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GameStop Holiday Video Game Q&A

GameStop Holiday Video Game Q&A


If you have kids that love video games, you’ve surely got a lot of questions as we approach the holidays.  Today we had a chance to catch up with Betty Shock.  She is Regional Vice President at GameStop, and we asked her some questions that are probably on your mind.  Many thanks to Betty for taking the time to lend us her expert opinion and make our last minute game shopping a bit easier!

What will be most popular this holiday?  What games will be the hardest to find?

We continue to see a great deal of interest in the Nintendo Wii this holiday season. While these are still available at GameStop stores nationwide, we encourage people who are interested in the Wii should not wait as it continues to be in demand and hard to find. We’re also seeing a great deal of interest in Nintendo’s Wii Fit as the concept of “gamercising” – or exercising using video games – gains traction, which often makes the Wii Fit hard to come by.

Other popular games this holiday season in the traditional video game category include Gears of War 2, Call of Duty: World at War, Fable 2 and World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. And sports games such as Madden NFL ’09 and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play remain hot.

– Families will be looking for ways to save this holiday. What promotions, if any, will GameStop offer their customers?

Everyone is looking to save this season and GameStop definitely has a number of value options available. To start, GameStop has a wide selection of new and used games – and this holiday season has more than 2,500 titles under $20.00! These titles include some of the hottest new releases and accessories designed to fit even the smallest of budgets.

– What is the right age for kids to be introduced to gaming and what are kid friendly titles that might be educational?

Interest in video games can start at a very early age. In fact, more than 90 percent of the games in stores today are rated appropriate for ages 13 and under.

While we encourage parents to decide what is best for their own families, there are a wide range of games that cater to the younger demographic that provide educational value as well as enjoyment for the player. Games including the Brain Quest series, which specialize in an age-appropriate curriculum-based activities, and Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree encourage and inspire younger children to enjoy learning with fun number games and word puzzles.


– What are the biggest trends this season? Are their any games that get the entire family involved?

This season we’ve seen tremendous growth in the casual gaming arena. The traditional genres such as racing, sports, and shooters are still popular however; new categories for the casual gamer have emerged including music, fitness, cooking and puzzles.

The hot video games in these categories include: Music games such as Guitar Hero: World Tour, Rock Band 2 and Wii Music; sports titles such as Tiger Woods All-Play 09 and Madden NFL 09; cooking games such as Cooking Mama: World Kitchen and Iron Chef America: Supreme Cuisine; and puzzle games like Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree and Brain Quest.

To help make shopping for these new game genres easier for gift givers, GameStop has also created an online holiday gift guide and a “hint generator” to help ensure everyone gets the games they want. Test it out for yourself at

– What types of games seem to interest kids these days (e.g. action, sports, music, role playing)?

According to the Entertainment Software Association, 85 percent of all games sold in the U.S. last year were rated E for Everyone, E 10+ or T for teen, giving kids today a great deal to choose from!

Social games like Guitar Hero: World Tour, Rock Band 2, Mario Kart and DanceDance Revolution that the entire family can enjoy together are especiallysought after. These games encourage multiplayer involvement, making it especially attractive for large groups.

The newly released DeBlob, Spore and Little Big Planet are creative and interactive, and are fast becoming family favorites. Of course, traditional sports games continue to attract interest from all ages, thanks to popular series like Madden NFL and Tiger Woods Golf.

– How do you follow the ESRB rating system and how can it help our readers ensure the age-appropriateness of their gifts?

Located on the front of every box is a rating symbol – assigned by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), an independent regulatory body – to help parents and individuals determine the maturity of the content. There are six ESRB rating categories in all, including: C, Early Childhood; E, Everyone; E10+, Everyone 10+; T, Teens; M, Mature; and AO, Adults Only. These symbols, similar to those used by the motion picture industry to rate films, allow adults to make informed decisions about what’s appropriate for the child on their list.

Following the ESRB rating system is actually very simple and easy to use: Check the ESRB age ratings that appear on the front of every game package, and the content descriptors that appear on the back. You can use both parts of the rating system to select the most appropriate game for the child on your list.

Additionally, all GameStop employees enforce the Company’s policy to restrict sales of games rated M, for Mature by the ESRB. GameStop does NOT sell, reserve, or offer Mature-rated games to customers under 17 years of age. When a Mature game is scanned, an ESRB advisory appears on the register screen requiring employees to ask any under-age customer for a valid photo ID, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

If you’re looking for ratings information or to learn more about video games both the Respect the Ratings ( and ESRB ( sites provide a wealth of information and ratings summaries for every rated video game on the market.



Memories Under the Tree

Memories Under the Tree

This is a story by Elfster contributing writer Mary Ann Romans.


My fondest Christmas memories took place under the tree in a small apartment in New York. Oh it wasn’t the presents I was after, but that magical space that was laid out on the tree skirt. There under a canopy of colored lights reflecting off of the polyvinyl needles was an incredible world filled with all of the glitter of the imagined North Pole.

You see, we didn’t just decorate the tree, but we decorated underneath it as well. There was the handmade wooden church made by a family friend for my parent’s wedding. It glistened with clear glitter and played a soft wedding march when you wound the key. Next was the trio of fuzzy-haired angels climbing a cardboard ladder. It must have cost all of 25 cents at the five and dime store in Brooklyn, but it was far more treasured that any hand blown glass ornament could ever be today.

The small nativity set was then laid out under the tree. It was made of rough wood and spanish moss with ceramic painted figures that spent their holiday time engaging me over and over again. A makeshift doll house of sorts, I played with it often, re-enacting the Christmas story, sometimes with the blasphemy of making the animals form a parade and the three kings do a jig to entertain the Christ child.

Red felted reindeer that lost their hooks were perfectly fine balanced under the tree amongst the cotton paper of the tree skirt that resembled snow. They would often give bareback rides to a giant plastic Santa who I imagined grew so large because he ate all of the broken candy canes that had fallen off of the tree, crackling to the floor below.

As the Perry Como or Dean Martin or Bing Crosby records played, I thought that if I stared hard enough at the colored lights and let my eyes become unfocused that I might be transported to somewhere else, some Christmas town where there was a blanket of soft snow, where there were woods filled with trees and lighted houses filled with warmth. There would be the smell of pine and gingerbread, two smells I could imagine but up to that point had never experienced. Inevitably, I would always stop staring too soon and run off to make paper snowflakes or be sent to tell the superintendent that my mother needed hot water for the dishes.

These days, it is often hard to slow down and appreciate that magical portal a Christmas tree might become in a child’s imagination. Living now in a house surrounded by woods, there are always broken lights to find, boxes of decorations to take down from the attic, and my own kids to pull out from under the tree lest they knock the whole thing over.

But every once in a while I remember. And perhaps this year, when everyone is asleep, I’ll sneak out of bed and down to our family room and see if I can catch a stray reflection of those long ago memories under the tree.



Mary Ann is a freelance writer and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, the kids and a 16-pound cat.

Tips for Military Families at Christmas

Tips for Military Families at Christmas


This is a guest blog post of tips for Military Families during the holidays by Tara Crooks.  Tara Crooks is the woman behind two popular military websites, and

Featured at, Military Spouse Magazine,,, and more, Army Wife Talk Radio is the original internet talk radio program for military wives. The tagline, Our Life, Our Family, Our Soldier, says it all. Tara does a weekly internet talk radio broadcast from the website that features up to date information, tips, and empowerment for spouses.



Do you have a deployed soldier on your Christmas list? There won’t be a “ho hum” holiday for your soldier with these great holiday care package ideas! I’ve captured the spirit of the season through items that relate to the sights, sounds, smells, and the tastes of the holidays. Add your own touches for a sure fire way to make your soldier’s spirit bright!

  • Santa hat
  • Stuffed reindeer
  • Christmas movie
  • Kid’s craft – paper snowflakes
  • Fake snow
  • Fake tree
  • Lights
  • Handmade ornaments
  • String popcorn and cranberries
  • Tiny wrapped packages (use gum, mints, or small items to go under the tree)
  • Advent calendar
  • Picture book (include pictures from past holiday gatherings)
  • Small wrapped items to the theme of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”
  • A box of Christmas Cards stamped and addressed to the soldier’s family
  • Just hear those sleigh bells ringaling….
  • CD of you (and your children) singing Christmas carols
  • CD of Christmas music
  • Jingle bells
  • Jack Frost nipping at your nose…
  • Holiday scented candle (pine, cinnamon, baking)
  • Holiday scented oil
  • Pine cones (scented)
  • Now bring us some figgy pudding…
  • Fresh baked cookies
  • Eggnog
  • SPAM (Christmas “ham”)
  • Sausage and cheese
  • Holiday RITZ crackers
  • Mixed nuts (in shell) with a nut cracker
  • Candy canes
  • Christmas boxed chocolates
  • Advent calendar
  • Holiday coffee & creamer
  • Hot cocoa or cider

I’ll be home for Christmas…if only in my dreams.
Don’t forget that though your soldier is far from home and needs pampering, you and your children need something to feel connected to him/her too. Craft a tradition for your family such as buying an ornament each year, writing a letter to Santa Clause, hanging a special stocking, or reading a special story and make sure you do it regardless of anyone’s location. Make every effort to share this tradition across the miles by video-taping, calling, or even having your soldier
available via webcam to participate.

Here comes Santa Claus…
Keep in mind special ways to create the perfect “Holiday Gift Delivery System or HGDS”, as Bob Gilead from calls it. Stop by his site and pick up a perfect HGDS in the shape of a stocking made from the fabric of your soldier’s service branch. Be creative and find interesting things online such as a Christmas tree in a tube (search eBay they’re easy to find). Most of all have fun, get the entire family involved, and put your heart into it. Tis’ the season, but to your soldier you’re the reason any gift is special.
Merry Christmas to all! And to all, a good night!


Santa’s Sangria

Santa’s Sangria

Santa’s Sangria


  • 1 Bottle Red Wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja, Zinfandel, Shiraz)
  • 1 Lemon cut into wedges
  • 1 Orange cut into wedges
  • 1 Lime cut into wedges
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Splash Orange Juice
  • 2 Shots Gin
  • 1 Cup Sliced Strawberries or Raspberries (may use thawed or frozen)
  • 1 Small Can of Diced Pineapples (with juice)
  • 4 Cup(s) Ginger Ale


  • Pour wine in the pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the lemon, orange and lime into the wine.
  • Toss in the fruit wedges (leaving out seeds if possible) and pineapple then add sugar, orange juice and gin. Chill overnight.
  • Add ginger ale, berries and ice just before serving. If you’d like to serve right away, use chilled red wine and serve over lots of ice.
  • However, remember the best Sangrias are chilled around 24 hours in the refrigerator- allowing the flavors to really marinate into each other.

For more: Christmas Cocktails