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Buying Video Games for a Gaming Tot: A Quick How-To

When you visit a video game outlet, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices available, especially if you're new to gaming. Interestingly, children and teens seem to know their way around these places as if they were their second home. However, for adults, the typical video store looks like a color paint explosion, and sooner or later, all the games start to look the same. This guide is for adults who are buying games for younger people, perhaps as birthday gifts or bribes. Whatever the reason, you're going to appreciate the following tips.

1. Research this strange phenomenon before setting foot inside a video store. There's plenty of information available about video games online, so to reduce frustration offline, fire up your web browser and do a little homework. Visit the website of the gaming outlet nearest you and look for a link to the games section of the system that your youngster plays. Here's a helpful chart to explain what all those strange letters mean:

- Wii = Nintendo's Wii System
- EA Sports = Entertainment Arts System
- PS3 = Playstation 3 System
- XBOX 360 = Microsoft's XBOX 360 System
- PC = Personal Computer
- PS2 = Playstation 2 System
- PSP = Playstation Portable System
- DS = Nintendo's DS System

The key is to locate the system on the store's website first. The system, its accessories, and all the games that work on that system will follow. If not, you may need to use the website's internal search engine.

2. After locating the appropriate games section for your youngster's machine, check out the ratings of each game and create a temporary shopping list of age-appropriate material. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gives each game a rating to inform parents about what their children are playing. Here's a handy reference to what the ratings mean:

- C = Appropriate for Early childhood
- E = Appropriate for Everyone
- E 10+ = Appropriate for Everyone aged 10 and older
- T = Appropriate for Teens
- M = Appropriate for Mature Adults

3. Within your temporary shopping list, try to find a game that's based on the latest movie release. Little people love the new animated movies put out by Disney and Pixar, and they really enjoy reliving precious moments in the movie through a video game. That's why when these movies come out on DVD, their producers put a few games in the "Special Features" section of the CDs.

4. If you can't find a game that's based on a movie that the child likes, try to find a game that centers around a popular cartoon character or one that attempts to educate.

5. If you still can't find one that resembles something that you've heard this particular person rambling on about, first give yourself a slight slap on the hand. You should pay better attention. Then point your browser to the nearest Blockbuster or Hollywood Video website. Follow the same procedure outlined in steps 1-3, but this time, rent 5 or 6 games that look appealing. This will give your tot a chance to play some games and select one to keep forever while you return the others.

6. If, on the other hand, you did find a game in step 3 or 4, you can either check out online or drive up to the store and buy it there.

They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but the illustrations on both video and PC game cases do a pretty good job of representing the game's content. So if you see an illustration of fighting warriors, chances are the game will be more violent than you prefer. If, on the other hand, you see an illustration that resembles what you'd see on the cover of an interesting children's book, the game should be age-appropriate.


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