To Wii or not to Wii. If your kids are under the age of 18, buy a Wii. If your kids are over 18 and at college, buy them, and yourself, a Wii. The console comes with one controller and one Nunchuk, so you will need to buy at least one more of each. These controllers burn through batteries, so you're best off getting the recharge station as well. We also have two Wii MotionPlus controllers, which have an enhanced range of motion and are great to have for "Tiger Woods Golf" and "Wii Sports Resort." Also, if your TV is mounted on the wall, get a wireless sensor bar. Do you need to buy a plastic tennis racquet, golf club or sword? No. Do you need a plastic steering wheel? For "MarioKart," yes.
Xbox360 is for more than just "Halo." Our house has an Xbox360 on two different TVs, because I play "Guitar Hero" and I got sick of sharing. In other words, we love Xbox. The game selection is huge, the systems don't freak out anymore, updates are easy to download, hooking up to a wireless network is a cinch (after purchasing a wireless adapter), playing online is fun, you can stream Netflix movies, and of course there's "Halo." I know that it's M-rated, and Charlie has been playing it since he was seven. In fact, that's the "Halo3" game guide that Zoe is studying in the picture above.
M-Rated stands for "Maybe". While there are a lot of M-rated games that I won't let my kids play, there are a few that are fine. How do you figure out which ones are okay? It's called research. "Halo" is fine, "Grand Theft Auto," not so much. They also love "Left4Dead," the "Call of Duty" series, and "Fable." Yes, characters shout out occasional obscenities in these games, but so do kids on the junior high bus. Are there images of violence? Yes. Are they giving my kids nightmares and making them immoral? No. If you still need to be convinced that M-rated games don't create horrendous, violence-loving freaks, find a teenager that gets good grades and that you respect, and ask him what video games he plays. Chances are, he's not sitting in the basement playing "Viva Pinata."
My kid has a PS2. Why do we need a PS3? Because it's awesome, that's why. It's wireless network-ready, "Little Big Planet" is by far one of Zach's favorite games ever made, Doug uses the Blu-ray player, "Ratchet & Clank" is fun to play because of the motion-sensing controllers, it has a huge hard drive, it operates with minimal fan noise, and it's pretty. You can hook these consoles up with either an HDMI or component cable, and they're extremely user-friendly.
But we travel a lot. The Nintendo DS is a necessity for a kid that spends any amount of time in the car or sitting at hockey/tennis/ basketball tournaments. There is a huge selection of affordable games, the rechargeable battery lasts forever, and you can play games wirelessly with friends. The Sony PSP is great too, especially for sports games, but it's a little heavier than the DS, and more expensive.
Parents that weren't and still aren't interested in video games themselves are usually tentative to bring consoles into the house no matter how much the kids beg, thinking that doing so will put an end to the days of playing outside, reading, communicating with other humans, or doing homework. My boys read almost an hour a day, practice piano, play outside with friends, play tennis, and are able to have a mostly intelligent conversation with other people. We have a strict "no video games on school days" policy, but on the weekends when Doug says, "Hey, anyone want to shoot some zombies?" I know that I won't see them surface for a few hours. At least I get an occasional text message that says, "Hi we need chips."