Every year we attend E3, the United States' biggest gaming convention. We fight our way through throngs of avid gamers and demo hundreds of new games (most of the big ones will hit right around the holidays). Our goals? To discover family-friendly gems to recommend to you and to get a sense of where the video game industry is heading.
Here's a sneak peek of what you can expect:
1. Nintendo's Wii U will be hot
Nintendo's Wii U HD is an intriguing new family-friendly game system. While coy about its price and release date, Nintendo let us test-drive the new system by playing mini-games from the forthcoming Nintendo Land. The Wii U controller looks like an iPad with a screen that you can touch and tilt, but with added gaming joysticks and buttons. Not only can you manipulate objects on the screen in a new way, but you can actually get a different view of what's happening than what's displaying on the TV screen. This way, if several people are playing together, the person playing on the Wii U controller can look at that screen to have a different perspective and perform unique actions, while others use the older Wii remotes while viewing the TV. The potential for a new flavor of cooperative play is huge with this type of "asymmetric gameplay."
2. Harry Potter author's story shows potential of augmented reality books
Sony's Wonderbook -- a new peripheral that looks like a giant book and works with the PlayStation Move -- created quite a stir. Its pages have special codes that can be read by the Move camera to produce 3-D images on the TV screen. Kids interact with the Wonderbook by using the PS3 Move controller. We previewed an exclusive title written by J.K. Rowling called Wonderbook: Book of Spells. In it, you use the Move controller to cast spells that make 3-D objects appear to float out of the book. Now Muggles everywhere will get to experience what it's like to be a witch or wizard.
3. More opportunities to put yourself in the game
Many of the newest games showcased ways to make the experience more personal. For example, in Disney's My Fairytale Adventure, there are many ways to make your avatar look like you. And in the new Madden NFL 13, kids can actually upload their own photo onto a player's face. Having the ability to personalize these games should make kids feel even more connected to gameplay.
4. Sequels, sequels, sequels
While E3 showcased a ton of M-rated game sequels (including Halo 4, due Nov. 6, 2012, and Assassin's Creed III, which comes out on Oct. 30, 2012), there were also a lot of great family-friendly games with upcoming sequels. We can't wait for Epic Mickey 2, LEGO Batman 2, Dance Central 3, and New Super Mario Bros. U.
5. Games will scoot from screen to screen
The new Nintendo Wii U will have a feature that lets players send the game from the TV to the high-definition screen of the Wii U controller. That way, if a kid is playing a game on the TV, and her dad wants to watch sports on that same TV, they can both be happy sitting next to each other, watching two different screens. Also interesting is the new cross-platform play in which players on different systems can play together. For example, with the new PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, players can move from the PlayStation 3 to the PS Vita. They can save their game on one system and then continue on the other. Neat!