There are a lot of perks to being a prominent blogger like me.  First, there’s the women.  Second, there’s the $0.25 I earned last quarter via Amazon Associates.  Most importantly, though, there’s the celebrity status, and it definitely has its benefits.

The fine people at Microsoft, using the same crackin’ algorithm in their search engine to identify the blogger who posts most frequently on DadCentric, contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in attending an event in New York to get a preview of some of the “family-inclusive games” that would be coming out this year for the Xbox 360.

Now generally we here at DadCentric try to avoid overt pandering to corporate interests.  But it would take a bigger man than me to turn down a chance to play Madden 09 or Gears of War 2 before the rest of you losers guys.  After all, it is our responsibility to offer timely, useful advice to you, our beloved readers, and if Microsoft wants to provide the brownies and the comfy gaming couches I’m willing to do my part.

Besides, it might give you gentlemen some cover to justify a weekend-long Call of Duty tournament with me and Mr. Big Dubya.

I’m certain some of you (probably female, most likely my wife) stopped reading once you saw “Xbox” in the copy.  But if you’re still on the fence you should keep reading, because there’s some really cool stuff coming, and it’s way more than the photo-realistic blood-sprays when you decapitate enemies with an assault rifle that you’ve come to know and love.

Some things you, as parents and potential shoppers, should know:

  • The Xbox is morphing into a fully-operational media center.  It can stream music from your computer, share holiday photos online with your buddies, and can link to your Netflix account so you can stream movies in you queue directly to your TV.  You can also reorder you queue visually, and it will upconvert movies to the highest quality your TV will allow.  You’ll never have to leave the couch to insert a DVD again.
  • If Little _______ (insert your child’s name here) spends his evenings in front of the Xbox, talking to his buddies on a Backstreet Boys headset and getting fat on cheese doodles while he should be doing homework, you’ve got a new weapon.  Xbox’s will soon come with a parental control that sets a timer on how long the system will run.  That way when you say “you can play for an hour” you can set it up, leave the room, and know the game is gonna end whether he’s ready or now.  I think this is a really awesome feature, one which my wife would probably use on me if she had the chance.
  • You can create an avatar.  This avatar will identify you online, and can sneak out of your system at night and beat up all the Mii’s that your stupid Wii-owning neighbors created.
  • The dashboard itself is being redesigned so it’s much more graphical and easier to use.  It sorta looks like what Vista should have been had it not gorged on useless utilities and bad design.  Or, more specifically, it will work a lot like a Mac.
  • Finally, and most significantly, there are some very cool games coming out that you can bring home to the family with a clear conscience.  Obviously there are the sports games like Madden (which, I must say, is sooooo much easier to play now, and looks amazing) and Tiger Woods PGA.  But there’s also a virtual karaoke game called Lips, which is basically Guitar Hero with microphones.  The kicker is that you can plug in your own iPod and play the game with YOUR music if you wanted (all AC/DC all the time, in my case).  There was even a party game called You’re In the Movies in which you film yourself with an attached camera doing certain motions, and you’ll be inserted into a short movie running from monsters or fighting ninjas.  They hinted that you may someday be able to insert yourself into movies you know and love (say, running away from a rolling boulder…)

For those of my brethren who are asking if Xbox is following the Path of Mario to becoming an emasculated virtual tennis machine, I say don’t worry.  I’ll be posting some brief comments on My Wife Hates My Xbox with my impressions of grittier fare such as Gears of War 2, Fallout 3, Call of Duty: World at War, and Fable 2.  If I knew how to type a drooling sound I’d just use that instead.

Microsoft is going for the same thing that Apple, Sony, and Tivo are going for: complete control of your mind living room.  They’re all positioning themselves as a the single multimedia unit that picks up your music, photos, and movies and seamlessly serves them to you.  Few of us would argue that this is a truly noble cause.  If I were a betting man, I’d have said Apple or Tivo had the inside track two days ago.  Today…I’m not so sure.  It’s got everything, and it plays Grand Theft Auto IV.   My Tivo can do lots of things, but it can’t do that.  Maybe it’s time to invest in this “family-inclusive” machine.