Holiday Tech Guide: Video Games

Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer; @Play Columnist
Tuesday, December 8, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post @Play columnist Mike Musgrove was online Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the latest video games and provide holiday gift giving advice.


Mike Musgrove: Hi all -

It's that time of year when a ton of new videogames comes out. It's also that time of year when non-gamers are stuck wandering the aisles of electronics stores wondering what to get for the game fans in their lives...

Let's get started...


Baltimore, Md.: This hasn't been a good year financially for some of us. New consoles, sixty dollar games, kinda out of reach. I've been looking at a lot of free to plays, and/or microtransaction based games. What do you think of games like Free Realms, Quick Hit Football, Maplestory, etc? I was thinking about buying points for my younger gamer relatives instead of whole games.

Mike Musgrove: Seems like a good idea to me, and one with a couple of advantages.

After all, if you‘re buying points for some game that a younger relative likes, it‘ll certainly be used. (The other advantage is that you‘re not paying $60 for something they‘ve never played before, that you don‘t really know for sure if they‘ll like or not.)

I suppose the main drawback is you don't get a nice box that you can giftwrap and put under the tree. But if you're just looking to spend $20 or so on some Xbox or PS3 gamer this holiday season, one way to go is to buy cards that will give them that much $ to spend on these game consoles' online services.


Boston, Mass.: Can you recommend any quality Wii games that have gone down in price from the original $50 cost? I'd like to get a few for my future brother-in-law, but I want to make sure they're actually good and enjoyable. He's 30, so nothing too juvenile!

Mike Musgrove: Boom Blox Bash Party, DeBlob and the Rayman “Raving Rabbits” games are a few examples of Wii games that are fun & that you can find on the cheap this year (around $20, I believe). I'm over 30 and liked these titles, tho not quite as much as my 8-year-old stepson. Your mileage may vary.

(If anybody wants to throw in more suggestions, please do...)

Alas, games from Nintendo like Super Mario Galaxy seem to be still stuck at $50 or so.


Vienna, Va.: Several stores are running a buy one, get half off special until Christmas. I have a PS3 and already have Borderlands, Uncharted 2, and Modern Warfare 2. Are there any other must haves this season that I should get under that deal? I was considering Assassins Creed 2, but don't know what to pair with it.

Mike Musgrove: That pile of titles will keep you occupied for a long time to come. If you‘re looking to jump on that deal add something else to that pile, you might consider the “game of the year” edition of Fallout 3, the version that comes with all the extra, downloadable content that Bethesda Softworks has released for this title over the last year. (This is what I‘m playing at the moment... it's still great.)


Washington, D.C.: An age-old question from a nonviolent mom: any fun new games coming out that do not involve murder, mayhem, violent hand to hand combat that boys will actually like to play? I have two sons - a teen and a grade schooler, and Dad plays with them, too. Between them all, they have most of the gaming systems. They really prefer the combat games, which make my sensitive self cringe. Any suggestions this holiday for a game we'll all be happy about? The sports themed ones seem not so exciting for them.

Mike Musgrove: Like last year, I would nudge someone in your position towards the Lego line of games, which tell the stories from franchises like Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Batman in a kid-friendly Lego universe (knock out a bad guy and he falls apart into a pile of Lego bricks, for example).

Kids typically like them and many grown ups like these games, too. One cool feature here is that you can play cooperatively with your kid in the games‘ adventures instead of going head-to-head against them.

If you have a Wii, I‘d also say that the new version of Super Mario Bros. also seems to be a family-friendly crowdpleaser.


Columbia, Md.: We currently have a PS2 and over the years we have purchased a lot of games and accessories. Can we use the PS2 games and accessories if we buy the new PS3? It can't see letting all of the money we spent on that stuff just go to waste.

Mike Musgrove: When the PS3 launched, Sony emphasized that the original PS3 console would be backward compatible with PS2 titles - as a way of making the transition seem a bit less painful to people who already spent $$ on that console. However, Sony has been making it clear -- with, for example, a new slim version of the PS3 that doesn‘t let you play those older games -- that backward compatibility isn‘t part of the deal anymore.

Short answer: I believe your PS2 investment capital would be going to waste.


New York, N.Y.: My son wants to be able to play Call of Duty. Which game player would you recommend: Play Station 3 or X-Box?Does X-box play Blue Ray DVDs?

Mike Musgrove: I personally tend to play more on the Xbox 360 when there's a choice in platforms, because I have friends who own that console and it's kinda cool to be able to log on with the device and see what my friends are currently playing.

But the Blu-ray player will attract lots of folks, I'm sure. If you're interested in getting a Blu-ray player anyway, I don't see why you wouldn't go in that direction.

Microsoft‘s Xbox does not have a Blu-ray player and the company typically says that it has no plans to introduce Blu-ray to its game console. As Msft competitor Sony was one of the leaders in developing Blu-ray, I wouldn‘t expect the Xbox 360 to jump on board.

As a side note, Tom Shales writes in a column today that you'll need an advanced degree in electronics to set up the PS3 & use it as a Blu-ray player...


Gaithersburg, Md.: Some of the games I'm most excited about won't be available until after the holidays: Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2, Lego Harry Potter. With big-name releases like that, why do the game studios wait until after winter for a release? You'd think they could time it better. Also, have you heard any rumors about a Fallout 4 game?

Mike Musgrove: In a lot of cases, such as Bioshock 2, the title was supposed to come out this year but got delayed. Happens quite a lot in this industry... and as a fan of videogames, I'd rather a studio took the time to polish the thing rather than rush it out the door for holiday sales.

I haven't heard anything about Fallout 4, though I would expect that to be in the works. Like other studios in this industry, Bethesda likes to keep a lid on such stuff.


SD, CA: For the non-violent chatter, if you have a PS3, definitely get LittleBigPlanet.

Cutest game, ever!

Mike Musgrove: Oh, of course. Yes, there's a good one.


Reston, Va: What do you think about COD:Modern Warfare 2? I need a gift for someone who plays games in single player mode rather than multiplayer, and I've heard the campaign mode in Modern Warfare is very short.

Mike Musgrove: It is indeed short. I know one guy who finished the single player campaign in a day. While it's still a great game, it's definitely worth taking that into your equation.


Collingswood, N.J.: Mike with all due respect to you and Mr. Shales, a monkey could set up the PS3 to play a Blu-ray disc. HDMI cable from PS3 to the HDTV, insert blu-ray disc, hit play. Thats it!

Mike Musgrove: Just putting this out there...

Yeah, I can't say that I've had difficulties on that front either. But I guess the multiple capabilities of the device could make it confusing to some folks.


SD, CA: Hi Mike,

Thank you for your gift guide!

To add a little to your writeup, Dragon Age: Origins is an excellent game. I've played the game exclusively since I got it. The storyline is excellent and very deep, but the game is definitely not for the younger crowd as there are several mature themes in it.

One game that is for younger folks that you didn't include is the new Ratchet and Clank game (A Crack In Time). The action is fun and the game looks fantastic. Plus, the story is quite good and actually pretty touching in parts.

Mike Musgrove: I wish I could freeze time early in November when so many of these titles come out, in order to play all of the good titles to completion. But I just haven't gotten very far in this title. It's an epic title and I don't have epic amounts of time, alas. Especially with a pile of other new games out that offer an entertainment fix with less time investment.


Newburgh, Ind.: Can a PS3 be hooked up with a 27" iMac i5 via the Mini DisplayPort and will the 4850 graphics processor be used or is Modern Warfare going to be available for the Mac? Which method would give the best result? Thanks.

Mike Musgrove: Erm. The easy answer here is that the previous version of Modern Warfare eventually came out for the Mac,and I'd fully expect this one will too. Certainly Activision is making enough money from the title.

As for your tech-y question, I'm afraid I don't know. But if somebody posts some guidance for this person, I'd be happy to pass it along.


Fairfax, Va.: The NYTimes has an interesting review of Assassin's Creeds 2 and its Italian Renaissance setting. Given its "M" rating, I'm sure no one is advocating it as an educational game. However, is it appropriate for a mid-teen type? I'm generally OK with stuff like Halo or Call of Duty. Not quite sure what Assassin's Creeds contains, however. Your suggestion?

Mike Musgrove: The videogame industry ratings board identifies why a title got a certain rating. AC2 has an "M" rating for "blood, intense violence, sexual content and strong language.

So, it's definitely a game with mature themes and content. But. Personally, if I were comfortable with a kid being old enough to play Modern Warfare 2, I wouldn't bat too much of an eye if they popped in Assassin's Creed 2.


Washington, D.C.: Another thing about PS3 which isn't advertised - you can use it as a Media Player. My wife and I routinely watch Hulu and Netflix with our PS3, and CBS has content available to watch as well (can't get enough of old Hawaii 5-0 episodes)!

Mike Musgrove: Good point.

I've actually bought a lot of TV shows that I missed when they were on the air for viewing on the PS3 (the Xbox offers this as well). I've been watching the just-concluded TV show Dollhouse this way, tho I imagine it's probably available for free on Hulu.


Games for young'n's: I highly recommend Forza 3 for's very addictive and it's fun to customize your cars with all sorts of tuneups, paintjobs, and decals and sell them online for points.......also, with the wireless driving wheel, it's the closest many of us will come to getting behind the wheel of the Bugatti Veryon :)

Mike Musgrove: Just passing this along.


Maryland: I'm considering the Nintendo DS Lite for our 7-year-old daughter. Are there many games for the Lite that are appropriate for that age range? I'm confused as to why this unit seems to be more expensive than the DSi even though it lacks Internet capability.

Mike Musgrove: I think the Lite is cheaper than the DSi. I think the Lite costs $130, compared to $170 for the DSi (this after a quick look at

That said, my 8-yr-old research assistant favored the Lite over the DSi, because the Lite lets him play older games that were designed for the GameBoy Advance.

Since a few folks are asking about this sort of thing, I should point out that the videogame ratings board makes its ratings available online -- -- and I believe they're even coming out with an iPhone/iPod Touch App for parents who want to check.


Wii Fit: What can you tell me about Wii Fit? My daughter will be getting a Wii for Christmas and I thought I'd ask for the Wii Fit package so I can use it as well. Do I also need to request specific "games," or does it come with enough to give me a feel for it?

Mike Musgrove: It comes with enough for you to get a feel for it. I'd say hold off on buying more stuff for use with the Balance Board till after the holidays.


Silver Spring, Md.: You can also stream content using the PS3 as a media server - not just purchased video distribution. I sync my laptop all the time with is via wireless to throw recorded shows up onto the big screen.

Mike Musgrove: More fun tricks you can get the PS3 to do, if you have the time and inclination.


Rejkavik, Iceland: Any good Karaoke-like games for the Wii? My friend has some good Songstar games (which featured not only original recordings, but actual VIDEOs) for his PlayStation systems. I have been hoping for some better stuff for the Wii, but while it does have some great group games, I haven't seen the love for the Wii with great singing games. (Maybe with some actual Black Sabbath).

Mike Musgrove: Sony has Singstar and Microsoft has Lips, in this category.

I haven't tried anything for Nintendo in this area, but I know there are titles like Sing It available for the platform. Seems to me like most of the titles in this genre for the Wii that I have seen are more kid-oriented.


Alexandria, Va.: My brother and I are 30+ Xboxers and love strictly single player games like Assassin's Creed 1 and 2 because we have so little time to play online. If I were to get him one game for Christmas, what would you recommend?

Mike Musgrove: Borderlands took up a lot of my time this fall (though it mainly ended up making me pop in Fallout 3 again...).

Try Arkham Asylum, if you haven't.


Mike Musgrove: Well, it's past 2 o'clock and my dog is barking like crazy at something. I guess it's time to go.

Thanks everybody who tuned in, and sorry I missed getting to some good postings that some of you guys threw in.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company