Family Fun at E3

E3 and the Wired Kids Summit – Coast to Coast Internet / Gaming Fun.  On the East Coast the Teen Angels were on the Hill in DC at the Wired Kids Summit presenting their research on Internet Safety from the past year.  On the West Coast E3 was a buzz with product announcements and all things electronics for the next year.

While I really wanted to be at both events it was logistically impossible.  So, we sent our roving reporter Johner Riehl, from FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com to be our eyes at ears at this years E3.  Thanks Johner for your great report!

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E3 for Families Who Like To Play Games Together
by Johner Riehl
FamilyFriendlyVideoGames.com

While a lot of the hype and hoopla surrounding the annual E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles centers around companies trying to appeal to “core” gamers with their latest shoot-em-up, gore-glorifyin’ mature offerings, most companies also realize that they must create content to appeal to families in order to succeed. From what we saw at the show last week, more and more companies understand the importance of creating games that can bring families together.

Introducing the Wii U

One of the most anticipated family-friendly announcements at E3 included information about Nintendo’s new home console successor to the Wii. Nintendo announced that the Wii U will be coming out next year, and will feature one tablet controller with a 6.2 inch touch screen which opens up a slew of gaming possibilities for families. The Wii U will be compatible with all existing Wii games, and current Wii-motes and nunchuks will work with it.

Although there were no “real” games shown, there were 8 different demos which highlighted some of the console’s possibilities. For starters, a couple of the game demos featured 5-player multiplayer, with one player controlling action on the tablet, and the other four working together on the TV screen. The possibility of expanding games into the 5-player realm is intriguing, especially considering many families with three kids will now all be able to play together at the same time. Nintendo also highlighted the ability for players to transition their gameplay from the TV to the touchscreen, allowing players to finish their game (or keep playing) even after others enter the room and want to watch something else.

Perhaps the aspect of the Wii U that blew us away the most was seeing how the tablet controller could be used to expand the game world all around the player. Imagine holding up the tablet between you and TV to get a window of the onscreen action. Now turn your view (and the tablet) 90 degrees to the right, or point it straight up, and imagine the game world continuing to render all around you. We’d never experienced anything like that, and can’t wait to see what sort of windows Wii U opens for families.

Family Togetherness

Although not every video game company is doing it, it’s clear that quite a few are placing a priority on games that are good for a broad range of ages, and designing games with the idea of parents playing alongside their kids.

For the pre-school crowd, great games from 2K Play like Nickelodeon Dance and Nicktoons MLB deliver family-friendly fun that even 3- and 4-year-olds can enjoy. One of our favorite games of E3 was Warner Bros. Interactive’s Sesame Street Once Upon A Monster, a Kinect game that unfolds like a storybook, asking players to perform big, exaggerated, animated gestures alongside Elmo and Cookie Monster while progressing through the story.

For families with older kids, games like Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 and Majesco’s Take Shape offer families a chance to play together to reach a common goal. And of course Nintendo can be counted on to have a few family-friendly Wii titles this holiday season before the Wii U launches next year. Kirby Wii and Mario Party 9 are shaping up as must-haves for families that play videogames together.

Move Over Kinect

Last year, families embraced Microsoft’s Kinect camera accessory for Xbox 360, offering controller-free gameplay that often encouraged side-by-side play and making 2010 the Year of Kinect. Launched around the same time, Sony’s PlayStation Move add-on for PlayStation 3 incorporated a camera system and a motion-controller, in essence combining the best of both the Kinect and Wii worlds. Judging from the holiday titles we saw at E3, it looks like 2011 might be the year your family needs to get on board with PlayStation Move.

The youngest family members will love the all new Eyepet & Friends, while kids and tweens should enjoy Carnival Island and Medieval Moves, both designed to take advantage of the Move’s precise controller tracking. And the whole family should enjoy Everybody Dance, which may have been our favorite “play together” title we saw during E3 week, taking all the elements that have made Just Dance and so popular, and adding cool features such as 20-player party play, or a ‘Dance Party’ mode that generates songs based how long you want to play.

Other Quick Notes for Families

– Despite the recent PSN network outage, Sony seems to be doing a lot of things right when it comes to making games families can enjoy together. In addition to a great lineup for PlayStation Move, Sony also introduced their PlayStation Vita handheld, which combines a 5-inch touchscreen with cameras and standard videogame controls. This powerful machine will offer games and other content that will appeal to all ages, with games like Little Big Planet 2 and ModNation Racers set to provide an unprecedented level of interaction behind the handheld and home console versions of games.

– One of our most pleasant surprises of E3 was Cyberbike from Bigben Interactive. This Wii game uses a real-life exercise bike as the controller, and offers a fun way to get a nice workout while pedaling your way through the game. Plus, the bike can also work as a controller for other Wii racing games, like Mario Kart.

– With the upcoming London Olympics in 2012, of course Sega is bringing back the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games franchise. Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games promises to blend competitive and cooperative family play like no other, and should be near the top of any gaming family’s list.

– If you’re as intrigued by Wii U as we are, and want to get a glimpse of at least part of the future, check out THQ’s uDraw system, coming out this year for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Released last year for Wii, this year’s enhanced version allows users to use their fingers on the controller’s center touchpad, providing an even more intuitive and interactive drawing experience. The uDraw controller doesn’t have any screens or images on it like the Wii U tablet controller will, but it does provide a unique way to unleash your family’s creativity.

– And finally, if your family loves New Super Mario Bros. style cooperative gameplay, you won’t want to miss Ubisoft’s Rayman Origins. With a beautiful cartoony art style, up to four players can simultaneously work their way through the game’s imaginative and colorful levels.

You can find more info on Family Friendly Video Games by following Johner:

TWITTER: @FmlyFrndlyVdGms
FACEBOOK.com/FamilyFriendlyVideoGames

Check out his latest column on Scott Steinberg’s GameTheoryOnline:
The Family Perspective – http://gametheoryonline.com/2011/05/16/video-games-bad-word-kids-parents/

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Filed under Internet Safety, Reviews, Teen Angels

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