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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

January 13, 2009 at 5:34 PM

Game roundup: Xbox seeks family ambassadors, more “Dark Void” screenshots, troops and COD4 tourney

Xbox is seeking families to serve as “Get Game Smart Ambassadors” to help “educate their peers on making smart media choices.” Families can nominate themselves by submitting short videos explaining their approach to a “responsible digital lifestyle, including rules related to video gaming.” Winners will get prizes such as Xbox 360 systems, Zune players, games and cash.

It sounds like a gaming cousin of Microsoft’s MVP program for software developers, but this one highlights one of the Xbox’s big selling points for families, its advanced parental control capabilities. The campaign also includes a sweepstakes for families that work through “challenges” that offer advice on managing game and TV use in the home. It’s all at a new site,

It’s good that Xbox is helping families better manage screen time, and it’s a clever way to position the 360 as a family-friendly alternative to the Wii.

But it’s clearly coming from a company that would like teens and families to buy and play more games.

For more perspective on the same topic, here’s a 2006 study of the effects of screen time on school performance published in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Its conclusion: The more time kids spend playing video games and watching TV and movies, the worse they do in school.

From the introduction:

Based on previous studies, screen time is an obvious choice as a mediator for a detrimental effect on school performance, because it “displaces” time that would normally be spent doing schoolwork, reading for pleasure, or engaging in other educational activities.

Yet videogames are an inescapable part of our culture now, so it comes down to finding a balance. Teens can also make a pretty good argument that games are a promising career opportunity, especially around the Seattle area.

Xbox boss Robbie Bach, the chief family ambassador for the business group, shared a little bit about the approach taken in his house. From the press release:

In our house, we strongly believe that a balance between media use and other activities is necessary and we’ve established rules for our family to make sure our kids are spending quality time on their school work and being active. Though our kids love their games and we want them to have fun, we also want them to find entertainment in a variety of ways – whether it’s sports, music or playing outside with friends. Diversity and balance are key.

Other game news tidbits:

Tacoma game shop Play N Trade will collect games donated to troops serving overseas during a “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” tournament this week that’s sponsored by the National Guard.

Separately, Capcom released another batch of screenshots of Airtight’s “Dark Void” at CES, including some great aerials from the next triple A game coming out of the Seattle area, early this summer:


Just missed that saucer:


Going up!:


Are those brass knuckles?


More jetpacking:


Back to horizontal, sort of:




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