How to get the most from your video games console

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Over the past few years, video games consoles have become more than devices on which to play games. Tal Blevins, vice president of games content at IGN Entertainment, says console manufacturers are going head-to-head with traditional media companies and cable and satellite providers to become a "central entertainment hub."

Personalize your experience
The current generation's consoles are extremely powerful machines with abundant potential, and the best way to harness this is to personalize the console to suit your needs and tastes.

Most console developers offer apps and extras that can be used to customize and streamline your experience. From creating a look-alike Mii character to installing custom themes for your Xbox Dashboard, there are many ways to make your console feel more like your own. PS3 users can even create an avatar to walk around their "PlayStation Home" to browse the console's network.

Watching a movie on a games console isn't something new; in fact, ever since the PlayStation 2 came on the market over a decade ago, movies have featured highly on almost every console's list of functions. Far from the basic movie players, consoles often include cutting edge design and technology. The PS3, for example, boasts a high-quality Blu-ray player.

The emergence of online movie tools like Netflix, ESPN and Hulu has breathed new life into the console movie market, by allowing users to stream an unlimited amount of movies and television shows directly to their TV for a monthly fee.

Browse the Web
From powerful home consoles to tiny handhelds, special web browsers have been fitted into almost all major consoles. Although, without a mouse, the browser controls can feel a little clunky on some machines, they do offer certain nifty features, like allowing users to watch YouTube videos on television and access their social network accounts.

As with all technology, gaming has completely transformed over the past few decades. What was once a local one or two player affair has transformed into a massive worldwide community of players and participants. Many game designers are building games almost exclusively around experiences involving more than one player, so make the most out of your gaming experience by connecting to a global community of gamers. Additionally, game companies offer online marketplaces where you can buy video games, apps and movies.

On the go
The newest wave of handheld games consoles contain enough features to rival even the most cutting-edge tablet computers. Apart from playing games, users can purchase and watch movies, surf the net and even download enhanced features and applications. New consoles like Sony's PS Vita enable players to transfer their games onto their handheld devices to continue playing while on the go.