Video Games Can Teach, If Kids Will Play

<b>Video Games Can Teach, If Kids Will Play</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – While it’s not unusual to see books or movies taking plots from the headlines, hot topics now show up in unexpected places — including video games.

No longer content to produce simple shoot-’em-ups, many game developers now create video games designed to inform as well as to entertain. Some take sarcastic views on real events, like “Harpooned: Japanese Cetacean Research Simulator,” in which gamers play a Japanese scientist “researching” whales by killing them for cat food. Others focus on education, such as “PowerUp,” which requires children to use solar, wind and water power to save a fictional planet.

If socially conscious games sound heavy-handed, it’s because most of them emphasize driving home a message over gameplay. But kids aren’t likely to learn if they don’t want to play the game. Parents who want to give their kids beneficial video games should look for entertaining games that just happen to carry a social or environmental message. For example, “The Secret Saturdays: Beasts of the 5th Sun,” a game available on Wii, PS2, Nintendo DS and PSP, may not look particularly educational at first glance — it is, after all, based on a Cartoon Network show.

But when children play as members of the Saturday family, they become scientific explorers dedicated to discovering and protecting secret artifacts and mysterious creatures called Cryptids, which are based on folklore, myths and legends.

The game follows an original storyline based on the “Secret Saturdays” television series. Players must prevent the evil V.V. Argost from using Cryptids for his own gain -; an interesting parallel with the real-life exploitation of natural resources.

As players explore and solve puzzles in 10 real-world environments, the game teaches them to protect creatures’ habitats — even if those creatures are unlikely to appear in any local zoo. And the game includes enough action — traversing water hazards, flying and battling the Saturday’s enemies — to keep kids interested. After all, battling an evil villain from your favorite shows sounds like far more fun than using equations to build a virtual windmill.

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How to Choose a Video Game for Your Child

<b>How to Choose a Video Game for Your Child</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Inevitably, your child will ask for a video game you don’t know anything about. Maybe the rating is higher than you think is appropriate, or you’re simply not sure you want your child mowing down pedestrians or playing with sharp objects, no matter how virtual.

But your child tells you that his friends all own the game, or that you’re worried about nothing, if not “completely unfair.” So how can you reconcile your child’s wants with your concerns?

Children like violent games because they are exciting — but parents can find equally entertaining games appropriate for younger children. For example, “Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks,” a new game from D3Publishers, is based on a Cartoon Network show popular with boys between ages six and 11. And while the game contains plenty of exciting action — the main character can take on 10 different alien forms to battle villains — the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gives it fairly gentle ratings.

But you can’t go by game ratings alone. While video game ratings, as provided by the ESRB, offer a good starting point, not all of the games that receive the same rating prove equally offensive. For example, a game may be rated “T (Teen)” for a single use of a curse word in a song lyric or for illustrating cartoon animal poop, as well as violence and suggestive themes.

The Nintendo DS version of “Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks” received an “E” rating for Cartoon Violence and Comic Mischief, while versions for Xbox 360, Microsoft, Wii, PS2 and PSP are considered “E 10+,” or appropriate for everyone over 10.

Ben does have to fight to save the universe, but the game also contains puzzles and platform challenges that encourage children to think. When considering a game, think about its possible benefits, not just its rating. And take the time to look up a few reviews -; they will give you a good idea about the reasoning behind the ESRB’s ratings.

Of course, the best resource for choosing video games is readily available — talking to your children about why they want specific video games can help you make appropriate decisions. If you’re still in doubt, start playing the games with your kids — you will know exactly what they see and hear, and enjoy a fun bonding experience.

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Video Games Can Teach, If Kids Will Play

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – While it’s not unusual to see books or movies taking plots from the headlines, hot topics now show up in unexpected places — including video …

How to Choose a Video Game for Your Child

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Inevitably, your child will ask for a video game you don’t know anything about. Maybe the rating is higher than you think is appropriate, or you’re …

“Mickey Mouse of Japan” Goes Stateside

<b>“Mickey Mouse of Japan” Goes Stateside</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Japanese imports like Pokémon and DragonballZ have been entertaining American children for over a decade, but Japan’s most iconic manga character — a child robot known as Astro Boy — has only recently been rediscovered by American audiences.

Often called “The Mickey Mouse of Japan,” Astro Boy was created in 1952 by Tezuka Osamu, Japan’s most influential cartoonist. Tezuka’s characters, with their large eyes and expressive faces, established the drawing style used in all anime today.

But it was Tezuka’s storytelling that made Astro Boy resonate with audiences around the world. Astro Boy reimagines the story of Pinocchio in a futuristic setting. Although Astro Boy is a powerful robot with components that help him protect the Earth — including twin machine guns in his butt -; he is, at heart, a little boy with an innocent worldview. Running themes include respect for life and a clear anti-bigotry message. But the morals go down with a spoonful of sugar, or, in this case, whimsy and some seriously fun butt-kicking.

Children today can experience Astro Boy outside of manga and anime. For example, D3Publisher of America, Inc. has created a video game that allows children to become Astro Boy. Available on Wii, DS, PS2 and PSP, Astro Boy: The Video Game combines entertaining gameplay with immersive storytelling. Players of all ages can use Astro Boy’s iconic weapons to battle enemies and unlock different versions of the eponymous character. Based on the 2009 full-length CG film, the video game features the voices of Freddie Highmore and Kristen Bell and allows players to explore environments from the movie.

Astro Boy emerged from post-war Japan, when instability and the fear of technology played a major role in popular culture. But while other contemporary Japanese movies involved giant monsters decimating Toyko, Tezuka created a more reassuring vision. As Tezuka once said, “‘Love all the creatures! Love everything that has life!’ I have been trying to express this message in every one of my works.”

As America finds itself fighting overseas and experiencing an economic downturn, Astro Boy’s inspiring story of redemption and triumph will certainly resonate with new generations.

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New Resource Helps Parents Choose Age-Appropriate Video Games

<b>New Resource Helps Parents Choose Age-Appropriate Video Games</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard your child plead for the latest, hottest video game. And as a parent, you may have found yourself in the position of having to decide whether a game rated “T for Teen,” recommended for kids 13 and older, is really OK for your younger “tween” to play. And what do you do if the rating information on the back of the game box says that the game contains “Fantasy Violence” and “Blood and Gore?” What exactly does that mean?

“Those terms (content descriptors) are helpful, but sometimes I need more detail than what’s on the box,” says one parent, “especially when my 11-year-old has got his heart set on a game, and I’m more inclined to err on the side of caution.”

For times like these, a new resource is now available to help parents decide whether a video game is truly appropriate for their child. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) — the non-profit group that assigns age and content ratings for computer and video games — has recently started offering “rating summaries,” which provide a brief yet descriptive explanation of content that factored into a game’s rating. They detail everything from what sort of violent acts are in the game to the words that your child will hear to the appearance or use of alcohol, tobacco or drugs by a character in the game.

Parents can find rating summaries by searching specific titles on the ESRB’s Web site (, or they can look them up, right from the video game store, by using a Web-enabled cell phone to search game titles on the ESRB’s mobile Web site (

“The ratings are a great resource, and checking them will undoubtedly give you a good sense of whether a game is right for your child, but by their nature they are intended to provide basic guidance and information,” says Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB. “For those parents that want to go beyond the rating information on the package, rating summaries deliver exactly what they need. They allow parents to dig deeper and get that much more comfortable with a game’s content before they bring it home for their child. At the end of the day, it’s all about peace of mind.”

Bringing Family Together With Video Games

<b>Bringing Family Together With Video Games</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – As time has drifted on, the characteristics of a family have slowly changed. From the era when mother, father and children all sat at the dinner table together, played board games and crossword puzzles and watched their favorite television show as a single unit to the present, when families have so many different activities that it rarely permits them to spend any time together as a single group, the definition of “quality time” has been altered.

In fact, sociologists and authors Suzanne Bianchi, John Robinson and Melissa Milkie suggest in their book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” that parents are actually spending more time with their children than in 1965. But the time may not be spent as a single unit and is often scheduled around all other activities.

“We are robbing our children and we are robbing ourselves of the richest relationships of our lifetime,” warns parenting expert Mary Gordon. “It means we’re not really shoring them up for success. Little children need adult time, and they need together time … without any agenda.”

Many factors contribute to lost family time: Parents are working longer hours, family members are involved in more activities and video games consume children’s free time. So, what can parents do to get that old-fashioned family atmosphere back?

One of the best ways parents can spend more time as a complete family with their children is by adopting their activities. According to a 2007 Neilson study, 41 percent of all U.S. homes have at least one video game console — an 18.5 percent increase from 2004.

Consoles like the Nintendo Wii are a great source of entertainment for children and adults, and they can be a way for parents to find quality time as a complete family. The Wii has many four-player games, like the popular Wii Sports series, where you can play bowling, golf and tennis.

Parents who wish to use their Wii for family bonding can keep their quality gaming going strong with the MeWe Quad Charger designed by Hamgo, Inc., an independent Wii video game accessory manufacturer and distributor. The Quad Charger allows Wii owners to charge up to four remotes simultaneously with their rechargeable battery packs, eliminating the constant need to buy and replace AA batteries and providing up to 13 hours of play time per remote.

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Recession-Proof Family Entertainment That Will Outlast the Economic Slump

<b>Recession-Proof Family Entertainment That Will Outlast the Economic Slump</b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – An outing to the movies for a family of four could run upwards of $70 with the gasoline, parking, tickets and a snack bar visit. And an amusement park could be double that. As hard economic times are affecting more middle-class Americans, entertaining the family at home on a shoestring is becoming the trend.

The 21st century’s version of traditional parlor games (board games, charades, etc.) is video gaming. But even amongst video games, costs – and experiences – vary wildly. Compared with hardcore games designed for young males, family-friendly “casual” video games like Bookworm Adventures and Bejeweled Twist are far more cost-effective, easy to learn and appealing to everyone in the family.

Joe and Cary Anne Melton of Huntersville, N.C., have assembled a sizable library of casual classics which they play with their daughters Jenna and Claire. “When you consider the four of us have collectively enjoyed Bookworm Adventures for at least a couple of hundred hours over the years, the modest cost of the game is a tremendous deal compared to most other forms of family entertainment,” Joe says. “And these are games I can feel good about letting my daughters play. It’s a great bonding experience to have your child sit on your lap and help you solve the challenges in Bookworm Adventures or Peggle,” Joe notes. “We end up having thoughtful, enlightening discussions about everything from spelling and word definitions to zoology and physics.”

Casual games range in price from $10 to $20 and can be tried for free online. With the average casual game providing more than 100 hours of entertainment, that equates to pennies per hour of play. For a wide array of family-friendly titles, check out, or

Bands Perform Child’s Lyrics

<b>Bands Perform Child’s Lyrics </b>“></td>
<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – Many young children cry when their loved ones pass, but few pen their emotions into song, much less make that song into a music video.

But when Alexandra Irving, age 9, lost her grandfather, she wrote a song, “All We Had,” in his memory. Several bands competing to play the OC Music Fest ’09, a three-day event to be held in May 2009, have recorded the song. One band, Roman Alexander and The Robbery, plans to make a short children’s video using Irving’s lyrics.

“I heard her keep repeating the same verse,” said Wayne Irving, Alexandra’s father. “‘One year ago, my heart became broken. Something made me uncomfortable… My grandpa’s smile is gone.'”

Alexandra, a precocious child who sings, dances and heads her gymnastic team, had a special relationship with her grandfather, who succumbed to a freak streptococcus bacteria infection at age 59. He coached her soccer team -; her optimism and sensitivity brightened his days.

When Wayne Irving, the founder of the Orange County Music Festival and E-CBS Records spoke of Alexandra’s song, he was surprised to find that many bands felt touched by Alexandra’s love for her grandfather and the song that she wrote after his tragic loss.

Several bands competing to play in the OC Music Fest ’09 “Be the Band Contest,” in which bands compete to perform at one of the festivals, approached Wayne about producing Alexandra’s song. Roman Alexander and The Robbery wrote a lullaby using Alexandra’s lyrics. Australian rock sensation Bedford play it in a tear-jerking and mesmerizing rock version. Genius, the only platinum-selling group to emerge from Romania, will sing the lyrics in a pop-blues style.

Word spread about the song, solicitations started coming in and an illustrator agreed to make a short music video based on Roman Alexander and The Robbery’s version. All three performances are available at Alexandra would like you to come vote for your favorite at

How does Alexandra feel about the attention? “I’m embarrassed,” she says. “I was just thinking about my grandpa, I miss him so much. I wish he was here so he could hear my song for him.”

Covert Cams Bring Peace of Mind at Home

<b>Covert Cams Bring Peace of Mind at Home</b> (NU) – According to the Vanished Children’s Alliance, a child is missing or abducted every 40 seconds.

A car is stolen every 24 seconds in the United States, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

What can you do to prevent these crimes from happening to you and your family? Video surveillance is one option you may not have considered.

Video surveillance usually brings to mind retail stores and malls. But many people are finding video surveillance useful in their homes and their personal lives.

Today, people use cameras to watch their front doors, back doors, yard, children’s room or car. Why? Many video cameras have saved children from household help, such as cleaning people and baby sitters, who exhibited irrational or harmful behavior. Cameras can also indicate if someone enters a home or room without invitation. And, nothing can prove who stole a vehicle better than video evidence.

You can record environments with equipment designed in such a way that only the person using it is able to tell that it’s a camera. CCS International (OTC BB: SITG) makes sophisticated video surveillance systems for home and personal use that monitor, record and broadcast real-life conditions to ensure peace of mind.

Here are a few examples:

* Hand Held Clock Video Cam: Housed in a palm-size clock, this device views live events through its hidden pinhole camera. It will transmit video imagery for up to 24 hours or use a DVR for long-term recording. A camera system concealed within a functioning alarm clock radio is also available.

* Briefcase Camera Portable Recording System: It looks like an ordinary briefcase, but its pinhole lens provides high-resolution recordings with clear quality.

* Body Worn Spy Cam: This video surveillance camera can be worn or alternatively placed in a concealed area. It is connected to a microtransmitter that sends a video signal to a video receiver. This included receiver can be connected to a VCR, DVR or video monitor.

Other available CCS systems are housed in a gym bag, a pair of sunglasses and even a man’s tie. For more information, log on to