I feel your pain. It's intimidating to stare at a zillion video game choices in stores, then choose the right gift for the right person.
So let me cut through the clutter for you, during this holiday shopping season.
Your question: Which game system is best?
Answer: If you have $300 to $400 burning a hole in your pocket, the PS 3 is beckoning.
The Xbox 360 used to have an edge in games, but no more. Most games come out for both Xbox 360 and PS 3.
There are some Xbox-only games, especially the "Halo" series, "Alan Wake," and downloadable gems, such as "Limbo."
But the PS 3 has its own exclusive games, especially the "God of War" and "Uncharted" series.
Meanwhile, only the PS 3 comes with free online gaming. (Xbox Live costs $50 a year.) Only the PS 3 has a Blu-ray player and high-def Web surfing.
And you can use both Xbox 360 and PS 3 to watch movies instantly from Netflix online. (Wii has Netflix but not in high definition.)
Your question: But doesn't the Xbox 360 have a new Wii-esque add-on called Kinect?
Answer: Yes. Kinect is a $150 add-on. And Sony has its $100 Wii-esque add-on called Move. However, both are too new and expensive for me to take seriously. Plus, there are no must-have Kinect or Move games yet, so why bother?
Your question: I have little kids. Should I buy a Wii?
Answer: Sure. The Wii has far more kiddie games, especially starring Mario.
The Wii also is a good choice for new gamers, women and older people who want to own games for the first time, because Wii is easy to get a grip on, and its interactive games are fun for casual players.
Your question: Are hand-held systems OK?
Answer: The Sony PSP is an amazing machine, but almost no new game disks are made for it anymore. So if you're buying for a child, go with Nintendo DSi. It's a kid magnet.
Your question: What games should I buy as gifts?
Answer: For Xbox 360 and PS 3, I'd want "Call of Duty: Black Ops" (war; rated "M"); "Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood" (action-adventure; rated "M"); "Just Cause 2" (better than "GTA"; rated "M"); "Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit" (car racing; rated "E 10+"); "Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare" (Western zombies; rated "M"); "Fallout: New Vegas" (shooting role-player; rated "M"); "Alan Wake" (narrative-shooting; rated "T"); "Madden NFL '11" (rated "E"); or "Medal of Honor" (war; rated "M").
For Xbox only: "Halo: Reach" (shooting; rated "M"); "Mass Effect 2" (action/role-playing; rated "M"; though it comes out in January for PS 3); "Fable III" (adventure; rated "M").
For PS 3: "God of War III" (fantasy-slashing; rated "M"); "Uncharted 2" (Indiana Jones-esque; rated "T"); "Gran Turismo 5" (racing; rated "E"); "Heavy Rain" (narrative realism; rated "M").
For Wii: "Disney Epic Mickey" (adventure platform; rated "E"); "GoldenEye 007" (James Bond remake; rated "T"); "Donkey Kong Country Returns" (platform; rated "E").
For DS: "Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-Land Mayhem" (platform-puzzles; rated "E"); "Super Scribblenauts" (creation word game; rated "E").
(PlayStation 3 by Sony retails for $300-$400 -- Plays a spectrum of available games; plays Netflix, Blu-ray and DVD; surfs online; holds video, music and photos; and it's a 1080p high-definition system.)
Contact Doug Elfman at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.