GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: A Family of Three

A family of three kids aged 8, 10 and 12 are in the market for their first games console. Looking to keep within a sensible budget, they are torn between the Playstation and Xbox as to which will have more general family appeal. GameHub Concierge tries to give some guidance on what to consider for this important purchase:

ameHub Concierge: 

First things first, as I have a feeling this information is going to be important to at least one of the kids: Minecraft comes in both Xbox and Playstation versions, so that won’t be a deciding factor! Given the information supplied, I would be inclined to lean slightly towards an Xbox One over the Playstation 4. The Xbox, with Microsoft’s multiplatform clout behind it, has a slightly wider variety of game types than the Playstation, which means that if the children have different interests, they will all be able to find something that suits them personally from brands and franchises they recognise, from Angry Birds to  Assassins Creed. If gaming was a primary hobby, I would veer more towards the Playstation, as their range of games from independent development studios (indies) is very strong and would provide varied and interesting challenges to a hobbyist gamer. However, it sounds like the interest is more in a reliable, easy to operate family entertainment box with options for playing together and/or apart, rather than a dedicated gaming powerhouse. The “Just Dance” dance titles might prove popular with the youngest and are always a hit at parties, and if they all want to play together, a cooperative puzzler like Lara Croft And The Temple of Osiris would while away a rainy afternoon. For a bit of cheerful mayhem suitable for all ages, a LEGO franchise game is fun for everyone to give a go, -Mum included- such as LEGO Batman 3; or what about the silly gardening game Plants vs Zombies. If the elder son is starting to show an interest in sports titles, Madden NFL25 would hit the spot. And for any teenager, unwinding with a bit of bad dude blasting in HALO is a relaxing social ritual to share with friends. I think that an Xbox One, with the big franchises likely to be familiar to the children and their friends, would fit the bill for a general family entertainment box to span different ages and interests.

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GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Non-Shooty PS4 Games

Sometimes parents who come to us are embarrassed to ask for help, feeling like they should already know all the answers when it comes to games. This simply isn’t possible – no one person can know all the things there are to know about such a massive and varied topic as video-games; you wouldn’t expect a librarian to have read every book ever published?! The way that even people who know a lot about games find out new information is by sharing ideas and asking questions. Today, we are going to look at a question Jordan Erica Webber asked the games community on Twitter for help with.

Jordan Erica Webber, any way you want to cut it, is an expert on video-games. A full-time professional games journalist primarily with The Guardian, she has appeared on Woman’s Hour and is a co-host of the Not A Game Podcast, as well as writing for The Observer, PC Gamer Magazine, Kotaku, Vice, IGN and Games TM. So there is no disputing she really knows her stuff when it comes to games. (And socks, but that’s a different story.)

But she still taps the knowledge of the games community when she wants to learn about something new.

And she got so many great replies!

We are going to add our own at the bottom, but first lets take a run through people’s suggestions:

[See here for GameHub Report: Bastion]

[See here for GameHub Report: Dragon Age Inquisition]

So (and I’m going to get a bit serious here, so hang on to your hats) if you are feeling embarrassed about needing help with games, please don’t. Try to think of it in the context of asking for a book recommendation, rather than needing teaching in how to use the telly – it’s a media choice rather than a technical skill, and even people who live and breathe this industry will ask for an outside perspective. There is nothing to be ashamed of or defensive about. Nobody (other than perhaps your own children) expects you to know everything, so feel empowered by taking on advice rather than diminished by it.

Ok, that was very intense and unBritish (but worth remembering, even if it made you feel a bit cringey!) so let’s get back to the games. What else, if anything, can we add to the brilliant suggestions Jordan received?

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GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Which Wii?

My Son (6.5) is really keen to get a Wii – he started being helpful in August because he’d decided on his own that that was the way to get one for Christmas. I don’t know much about them – but if I do get one, do I need a Wii or a Wii U? And why is this one twice the price of this one? If I get the first, can I then buy older Wii games second hand for it? Or might I just as well, at that point, get a secondhand Wii? Any advice gratefully received. Thanks in advance.” via  Mumsnet

WiiU
Wii U

I rather admire the lad. Being helpful to his Mum and with clear goal in mind as to what he would like for Christmas, good for him! Confusion over the Wii and WiiU is a common problem. GameHub Concierge is donning its Santa hat and riding to the rescue!

GameHub Concierge:

“The Wii U and the Wii are actually two different consoles, something that Nintendo have not been very good at all at communicating to their customers. Even the gaming press were confused when it first came out! The WiiU, the new console, was launched in 2012, whilst the Wii is the old console originally launched in 2006. In tech speak, the WiiU is a whole “generation” more modern than the Wii. Without boring you with lots of nerdy numbers, the difference between the two devices is quite substantial. If this is your first Nintendo console for your home, I strongly recommend you go with the WiiU.

With a WiiU, you will get the WiiU Gamepad. This is a flat, Ipad-like controller with a camera, touchscreen and microphone, designed for games that don’t suit the physical “flail about” input method. This means that the WiiU is a far more versatile console than the Wii, suited to lots of different kinds of games.

The WiiU is also “backwards compatible” with the Wii, which also means that you will be able to play any games which say on the box that they are made for a Wii, including second-hand games. By contrast, the Wii would not able to play WiiU games, or use the WiiU Gamepad.

Wii
Wii

In the WiiU box you linked, you would get the console and gamepad, lots of cables and stands, and free game called Nintendo Land. To make the perfect present, I would recommend you get him another 1 or 2 games for variety. I can advise on what titles are currently popular, or, if you can tell me a little bit about your son’s preferences and interests, I can come up with a more tailored list of suggestions. And if you have any more questions, please ask and I will do my best to answer them!”

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GameHub Concierge, Games Culture

Cringe and Learn with GameHub

We did a talk! Or rather, I did a talk! And it makes me cringe – A LOT!! I hate my voice, I hate the horrible sound of me making dumb little mistakes and pausing and umming and aahing and using the wrong word and rambling and generally breathing in and out.

BUT I’m going to get over myself and post it up here for you guys anyway, because there might be some stuff in there you might find useful and relent. And if nothing else, you can laugh at me panically trying to remember how to pluralise “ethos.”

We did this talk at GameCity, which, if you don’t know it, is a fantastic family-oriented video-games festival held annually in Nottingham. Independent developers come from all over the country, and from around the world, to demonstrate their games to the public, play-test, make friends, give talks and generally showcase games culture at its very finest. Its a joyous event and one I am always very pleased to take part in. We’ve been attending for a few years now, always in one guise or another. Last year, we did an interactive Questions Board, where parents, players, children and developers could all stick their queries and concerns to the board and get them answered in the talk at the end of the week. Following the link below will take you to the talk (and my awful, awful voice) where I picked out some of the most interesting and/or most popular questions to answer in front of the live audience.

The Questions Board, GameCity 9 Talk by GameHub

Enjoy the talk, and my terrible voice, and if you would like us to do a similar talk at this year’s GameCity (rapidly approaching!) drop us and tell us what kind of things you would like to see covered! Or, if you have a question you would like answered, drop us a line to GameHub Concierge and we will get back to you.

GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Minecraft, All Minecraft!

“I don’t see the obsession with Minecraft. My DD 10 (soon to be 11) uses the IPAD to play Minecraft and watch the irritating videos on YouTube.
With her birthday being in the summer hols, I like to buy her something which I know she will get good use of. I was all set to get her an IPAD MINI….however she says she is hoping for a bloody XBOX so she can play Minecraft.
I am so annoyed. We had an XBOX last year but only kept it for 2 months as no one understood how to operate it!
Is Minecraft really any different on the XBOX than the APP? She says she will need headphones to chat with other players. Not sure I am liking the idea of this.
Please educate me – I am very naive with technology ” via  Mumsnet

Sounds like a job for GameHub Concierge! Minecraft on the Ipad is a different experience from Minecraft on the Xbox. Here’s some of what we said:

“If your daughter is showing an interest in gaming, a 2nd hand Xbox would be a great place to start. Minecraft is the perfect sort of game for her age group. And its great to see her wanting to make the move from Ipad to Xbox, it shows she is really passionate about the game and looking for the best experience.
For young girls, I would really strongly advise putting your foot down very firmly on the headset idea – it’s not a good plan. I would be extremely wary of her using her own voice, its likely to cause a lot of upset and unpleasantness which may well put you both off gaming. Ask her to use the typed chat option instead, and have a solid chat about keeping her account settings private, not giving out her age or gender and so on.”

I also offered to help our Mumsnetter through any queries she might have with the installation process, setting up the hardware and the Xbox Live account, and asked her to talk about some of her daughter’s other hobbies in order to suggest additional games.

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GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Game On, Dance Off!

Game on, dance off!
Dance like nobody is watching! Except, they are.

Today, we got asked about picking out a dance game for a 10yo girl. The dance game genre is incredibly popular and crowded, with titles for Xbox, Wii and Playstation all selling well and competing strongly. But dance games are far more a product of the music industry than of the games industry, and they bring a lot of issues with them, especially around issues like over-sexualisation, and gender stereotyping which cause some parents a great deal of concern. Music brands such as High School Musical, Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber cater to a “pre-teen” market of young adults who are neither teens nor children. We help our questioner, Garon, to try to pick through this issue to make sure they get a game which they feel is suitable for their daughter:

Hi, I saw you were offering to give some advice on PS3 dance games! I would like to get one for my daughter who’s about to be 10. I don’t have any idea what these things are like. Are the kids versions like Just Dance Kids really aimed at younger kids? She loves music but is not really into current pop music – we mostly listen to old tunes, then again it might be good to bring her a bit more up to date!
Any advice gratefully received. ” via  Mumsnet

Its a long reply, so buckle up!

GameHub Concierge:

“Hello Garon. I have done some research for you and this is what I have come up with. But first, a preamble:

Dance games are created under the iron thumb of the record companies, and they bring a lot of “baggage” with them. The occasional dance move that parents and on-lookers may feel is veering a little toward the “raunchy” may sail straight over the heads of the kids – they just think it’s being physical and dancey and silly. The sexy subtext of a song will probably be loud and clear to the teens and adults, but the under 10s might go along utterly oblivious, singing along without a care in the world. And the studios are looking to sign acts that are popular and famous, so no matter what you think of their conduct as moral individuals, it’s inevitable that you are going to get a song by Rhianna, Miley Cyrus or Chris Brown, whatever title you buy. Child stars are also obviously extremely popular, so Justin Beiber, Selena Gomez and ilk will feature strongly also. Additionally, all these games will have a “Work Out” mode for exercise and weight loss. Dance games do have “an agenda” pushed by record companies- pre-teen and young teen obsessive super-fans spend a lot of their disposable income on music, so there is a massive amount of pressure on this genre to be SUPER FUN, SUPER COOL, SUPER EXCLAMATION MARKS!

I’m not trying to frighten you, I just want to be as honest as I can in saying that, if you have concerns about some of the trends we are seeing in the music industry, you may well find them in these games too. Dance games are not really “video games” proper, they are an extension of the music industry. The video game community of players and developers doesn’t have peer influence over these titles, they are music industry products that happen to be played on game systems. The “baggage” that comes from how much influence music has over pre-teen and teen behaviour is still going to be there. For some people, this is a really massive concern and something they feel very strongly about. For others, it’s just part of growing up and making the transition from kid to teenager and not a big deal. I just wanted to be as up front and honest with you as I can about it, so that you can decide what is the most appropriate choice for your daughter and where she is at right now.

So, with all of that in mind, I have some titles to suggest to you. As it is a popular genre, its crowded, and it can be confusing to try to tell all the different games apart. I’ve picked out a few for consideration:

The kingpin dance title for Playstation is “Just Dance.” The track mixes are solid party and modern pop mixes, popular with pre-teens; Just Dance 4 was voted Favourite Video Game at the Kids Choice Awards! You can dance alone, with or against friends. There are 50 tracks, including:
Disturbia: Rhianna
Maneater: Nelly Furtado
Moves Like Jagger: Maroon 5
Oops I Did It Again: Britney Spears
Age Rated: PEGI 3+

“DanceStar Party” is a good bet also. It’s not as popular as Just Dance – anecdotal evidence would suggest the developers tried to hit the middle ground between music video/night club dance moves and big silly, kiddie shapes, and the end result makes you look fairly daft; it’s a bit “uncool.” Nontheless, its a solid title for dance, and you can turn on the Playstation Move microphone to sing along. Tracks include:
Do It Like A Dude: Jessie J
Get Down On It: Kool & the Gang
Born This Way :Lady Gaga
Age rated: PEGI 12

“Just Dance Kids” is aimed at younger kindergarten children and definitely has much more of a Cbeebies feel to it; songs include Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, Jingle Bells and the (annoyingly Americanised ) Itsy Bitsy Spider, as well as hits from child stars like Will Smith’s daughter Willow Smith and the dreaded Justin Beiber. Also included are some Disney and Pixar film theme songs, like the title track from Despicable Me, performed by Pharrell Williams. The routines are much easier than the original Just Dance games and the dance moves are much more “kiddified;” doing star-jumps rather than shaking your booty.
Age Rated: PEGI 3+

The way these games work is like this: You select the song from the menu, and imitate an on screen avatar by copying their moves as closely as you can. Think of it as a physical game of Simon Says! You can play alone against the screen, or bring friends over for dance parties to compete against each other. To play, you will need to make sure you own a “Playstation Move.” This is a camera which connects into your Playstation, and a wand which looks a bit like a plastic tennis ball on a stick. You hold the wand as you dance, and the camera tracks the movement of the ball on the end to determine your movements. You only need one camera, but you need as many wands as you have players. Word to the wise: the wand has a wrist strap. If you value your household ornaments, make sure you put that wrist strap on nice and tight! You may need to go out and buy a Playstation Move kit, or it might have come bundled in with your Playstation when you bought it.

I hope this information is useful to you, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask!”

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GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Nearly Nine And Ready To Play!

Happy Birthday!
Happy Birthday! Which first, cake, or games?

A question was asked: ‘Which games would be good for a 9yo (girl) on the Playstation 3?’ via Mumsnet

Here’s what we said:

GameHub: “Without knowing more about her personality, her personal likes & dislikes, it’s hard to make an accurate recommendation. However, in general, I would recommend LittleBigPlanet, a family-oriented exploration/puzzle game with lots of scope for creativity, voiced by everyone’s favourite Stephen Fry. The Sims franchise is almost universally popular amongst girls of this age – it’s a “life sim”, not unlike a virtual doll’s house, with scope for mischief! Additional content packs adding new clothes, objects or activities make great birthday or Christmas presents, especially the Pets pack, which adds puppies & kittens to the Sims household. It is age rated as a 12, however, due to the fact that you are playing with people, not blobs on a screen, so use your judgement as to whether it is suitable for her at this time. If she enjoying singing and dancing, there are a huge number of titles available, sometimes themed around a specific interest, eg: Disney Sing It: Pop Hits, which can be played with friends. If you are considering song & dance titles, please post a reply and I can advise you further, there are a lot of titles in this genre! Anything involving Mario or Sonic is also good bet. Finally, an excellent, more traditionally “game-y” game, ideal for a 9yo would be Mini Ninjas. You play as a small cute cartoon ninja, rescuing woodland animals from an evil curse. It’s fun, engaging and utterly adorable.

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GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Minecraft, All Minecraft!

We get a lot of questions about Minecraft here at GameHub HQ.

“I don’t see the obsession with Minecraft. My DD 10 (soon to be 11) uses the IPAD to play Minecraft and watch the irritating videos on YouTube.
With her birthday being in the summer hols, I like to buy her something which I know she will get good use of. I was all set to get her an IPAD MINI….however she says she is hoping for a bloody XBOX so she can play Minecraft.
I am so annoyed. We had an XBOX last year but only kept it for 2 months as no one understood how to operate it!
Is Minecraft really any different on the XBOX than the APP? She says she will need headphones to chat with other players. Not sure I am liking the idea of this.
Please educate me – I am very naive with technology ” via  Mumsnet

Sounds like a job for the GameHub Concierge! Minecraft on the Ipad is a different experience from Minecraft on the Xbox. We spent some time with this Mumsnetter talking about understanding how to use the Xbox system and where to go for help if you get stuck. We also talked about her daughter’s reasons for wanting the console rather than mobile version of the game. Here’s a small extract of some of what we said:

GameHub Concierge: 

“If your daughter is showing an interest in gaming, a 2nd hand Xbox would be a great place to start. Minecraft is the perfect sort of game for her age group and will be a popular topic among her friends. Minecraft on the iPad and Xbox are two very different experiences. The iPad version (Minecraft Pocket Edition) is a much smaller and simplified game, whilst the Xbox variant has the full range of features.
For young girls, I would really strongly advise putting your foot down very firmly on the headset idea-its not a good plan. I would be extremely wary of her using her own voice, its likely to cause a lot of upset and unpleasantness which may well put you both off gaming. Ask her to use the typed chat option instead, and have a solid chat about keeping her account settings private, not giving out her age or gender.”

I also offered to help our Mumsnetter through any queries she might have and asked her to talk about some of her daughter’s other hobbies in order to suggest additional games.

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GameHub Concierge

GameHub Concierge: Handhelds For Twins

It’s time for another GameHub Concierge question. Today’s question comes a mother who admits to being “completely clueless and mostly disinterested in computer games thingies.” Well, that’s what we are here to help with!

She is looking to make a double purchase of two handheld consoles, one for each of her 6-year-old twins. She is considering a number of options, including the Playstation Vita, an Ipod Touch, a pair of second-hand Gameboys, or a member of Nintendo’s DS family. But what to chose?

So lets see what we can do:

GameHub Concierge:

For 6-year-olds, I would recommend a Nintendo DS. They are ideal for this age range: bright, colourful hardware and games, very easy to use, and quite sturdy little units (it can be dropped off the end of the kitchen table with no ill effects!) The DS will grow with them as they age – it’s not likely to be one of those things that they decide is “babyish” and refuse to touch after the age of 7- and could be a device that is also owned by their friends, allowing them to play together and be social. The Nintendo company ethos is centred around playing together so there is a wide range of games that would suit your twins.
I would not recommend a Playstation Vita for younger children. An older child would get much more out the features – the improved graphics, big glass screen and 3 different input methods but I think it might be overwhelming for a six-year-old. More importantly, the device will be far too big for a young child to hold comfortably, as the Vita is long and thin with the touch panel in the centre, beyond the range of tiny fingers.
An Ipod touch would be a possibility, because you are familiar with the hardware (from owning an Ipad). The games are significantly cheaper but, you will soon get sucked into having to upgrade frequently when your children get succumb to next-Apple-product-itis! You will need to go through the rigmarole of keeping it up to date and locking down the controls to prevent in-app purchases bankrupting your credit card, and sourcing it a proper, sturdy case to protect the screen from scratches is a must. Unlike the Nintendo DS, an iDevice cannot be thrown across the room in an accident or a tantrum and come out unscathed. They are expensive and delicate machines and must be looked after properly.
A Gameboy is a vintage option! Older equipment is cheaper, but you will have all the associated problems of trying to find games for it: Ebay & Charity shops are your friend. My primary worry that after all that work sourcing games, peer pressure and curiosity will mean they will start wanting a more modern handheld like their friends have.

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GameHub Concierge: GTA Alternatives

No means no, and if you feel a title is inappropriate for your kids, you have the right as a parent to put your foot down! Don’t feel cowed!

Today on GameHub Concierge, we are talking about Grand Theft Auto V. Or, more to the point, we are not talking about it! GTAV contains strong sexual themes, depictions of violence and adult humour, as well as nudity, prostitution and scenes of characters taking narcotics. At GameHub, we always strive to encourage and empower parents to make the decisions correct for their own children – their interests, their level of maturity and so on, and, whenever possible, to talk about the contents of the game they are playing with a friendly adult. Grand Theft Auto V however, is one of the few games where we really struggle to recommend it for a player below the age of 18, as the dark satire requires a grown-up understanding of humour, for example where the player graphically and protractedly tortures an obviously innocent character, then gives them a lecture about how torture is an ineffective method of gathering espionage.  However, the game also contains a lot of content that isn’t to do with murder, sex, drugs, or rock and roll. It’s an enormous open world, with secrets to find, puzzles to solve and vehicles to race. For the overwhelming percentage of players, it is this amazing freedom that primarily attracts them to the game. But you don’t need be playing GTA in order to experience an incredible open world. In this GameHub Concierge, we advise a mother on some alternatives for her son, who, at 15, she feels is too young for GTAV, but still in love with the idea of exploring and roaming around a digital playground. Here is what we came up with…

GameHub says:

  1. Infamous

  2. Any Assasins Creed game

  3. Batman Arkham City

  4. The Saboteur

  5. Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

  • Infamous is essentially a toned down copy of a rival game “Prototype” in which the main character is turned into a mutant and goes on a mission to work out what has happened to him. Basically a kind of superhero/antihero story. Electricity is his superpower, so its a GTA style of gameplay, but with sparks instead of guns.

  • Assassin’s Creed games are GTA in an ancient city from historical Italy. There are lots of games in the series, focusing on different cities, including Venice, Milan etc. You free-run across the city exploring rooftops and doing missions. Any game in the series is good really, except the first one, so just look for something along the theme of “Assassin’s Creed: Word or Number.” The side missions quickly get dull, as they are very repetitive, but the core gameplay is superb. Of the three, however, it bears the least graphical resemblance to GTA.

  • Batman Arkham City is the most critically acclaimed of the games in the list. Its a dark and gritty superhero story about…Batman! Big open city, lots of stuff to do. Unlike most movie tie-ins, the Batman franchise is extremely well respected as a video game, they are very high quality and something you want to be seen as having played.

  • The Saboteur is GTA set in WW2 era occupied Paris. You can race cars, kill Nazis and destroy munitions to liberate the city. Your actions are reflected in the colour scheme, as with each district liberated, the game goes from being Black & White back to colour. Be advised, it does have an in-game strip club, though the nudity can be toggled on and off. To be honest, however, the strip club is pretty tame, think sophisticated “ladies of the night” rather than “XXX Youtube PornStar” sex-workers.

  • The Elder Scrolls Skyrim is a superb free-roaming fantasy game, with a truly enormous map (a whole country instead of the other games I’ve listed, which cover a whole city) packed with ruins to explore, dungeons to raid, monsters to fight, quests to do, and dragons to kill. Big, long and full of content, we sometimes refer to it as “GTA with swords.”

And here is her response:

“Thankyou so much – my son read this and was really pleased and impressed with your suggestions especially infamous and the saboteur – big smiles all round as I am happy with 15 rating and he is happy with suggestions. Thankyou so much!”

Another successful outing for the GameHub Concierge! There is a whole world of video games out there and we can help you navigate it so if you’ve got a question for the Concierge, contact us via email, social media or the comments box below.