Real news from the virtual world:
— PLAYING POLITICS: Politics and video games rarely mix. When you're battling the vicious Locust Horde in "Gears of War 2," there's little time for diplomacy.
But with all eyes on Washington this week, even gamers might want to try filling in for Barack Obama — virtually, of course.
"Commander in Chief," a PC game from Maryland-based Interactive Gaming Software, lets you take on all the president's jobs, from picking a Cabinet to dealing with potential terrorist threats.
There's a ton of information to process, and you'll probably come away from a session relieved that you're not the one occupying the Oval Office.
Last year's "Democracy 2" from U.K. developer Positech is easier to play, but lacks some of the details that true policy wonks might demand. The game's designer is currently offering free copies to any politician who wants one.
More specifically, there's "The Bailout Game," in which you're invited to "drive a dump truck of cash down Wall Street and bail out the banks in need of help."
Honestly, it's not much of a game, although it does score some satirical points at the expense of our economic overlords.
— WII WII WII, ALL THE WAY HOME: Video games are still selling like crazy, even though the recession has caused industry growth to slow down a bit.
Market researcher NPD Group reports that $21.33 billion worth of video-game hardware and software was sold in the United States last year, up from $18 billion in 2007.
The best-selling game of 2008 was a holdover from the previous year, Nintendo's "Wii Play," with 5.28 million copies sold. The next three best-sellers were also from Nintendo: "Mario Kart Wii," "Wii Fit" and "Super Smash Bros. Brawl."
The Xbox 360 version of Rockstar Games' "Grand Theft Auto IV" came in fifth, although if you add that title's PlayStation 3 sales, it comes in second.
NPD's video-game chart doesn't include PC sales, which could push "GTA IV" over the 6 million-sold mark.
— WORD PERFECT: Video-game writers don't get much love, but few things can take you out of a game like really horrible writing. (I'm looking at you, "Haze.") So it's nice to see someone — namely, the Writers Guild of America" — pay tribute to the field's outstanding wordsmiths.
The nominees for this year's WGA Videogame Writing Award are an interesting bunch: LucasArts' "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed," Bethesda's "Fallout 3," Eidos' "Tomb Raider: Underworld," Electronic Arts' "Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3" and Mousechief's "Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble!"
Wait, what? No, I hadn't heard of the last one either, but now I have an excuse to check it out.
— NEW IN STORES: The latest edition of Electronic Arts' Tony Hawk killer, "Skate 2," glides onto the Xbox 360 and PS3. ... Bored with your human Sims? Take a walk on the wild side with EA's "SimAnimals" (for the Wii).