Welcome to the new era of video games. Gone are the pixilated, two-dimensional arcade games played on a chunky
console. Technology has given life to realistic characters that inhabit sprawling virtual worlds.
Video game companies
have flooded the market with new products, from gaming consoles to specialized chairs.
, a San Diego-based market-research firm, estimates that consumers will spend $57 billion on gaming gear this year.
|Second Life, a PC-based game, offers players a virtual world.
So how can you get into the action? Here are a few tips to help you pull together a first-class gaming system.
There are two ways to play, on a computer or through console systems such as
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Xbox 360 or
Wii. Consoles are standalone boxes that you connect to your TV and home-theater system. That allows you to hear the boom of grenades exploding through your surround-sound speakers as you play the shoot-'em-up game "Call of Duty: World at War."
Not all consoles are built alike, and consumers must pick the one that fits their needs. The $399
boasts a Blu-ray player and wireless connectivity. The
, which costs $199 to $399, offers a subscription-based service that allows users to download video games and challenge other players online.
and Xbox use hand-held controllers while the $249 Wii employs wireless stick-like controllers that use motion sensors. In the
tennis game, for example, players swing the controllers to control the serves of their avatars' serves, groundstrokes and volleys.