It’s been 22 years since Mario first gobbled up his first mushroom on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

22 Years. For those keeping track, that’s about the same length of time required for a man and woman to bring a child into the world, raise him/her, and efficiently displace them into the bowels of a college dormitory.

Although the NES was the first console to make its mark on living rooms and 13″ television screens (color optional), it certainly wasn’t the pioneer. That honor is bestowed upon the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, which kicked around for three years before being booted out of the spotlight by PONG in ’75. That makes home video gaming older than most sports franchises.

Qsonix Music Management System

Thus, gaming is no longer exclusive to kids. It’s no Barbie, no Pikachu, and certainly no Barney the Dinosaur.

Instead, there are a number of valid reasons for Moms and Dads even those not necessarily interested in playing to take notice of today’s most recently released systems.

High Def On the Cheap

Believe it or not, the cheapest and most efficient way to upgrade your home theater to high definition video is through two very popular gaming consoles.

Want Blu-ray? Sony’s PlayStation 3 aside from the gaming and online abilities it possesses an internal Blu-ray player. The PS3 retails for $599, a hundred bucks less than the cheapest Samsung stand-alone player listed by

Equally impressive is Microsoft’s $199 Xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on, which, after purchasing the premium unit ($399) matches Sony’s value.

Of course, the difference between these HD-capable consoles and their stand-alone counterparts is the functionality. While Samsung’s stand-alone Blu-ray player and Toshiba’s cheaper HD-DVD option offer beautiful high definition playback, neither give consumers some of the other noteworthy features included with a next-generation gaming console.

HD Movie, TV downloads

Microsoft is spearheading this endeavor via its Xbox Live service. For a small fee, usually around $5-10, subscribers can download standard or high definition television and movie content directly to their systems. Handy on a rainy Saturday night, no?

Granted, in order to access these materials users will need to pay an annual subscription fee for Xbox Live, amounting to about $60/year.

IPTV (whatever that means)

In all seriousness, IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television and will be making its debut on the Xbox 360 in the near future. As you might have guessed, it will be available through Xbox Live, giving users the ability to stream live broadcasts and record shows while playing a DVD, HD-DVD, or game.

Details are still on the sketchy side, but IPTV should fit in well with Microsoft’s plans for high definition movie and television downloads.

So much for TiVo, Mom and Dad.

Why eat ground beef when you can have steak?

Sure, stand-alone DVD, HD and even Digital Video Recorder devices represent phenomenal advances in technology. However, they’re also limited in their scope and sheer features, unlike today’s newest gaming consoles.

Although Mario’s still plodding his way through mushroom world, Nintendo’s competition, Sony and Microsoft, are just as concerned with crafting the central units in a home owner’s Media Center.

Here’s a final wrap up before everyone, Mom and Dad included, head down to the local electronics store.

Sony PlayStation 3


* Internal Blu-ray player
* HDMI 1.3 for TrueHD
* Free online community access
* Standard DVD player
* Console Cost: $599 (60 GB HDD)

Microsoft Xbox 360


* Optional $199 HD-DVD add-on
* HD Movie, TV downloads via Xbox Live
* Upcoming IPTV support
* Standard DVD player
* Console Cost: $399 (Premium Edition)