Guitar Hero on Tour: Decades from Activision, comes with guitar pick stylus and attachment for play on Nintendo DS, 49.99).
Now, if you are looking at these game reviews and thinking, "Is there anything else out there for my kids? Maybe something else that's fun AND educational?" Then don't worry, because I have the perfect solution for you!
Kidzui, The Internet for Kids, designed for kids from ages 3-12 , is offering gift certificates this holiday season to their--well, I honestly cannot say it better than they do--their "revolutionary new browser and service that offers youngsters the full wondrousness of the Internet, giving them access to over 1.5 million parent- and teacher-approved websites, videos, games, and pictures, as well as completely safe social networking features."
That's right, Kidzui lets your tweens, and even their younger siblings, have fun online, while you have the security of knowing that questionable listings will not even come into the equation, because your kids are protected. Kidzui gift certificates are available for 3-month and year-long subscriptions to the Kidzui service, beginning tomorrow, Friday, November 28th, right from the Kidzui homepage. (Kidzui 3-month subscription, 19.95, and year subscription, 49.95).
Now, I happen to think those prices for Kidzui are really reasonable, but because I am always working it for you guys, I went a little crazy, and I asked the Kidzui people, "Hey, can I get a 3-month subscription to Kidzui to give away to my readers?!"
And they said, "No."
But those Kidzui guys are not just crazy, they are insanely generous, and they followed right up with, "Let's give them a FREE YEAR of Kidzui instead!"
So, to win a year's free service to Kidzui, the Internet for Kids, just comment on this post!
Additional entries for:
Visiting GiveRespect.org (you knew that was coming, right? It's a good cause, and thanks so much to all of you who have already visited the site through my link!)
Adding my badge to your blog
Blogging about this giveaway
Tweeting about this giveaway
Subscribing to my feed