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November 10, 2005

Mommy, My Neck Hurts!

Imagine you're a kid. You want to try out this kewl new Xbox 360 that everyone's talking about.

Your mom has to stop at Wal-Mart to buy some Tide... and some pants (let's say), and as luck would have it, she said that after the cart is full, you can stop in the video game section to check out the first of the next generation consoles.

Fast forward 20 minutes...

As the EMT's fit you for a Brady Bunch-style neck brace (y'know, the one where Mike threw his briefcase on the floor of the courtroom, which made the plaintiff turn his head suddenly, which showed that he was faking his whiplash - scumbag) you sit dazed in the ambulance, wondering where it all went so wrong.

You are overheard muttering, "If only Best Buy sold Tide......and pants."

Wal-Mart is not only the 800 lb. gorilla that crushes industry creativity by encouraging licensed games and sequels in the name of reducing risk, in order to maximize the profit for every square inch of their gaming department (whew!)...

They also don't want to take up their precious real estate with something as frivolous as...say, the official Xbox 360 kiosk that I found at Best Buy 5 minutes after I left Wal-Mart.

Xbox 360 kiosk at Best Buy

No, in making their customers crane their necks at such an extreme angle, Wal-Mart just hurts the ones they love (monetarily speaking, that is).

Xbox 360 "kiosk" at Wal-Mart

This kid is much older/taller than my kids. Does he look ergonomically comfy to you?

FYI, Wal-Mart is an equal opportunity offender. Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube were equally difficult to play.

EDIT: In case it seems like I'm saying that Best Buy is everything is not (e.g. champion of innovation and creativity in video games), allow me to clarify. Basically, where Wal-Mart is the 800 lb. gorilla, Best Buy is the 600 lb. orangutan. There. That should clear things up nicely for you.


The only playable demo in the kiosk was Call of Duty 2, which, as a grownup gamer, I thoroughly enjoyed (I also played the free PC demo over a month ago). Clearly, this is not a game for kids. Why?

  • It's a war game.
  • It's rated T for Teen (the ESRB ratings were posted just under the monitor)
  • You can see soldiers (and yourself) getting shot, blood included.
  • IT'S!...A!...WAR!...GAME! You know...war? Like with the killing?
And yet, a mother was letting her 3 or 4-year-old son play the game. He's walking around, watching the carnage, getting shot, and she's looking on as if all is well. Maybe next on her agenda is a trip to Blockbuster to rent Pulp Fiction for their family movie night, which might sound something...like...this:

"Zed's dead, little Timmy. Zed's dead. Mr. Wallace got medieval on his ass. Now after Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin in the face, and they go to Jimmy's house to get their gore-covered ride off the streets, you'll try to go on the potty, okay?"


There are plenty of other games to see, but all you can do is see them. Instead of playable demos like Call of Duty 2, they have trailers to watch.

For kids, there are some sports games from 2K Sports (NBA 2K6, NHL 2K6, TopSpin, Amped 3 (best...trailer...ever!), and some racing games with varying degrees of mayhem and/or violence, the least of which is probably Project Gotham Racing 3.


A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that the current Xbox controllers are unfit for young hands. Well, Microsoft seems to have gotten the message (not from me, of course...oops! I've said too much), and made an excellent controller for the Xbox 360. Similar to the Sony's DualShock 2 controller, it's small enough for little hands, but substantial enough for adult hands.

The current generation Xbox Controller S fits almost perfectly in my hands, but there's no wiggle room. So when my hands make their natural movements during gameplay, I am constantly gripping the controller tightly, which causes me palm fatigue (...that doesn't sound quite right).

In any case, Microsoft has solved their ergonomics problem. Well done.


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