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Shopping for Games

Get tips on shopping for games, including video game ratings.

Not all games are appropriate for children. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Not all games are appropriate for children.

Due to the sheer variety of games available, shopping for games can be overwhelming. According to the Game Manufacturers Association, a trade association for the hobby game industry, in July 2008, there were approximately 42,000 game-related products available from 678 publishers and manufacturers. Some 2,500 stores in the United States make their primary income from selling games, with another 2,000 or more receiving a significant secondary income from game sales.

The ability to play has been described as one of the major signs of a child's well-being, along with eating and sleeping. Game playing is not just for children, however; according to Education World, four out of 10 adults regard video games as their primary source of entertainment. Some benefits of playing games include:

  • Building reading, mathematical and research skills
  • Practice in learning strategy and logical thinking
  • Practice in working with others
  • Developing relationships with people of different ages
  • Developing a love of learning

In addition to video games, there are many types of social games, such as board games, collectible and trading card games, role-playing and miniature games, and outdoor games that can be played in the backyard or at a park.

Video Game Shopping

Along with the aforementioned benefits of playing games, video games improve a player's hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The three main video game platforms are the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox 360. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages; however, the games are what sell the consoles.

Some game titles are unique to a system, while others play differently on different systems. Serious gamers focus on speed and graphics, while casual gamers prefer shorter games with fun controls.

Unfortunately, as the technology behind the games improves, depictions of offensive acts of sex and violence increase. For that reason, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) offers the following ratings to help those shopping for games:

  • EC - Early Childhood (ages 3 to 6, may require some reading or math skills)
  • E - Everyone (ages 7 and up, equivalent to "G" movie rating)
  • E10+ - Everyone 10+ (ages 10 and up, equivalent to "PG" movie rating)
  • T - Teen (ages 13 and up, equivalent to "PG-13" movie rating)
  • M - Mature (ages 17 and up, equivalent to "R" movie rating)
  • AO - Adults Only (equivalent to "NC-17" movie rating)
  • RP - Rating Pending (equivalent to "not yet rated" or "unrated" movies)

The reasons for a game's rating are listed under the rating code on the game package. Ratings for games designed for more than one game system may be different for each system's version. Reviews of video games are available online at sites such as:

While many sites focus on entertainment rather than a game's educational value, they do include screenshots and video clips with their reviews to help users evaluate games.

Social Game Shopping

Social games feature face-to-face interaction between players, improving their communication with one another as they develop critical thinking skills. Mass-market board game titles, such as Monopoly and Scrabble, are now being joined by newer designer games, which feature the designer's name on the box along with the game title and graphic artwork.

Many of these so-called designer games favor skill over luck, offering simple rules and complex underlying strategies. They can be played in 30 to 90 minutes and offer customized pieces that fit the theme of the game.

Role-playing games are games where one person - the game master - sets up adventures in a fantasy, historic or futuristic setting for players to take part in, then referees player actions. Players adopt roles as characters and act as their characters would, whether it be making decisions or entering combat, and sometimes roll dice to determine the outcome of their actions.

Web sites such as Boardgame News and BoardGameGeek provide reviews of various social games, previews of new games and advice on playing games. They also provide a means of buying games online.

Outdoor Game Shopping

Outdoor games combine light to moderate physical exercise with practice in hand-eye coordination. Outdoor games include sports such as baseball, basketball, football and soccer; lawn games such as bocce, badminton, horseshoes and ring toss; games that require only a small space to play, like tetherball; and games with highly sophisticated rules, like croquet.

Outdoor games are available from specialty sporting goods stores, the sporting goods sections of department stores and online.

Trying New Games before Buying

A good way to evaluate a game before buying it is to get together with friends or family members who have the game. Many game shops also host game nights, where groups meet regularly to play a particular game. Rental shops enable people to try out certain outdoor games and video games without committing to buying them.

Another way to learn about both social games and video games is to attend a game convention, where players come from around the country to share their love of games with one another. The two largest national annual game conventions are GenCon, held in Indianapolis, Ind., and the Origins Game Fair, held in Columbus, Ohio.

Many local communities hold smaller game conventions and game days, as well. The National Gamers Guild maintains an online calendar showing the gaming conventions that occur each month.

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