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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Episode 21 or Q1 2012 Preview

What's up party people!  2012 is in full swing and the games are lining up.   Resident Evil 6, GTA 5, HALO 4, Mass Effect 3, Borderlands 2, and Kingdoms of Amalur.  See what I did there???  I believe a nice preview of the games that caught my attention in Quarter 1 is in order!  And those are MLB12 The Show, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and Mass Effect 3.  Let's get it on!!


While I'm not a fan of most sports games, the exception has been and will always be THE SHOW.  I AM a huge baseball fan, so this one is right in my wheelhouse.  MLB11 was supurb!  The controls were tight, the animations spot on and the feel of the game was right on.  This year, the animations look even better!  Plus the announcers won't be repeating themselves as much, which is always good.  Also on deck is an improved "Road To The Show" mode, where you can create a ball player and take them through the minors and finally make it to the Majors.  Sony continually puts out the highest rated sports games in MLB THE SHOW franchise and looks to keep the streak alive!  Look for it on shelves 3-6-12.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning(360, PS3, PC)

This title caught my eye late last year.  The team making this game is a venerable who's who!  Ken Rolsten - lead designer of Elder Scrolls III Morrowind and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, R.A. Salvatore - NY Times best selling author (The man who killed Chewbacca), Todd McFarlane - Creator of Spawn.  Oh and the company making the game?  Owned by World Series Champion and former Red Sox Ace Curt Schilling!  Impressed yet?  I've played the demo and was pleasantly surprised!  The freeflow combat and expansive open world was really cool!  The best way to describe it is Fable mixed with Oblivion/Skyrim, a dash of Dragon Age and the conversation wheel from Mass Effect!  Still not convinced?  Download the demo on XBOX Live or the PSN and find out for yourself!  Plus if you do, you get awesome goodies for Mass Effect 3!  KoA: R drops 2-7-12

YEAH BUDDY!  It's MASS EFFECT 3!!!(360, PS3, PC)

Words cannot describe how badly I want this game!  Everything about this game screams EPIC!!!  The scale and scope, the emotional attachment, the multiplayer!!  It all comes down to this!  The war begins and ends here!  With customizable weapons, both new and returning crewmates, and an import feature second to none.  Perhaps that's why I love this series so much.  It's MY game.  My Shepard.  MY choices.  Your game will be different and unique!  Did you romance Liara?  Leave Kaiden to die?  Punch the reporter?  Watching all the videos, staring at the screenshots, it's hard to imagine this game is going to be below my lofty expectations.  With the demo dropping on Valentine's Day, I have a date with my XBox.  And now, you do too!  The war for Earth begins 3-6-12!

NEXT TIME:  Review of the Demo of ME3!!!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Episode 20 or What are ESRB Ratings?

If you frequent a video store you’ve come across this scene at least once:
What makes these games rated M?
Turn them over to find out.


“Mom/Dad, this is the one I want,” kid that has to be a pre-teen waves a copy of Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Mafia II, take your pick of any inappropriate M games.

“Well I don’t know, it’s rated M,” says obviously clueless parent.

“But we already played the first one at so-and-so’s house,” kid whines.

Mom looks at store employee, “Ok so what’s it rated for?”

“Well there’s a list on the back of the categories that put it into the M rating, but in this particular game you can do (insert list) and see this (insert list).” Says employee trying to be helpful and sway the Mom to making a good parenting decision.

“Well I’m not worried about violence, he’s pretty mature for an 8th grader,” says Mom.

Sigh, lady, your kid should not be playing this ultra violent, sexed up video game! Go buy him a book!!” thinks the frustrated worker but he/she actually says. “Well, I would have to remind you that every rated M game has to be purchased by someone 17 or older. We have to card for these games. They’re rated M for a reason, though there are varying degrees of M.”

“Well, we’ll take it, he’ll just play it at his friends anyway.”


This helpful site gives a description of what each symbol and each content descriptor means.

Each content descriptor can be preceded by ‘Mild’ which means low frequency or intensity. The ESRB listing of content descriptors is usually pretty accurate. The Irrelevant Gamer and I haven’t come across any games that were blatantly missing something from the description list. In fact a study done shows that “parents agreed with the ESRB ratings 82% of the time, while another 5% of the time the ratings were thought to be "too strict". A study, published in April 2007 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), found that 87% of parents are "somewhat" to "very" satisfied with the ESRB ratings, and 64% agree with ratings "all," "nearly all" or "most of the time.”” (http://www.esrb.org/ratings/faq.jsp#19)

More people agree with the ESRB than with Congress!! ESRB for President!!

So how does a game get a rating?

Reviewers go through the games including gameplay and cut-scenes and fill out a questionnaire. Even scenes that don’t make the final cut have to be disclosed. That’s why some people wanted to investigate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The Irrelevant Gamer and I have always wanted to try our hand at being a ESRB reviewer, however, you have to be in New York City (Sad Panda!!)

Now with all the information out there, how can parents be so clueless? And what can be done? Well absentee parents aside, if they feel they need any further information the best resource is your local game shop employees. Any game seller worth his/her salt will be able to give you insights to why games are rated M since there are varying degrees of M-ness. (I lay claim to that word, M-ness.)

Of course they can do research online before they go to the game store with their children. The ESRB has a really nifty search for game ratings (http://www.esrb.org/ratings/index.jsp). If you know the title that’s the easiest way to look, but you can also find lists of games with specific criteria like, M rated games with nudity. Apparently there are 43 games that have been reviewed by the ESRB that are rated M and have nudity. Interestingly enough, there are 24 games listed with an AO (Adult Only) rating and they’re almost all for PC (only 2 for consoles).

The Irrelevant Gamer and I have been discussing kids and games a lot lately since we just welcomed our son into the world in late December 2011. Of course games are going to change a lot between now and when he’s a teen, but if he were a teen gamer now what would we let him play? Well it all depends on how he matures. We’d probably let him play games with less M-ness like Halo as early as 13/14. Something like Mass Effect/Dragon Age 15. Then we’d hope he’d be able to make his own good decisions by the time he’s 16, but until then we’d do a lot of gaming with him.


I guess that would be our central message. Game as a family and in moderation! There are lots of great games families with younger children can play together. Then as they get older play games with them so you can talk about them as they go.

The Relevant Gamer will be back soon with some new reviews and more about what’s coming up in 2012!

Until then, keep gaming friends!