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The Week in Games: Dec. 22, 2008

Real news from the virtual world:

— ARCADE HERO: One of the more delightful aspects of the "Guitar Hero" craze is that it has moved video gaming out of the living room and back into the public.

Bars and clubs all over the country host regular "Guitar Hero" nights, and gamers are challenging each other in a way that hasn't been seen since George Costanza was a "Frogger" master.

But where to go when there's no "Guitar Hero" Night in your neighborhood, or if you're just too young to go to bars?

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By next spring, you'll be able to go to your local mall (or movie theater, or bowling alley) and show off your chops on the "Guitar Hero" arcade game.

It's an unusual partnership between "GH" publisher Activision and Konami, which has more experience with arcade games like "Dance Dance Revolution."

The cabinets are being manufactured by Raw Thrills, an Illinois-base company that has had some arcade success with "The Fast and the Furious" and "Big Buck Hunter Pro."

The arcade version will start with over 50 songs, mostly from "Guitar Hero III," and machine owners will be able to download more.

Raw Thrills vice president Andrew Eloff says the louder, flashier "GH" "really makes it feel like you're playing on stage."

But the real draw, he thinks, will be the competition for high scores: "Everybody wants to be the king of the heap," he says.

— INFINITE JUKEBOX: There will be plenty of new music in the new year for those of us who prefer rocking out in our living rooms.

Activision will publish a new edition of "Guitar Hero" featuring Metallica, including 28 of the band's most beloved head-bangers as well as tunes by kindred spirits like Alice in Chains, Slayer and Machine Head.

Developer Red Octane is also getting more aggressive in offering downloadable content for "Guitar Hero World Tour," with three new songs coming out just about every week — capped by the entirety of Oasis' "Dig Your Own Soul" at the end of January.

The "Rock Band" team at Harmonix isn't slacking off either. This week brings a batch of holiday melodies, including Billy Squier's awesomely cheesy "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You."

The next big "Rock Band" album release is Pearl Jam's grunge landmark "Ten," coming in March.

— WORD SOUP: Hasbro broke the hearts of thousands of Facebook users earlier this year when it sued the makers of "Scrabulous," a Scrabble knockoff that had become a phenomenon on the social networking site.

"Scrabulous" creators Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla changed their word game enough to defy the copyright police and renamed it "Wordscraper," and Electronic Arts produced its own version of Scrabble, but neither caught fire among the Facebook crowd.

Hasbro has withdrawn its lawsuit, but don't expect "Scrabulous" to return; Mattel, which owns the rights to Scrabble outside of North America, still has a suit pending.