7 Reasons to get your Kids a Handheld Console instead of Mobile Devices

They are everywhere. Kids holding iPhones, Android phones, non-Android phones, iPads and tablets while strolling around the mall. Generally I don’t object to phone or tablet gaming because I believe they are great new gaming frontiers to be explored. I don’t mind kids using them either, especially since there are many apps that help with their cognitive development.

But when you’re shopping this holiday for a nifty gadget to give your inaanaks, if the entirety of the reason to get your 8-year old nephew or niece an iPad is so he can play with it, please take a moment to consider why you should be getting them a games console instead.

Note: I am presuming you want to get it for the kid with gaming in mind.

1. Price point

A phone/tablet can cost you astronomic figures ranging to Php90,000 at its peak while the cheapest decent tablet can eat up at least Php8,000. That’s without any assurance that the tablet will run smoothly and function as expected or run the games the kid would want to play. You’d also have to go through catalogues and check specification options, optimizations and a whole lot of stuff, or just settle for Php40,000 iPads.

A handheld console can range to as much as Php13,000 for a Nintendo 3DSxl limited edition The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds edition up to as little as Php 5000 for the Nintendo 2DS. Oh, the Playstation Vita is around Php 9000 and that’s considering the latest releases of handhelds. Playstation Portables (PSP) can go for as little as Php 3,500 and the same goes for Nintendo DSi. After determining which brand and model you want to get, there is little to worry about specs, compatibility and software as consoles are the easiest to plug-and-play. Very seldom will you need to worry about games running the way they should on your consoles or hardware specs not performing. The price range is narrower and you don’t lose much by getting a lower priced one since the 2DS is a pretty strong console itself.

2. Quality of games

Most parents or people who opt for mobile devices for their kids always reason out that the platform is more suited to kids because you can simply download games. I agree, you can download games for tablets and phones, but what they fail to consider is the quality of those games.

The best games on mobile are re-hashes of popular console games, one of the most popular being Minecraft which has been on PC for a long time already. At their best, mobile games are swipe-by-the-number games, well-made Skinner-boxes and limited by the medium they are played in. I’m all for exploration of the new platform, but right now, you just have to admit that the mobile gaming scene is narrow and limited in its ability.

Handheld consoles carry titles that have been on brew for generations. The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, Sword Art Online, Super Mario just to name a few titles that are best played with physical buttons and on their proper platforms cannot be played on mobile devices without giving up a huge chunk of the experience. With the 3DS and Vita both having touch screen abilities, mobile games are more easily ported to them with little draw back so playing Angry Birds on either of them is not a problem at all. The same cannot be said when attempting to play Super Mario Bros. even on the best of mobile emulators.

3. Socialization

One of the biggest aspects of mobile gaming is the social gaming experience. Many if not all mobile games require you to connect with a friend or at least reward you for connecting with friends one way or another. Unfortunately despite what it might seem like, the social connectivity is rather limited. All you really do is hook it up to your Facebook account and it automatically connects with Facebook friends with the same games or starts annoying those who don’t. With poorly coded games, Facebook friends end up as player numbers and people aren’t really sure who are doing what.

The interaction is also limited. On Candy Crush, you’re connected to your friends to ask and give power-ups, tickets and extra lives. On Clash of Clans you raid your friends’ bases, which they’re oblivious to and can’t really prevent in real time. These don’t really promote social skills, these just promote having lots of Facebook friends who might accidentally gift you something on one of these games.

The closest they get to actual social interactivity are the ported games. Streetfighter for mobile, Heartstone for mobile, Pokemon Trading Card Game for mobile all have “real-time” competitive aspects, unfortunately the fighting games don’t give a full engagement as controls often have to be streamlined to accommodate for the fact that touchscreens don’t allow you to touch multiple buttons at once, something that’s kinda vital to fighting games. The trading card games work well, but that’s about it.

Nintendo’s Streetpass feature encourages gamers to get out there and move around (Internet photo)

Handheld consoles on the other hand have a different kind of social interactivity. The Nintendo 3DS alone has a feature called StreetPass wherein the unit detects nearby 3DS units and tags them with a simple greeting. Many games use this function and it encourages gamers to go out and seek out other gamers, creating new social circles and interacting with people they can actually see and recognize. The games on their own also encourage social interaction, Pokemon being one of the most obvious games. It forces people to trade with others, gives incentives for connecting with players across borders and even allows you to compete with one another in real time. In Fantasy Life you are questing in cooperation with other players. You are literally joining your friends on quests that you would normally not be able to accomplish on your own. One of the favorite meetup games is Monster Hunter where teams join one another to hunt gigantic monsters and forge great bonds. These are the social interactions that stay with you long after the game. It’s not a mere tag on Facebook pestering him/her to click a button.

4. Control

How do you control or monitor what games your kids play on a mobile device? Quite frankly, if your kid is resourceful enough (which is a good thing) you really can’t. Once you give the device to the kid, the kid owns it and will download games ad infinitum until the memory capacity runs out… or you take away the internet.

With a handheld, games are a treasure. First off you can lock online purchases on the 3DS so they’ll only get to download games if you let them. Physical cartridges can become treats for the kids too. I remember playing the Super Nintendo with my siblings and every now and then my dad would treat us to a new game. We enjoyed every one of those games he bought. It’ll be easier to say, “We’ll get you Pokemon Omega Ruby on your birthday,” or “Bravely Default comes with good grades,” than, “Pass your subjects or no more tablet.”

5. Discernment

Kids don’t have the best utility distinction faculties. My brother once told me of a baby who cried after being given a magazine. The baby was trying to swipe the pages in an attempt to trigger something. When the print wouldn’t move, he got frustrated and began to cry. This is because kids aren’t the best at understanding the purpose of gadgets. To kids, mobile devices become toys. Letting them play with these devices simply reinforce this idea. When it comes time to do some actual work with them they become confused and start resenting the idea that their toys are now being used to do work.

You won’t have that problem with a handheld console. These things are for gaming and anything else are bonuses. When they hold their handheld, they know it’s time to relax and play, when they get their tablets with their homework on it, they know to engage into study mode. It also avoids incidents where a parent tries to take away the tablet to stop the kid from gaming but it turns out all the homework is there too.

Work and play in equal parts, but make them distinct for more happiness.

6. Safety

Internet Photo

The internet is not a safe place for kids. Without your guidance they are prone to encounter bad content and bad people. Unless you are willing to spend hours teaching them the ropes and monitoring their online activities, giving a kid a mobile device is a bad idea. At 11, my kid cousin is already making sales transactions with complete strangers through Facebook. First of all, Facebook requires users to be at least 13 years old. It goes without saying that if your less-than-13-year-old has a Facebook account, monitor it well, monitor it often.

They run the risk of chatting with complete strangers that might trick them into things that could be avoidable with parental consent, for example online sellers telling them to meetup outside their school or give them credit card numbers. Big no-no’s that can be easily avoided. Either orient them or guide them, but always take this aspect with caution.

On a 3DS or Vita, online interaction is restricted to in-game match sessions. Verbal communication is limited and players tend to focus on the game rather than the chit-chat. These games already expect their audience to be around the age of 10 so their social environments are designed to focus more on the game and less on deviant social interactions.

No need to constantly look over their shoulders because browsing and other social functions are already limited so there’s a smaller tendency for them to meet online strangers that might talk them into stuff.

7. Value

Value is not the same as price. Yes, paid apps on Google play and on the App store are as low as $10 or Php 500. There are thousands of free apps on both stores. A kid could access any of the thousands of apps at the touch of a button. Unfortunately, like a jailbroken game unit, the value of those games are lessened. Mincraft, even if you’ve paid $8.99 to purchase, becomes just one of many app icons in a see of freemium and pay-to-win.

With cartridges, they might have a higher price, normally around $30 or Php 1500, but each will bear more value. The reduced frequency and higher price point naturally teaches kids to value what they have. Games will have more meaning and each new one you get them will be greeted with wider smiles than the last one. Console games aren’t something you can just delete when you get bored, people often have difficulty selling them even when in dire need. The bond between gamer and game grows especially with games like Pokemon when your entire adventure is saved right on the cartridge itself.

This is not meant to demean those that have already given their kids tablets and phones. It’s my hope that with this, people looking to give kids a play-thing gadget for the holidays or whatever occasion will think twice. If you know what you’re doing giving your kid an iPad, go for it, good on you. If you don’t, here’s my advice.

Don’t agree with my thoughts on mobile devices? Did I miss any points? Let me know in the comments.

Happy holidays!

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Holiday Guide to Shopping for Gamers

There’s no denying it, the holidays are around and with it comes the time to reap the fruits of your labor. Of course there’s also the gift giving part which nobody can escape, and of course everyone will have at least one friend who identifies as a gamer.

For those who want to get something for their gamer friends but don’t know where to start, here are some helpful shopping tips:

Know your target

Chances are, you’re shopping for one of two kinds of gamers; a console gamer or a PC gamer. Know which one he or she is and find out which console they own. From here you can break down your choices to either games or accessories.

Console groups

Nintendo

Wii, Wii U or 3DS

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Common issues:

  • Systems are region locked, so be sure that game regions match the console region
  • Online play is usually free
  • Most games sold here are from the USA region and Asian region
  • E-shop cards are readily available for USA accounts
  • Wii has been jailbroken to infinity; Wii U hasn’t neither has the N3DS
  • Find out if giftee’s Wii console can play the game you intent to buy

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Sony

Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita

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Common issues:

  • Not region locked, so any game will fit any console
  • DLC is region locked, so use the appropriate PSN Account
  • Playstation 4 requires a premium account to play online
  • Playstation Credits are available in USA dollars, HK dollars, SN dollars and JAP Yen
  • Playstation 3 has already been jailbroken but with limited functionality, Playstation 4 and Vita have not

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Microsoft

Xbox 360, Xbox One

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  • Not region locked, so any game will fit any console
  • DLC is region locked, so use the appropriate Xbox LIVE account
  • Online play is pay to play
  • Microsoft credits are available in USA dollars
  • Xbox 360 has been jailbroken with little impact to game performance
How to pick a game

Favorites aren’t always a wise choice

Everyone has a favorite series or genre of game. Personally I follow the Pokemon series as well as the Zelda games. Gamers would love to get a copy of the latest installment to their favorite game series for the holidays, but before you rush out of your chair to purchase that title, do a bit of research. If the person you are giving it to is a big fan of the series, there’s a big chance he got the game on launch date and a second copy wouldn’t do any good. Series like Pokemon, Zelda, NBA 2k, Assassin’s Creed are well followed and well advertised, so their fans are more than likely to get them early for launch-day DLC. Snoop around and know if he’s already got one or is frothing at the mouth to get one. If he doesn’t already, make sure he doesn’t get it until you do. He’ll be your best friend for the rest of the holidays.

Mainstream isn’t always too mainstream

Let’s presume your friend already has the copy of his or her favorite gaming series, time for plan B. Gamers won’t always admit it, but they want that triple-A title that just came out. Unfortunately their meager budgets don’t permit them from getting it with the latest in the series they are following. This is the perfect opportunity to fill in that void. Shadow of Mordor, Call of Duty, Super Smash Bros or maybe Far Cry which they’ve seen countless trailers of but have never gotten the courage to buy for themselves because they might miss their favorite series or be called “too mainstream”. Maybe you could even get them a spin-off of their favorite titles, maybe a Pokemon Rumble Blast or a Shin Megami Tensei side-game. They’ve always wanted to at least try it but there’s a lot of reasons they won’t get it. They may not play it in public, but they’ll thank you for it for sure.

Under the radar

Okay, so your friend is a sucker for triple-A titles and doesn’t mind being called mainstream. Try an “art” game. Indie games and obscure titles might not be in their radar, but with a little research, you’ll find one that they can enjoy. Telltale games like The Walking Dead is sure to at least pique curiosity among any gamer. Games like Flower or Journey will give your friend a fresh gaming experience. Scout around the indie scene top-sellers, it’s likely they’ll fit your friend’s taste too. Love it or hate it, they’ll thank you for the gaming variety you introduced them to.

Where to shop

Datablitz/ i-Tech

Datablitz, because gamers trust gamers

Gamers trust these two retailers for a reason. By far, Datablitz is the most widely patronized gaming retail store in the Philippines and for good cause. Check out their website for a Datablitz branch near you and do your shopping there. Not only will they more likely have a better selection of games, accessories and consoles but they’ll have better prices and be a lot more helpful. Most of the people there know about region locks, compatibility, which system goes where and common issues with the items they have on sale. Not to mention these places are among the few that carry limited edition titles to go with their expansive array. They don’t sell jailbreaks or modified units, so you can be sure everything is legit and safe.

Stay away from SM Department Stores, Astrovision, Toys R Us or Toy Kingdom as much as you can. Their prices are naturally inflated and the sales representatives aren’t going to be much help. Most of the time you’ll be better off browsing on your own than talking to them, so just steer clear of these places unless you absolutely have to.

Small-time retailers are worth a look, but to find anything worth gifting you’d have to have a bit of gaming know-how yourself. Unless you know what you’re looking for, places that sell second-hand, non-branded or repaired gadgets should be a no-go. If you enter these places without knowing your stuff, you will be milked for every centavo you have.

 

Desperation moves

If all else fails and you’re absolutely clueless about games or just don’t know what game your friend might enjoy, try game credits. Nintendo E-shop cards, Playstation Store Credit, Xbox Arcade Credits and Steam Wallet Credits are all 100% hits with gamers. All you have to do is find out which console platform they play in and purchase the appropriate card for them. Heck, you don’t even have to wrap it, just text him the code, tell him to enter it into his Steam Wallet or whatever and watch the love flow in. You cannot go wrong with it.

It also helps that not all gamers want the same games and not all the games they want come out in the holiday season. If your friend follows a title which isn’t coming out till next year, the credits you give him will ensure that he’ll be able to afford it come release day. More than just giving your friend money, it’s money already invested on games from the get-go, so there’s no guilt when he splurges that 2500Php on the next Diablo 3 expansion.

More options

But gifting for gamers isn’t all about getting them a game. There are times that they lack that one accessory that they haven’t come around to getting for themselves. It could be a gaming keyboard, headset, control stick extensions or maybe a bigger SD card. Filling up one of these gaps for them this holiday season will ensure you will be thought of everytime they get a multi-kill on LoL.

 

Gift game recommendations:

Nintendo

Wii U

  • Super Smash Bros for WiiU
  • Mario Kart 8
  • Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD
  • Hyrule Warriors

Nintendo 3DS

  • Pokemon Omega Ruby/ Alpha Sapphire
  • Persona Q
  • Fantasy Life
  • Super Smash Bros for 3DS
  • Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright the Trilogy
  • Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright Dual Destinies
  • Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright
  • Azure Gunvolt Striker

Playstation

Playstation 3

  • Borderlands the Pre-sequel
  • Dragon Age Inquisition

Playstation 4

  • NBA 2k15
  • Shadow of Mordor
  • Dragon Age Inquisition
  • WWE 2k15
  • Far Cry 4
  • Telltale Games: The Walking Dead 2

Playstation Vita

  • Borderlands 2
  • Shin Megami Tensei
  • Final Fantasy X-X2

Microsoft

Xbox One

  • Destiny
  • Call of Duty Advanced Warfare
  • Halo
  • Killer Instinct

*Do you agree with my tips and recommendations? Would you recommend any game that would make an awesome gift this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!