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The Week in Games: Nov. 23, 2007

News from the virtual world:

— POLL POSITION: Most adults — 62 percent, according to an Associated Press-AOL Games poll — don't play video games.

Most people between aged 4 to 17 — 81 percent — do.

Clearly, to paraphrase bluesman Willie Dixon, there's something here that the men don't know but the little kids understand.

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Most parents of gamers don't make much of an effort to keep up with their offspring.

Forty-three percent of parents whose children play video or computer games never join in, and another 30 percent say they spend less than an hour a week doing so.

Only 18 percent said they were likely to buy a game console over the holiday season, and most of those people said price was a very important consideration — good news for Nintendo's $250 Wii.

Bad news for more versatile machines like the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3: Among potential buyers, a console's ability to play DVDs or other media was the least important selling point.

— HISTORY LESSON: Hey, kids, here's a way to teach mom and dad about games: Set the DVR to record "Rise of the VideoGame," a five-part documentary premiering on the Discovery Channel this week. It's fun and educational!

"Level One," on Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST, begins with physicist Willy Higinbotham's 1958 creation of a crude computer tennis game.

It proceeds through "Pong," "Space Invaders" and "Pac-Man," culminating with Russian computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov's 1985 brainstorm, "Tetris."

The story of Atari's rise and fall, including interviews with company founder and "Pong" designer Nolan Bushnell, will bring back fond memories for anyone who grew up in the 1970s and '80s.

Future episodes explore the rise of Nintendo; the development of 3-D graphics; and the growth of "god games" and online virtual worlds.

It's a wild ride, and the first episode captures the excitement of the early days of a brand new art form.

— SPECIAL EFFECT: I've been playing Microsoft's "Mass Effect" for about a week, and I have yet to discover any lesbian love scenes.

But apparently there's one there, and it's racy enough that Singapore banned the Xbox 360 game.

Microsoft didn't put up much of a fight.

"The game takes a mature approach to various relationships amongst characters throughout the game and the content in question is another dynamic of that," said Ian Tan, the company's marketing communications manager for Southeast Asia.

And this isn't a new thing for "Mass Effect" developer BioWare, either: The studio's "Jade Empire" also allowed same-sex relationships.

Eventually, Singapore's Board of Film Censors gave in.

According to The Straits Times newspaper, "Mass Effect" will now be released there with an M18 rating, meaning it can't be sold to anyone under 18.

— CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED: Microsoft has been celebrating the fifth anniversary of Xbox Live in style, with plenty of online competitions, prizes and free downloads of the excellent "Carcassonne." (Sorry if you missed that one; go ahead and buy it, it's worth the $10.)

Still, the best is yet to come: Starting Dec. 4, Microsoft will let you download classic games from the original Xbox.

And we are talking real classics here, including the first "Halo," "Crimson Skies," "Fable" and the beloved (by me, anyway) "Psychonauts."

Each one is a bargain at $15 a download.

— NEW IN STORES: Besides "Mass Effect," the week's big release is Electronic Arts and MTV Games' "Rock Band" (for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3). ...

The road to the Final Four begins with 2K Sports' "College Hoops 2K8" (360, PS3, PS2). ...

A batch of fresh Wii titles includes "Link's Crossbow Training" (Nintendo), "Trauma Center: New Blood" (Atlus), "Geometry Wars: Galaxies" (Sierra), "Soul Calibur Legends" (Namco Bandai) and "Ghost Squad" (Sega). ...

Nintendo's "Mario Party" finally comes to the DS, along with Square Enix's "Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings."