Pause and Reset 

A look back at the top five gaming stories of 2006.

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The past year turned out to be an interesting year in gaming'from new arrivals to the beginning of the end for some old friends, 2006 was anything but boring. Here are the top five gaming stories from 2006:

5. Online gambling legislation
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Apparently, the government can’t stand anyone doing anything unless it says it’s OK. After years of grumbling about online gambling, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The act was an 11th-hour amendment to the Safe Ports Act and basically made it illegal for banks to accept payments from or authorize payments to online gambling sites or their many payment brokers. United States citizens can’t be prosecuted for gambling, but the banks and Website owners can be. It has all the legal bite of a toothless, castrated pit bull, but it was intimidating enough for most major sites to cut off American gamblers. At least President Bush can sleep easier at night because some housewife in Sheboygan, Wis., is no longer playing 2-cent, 4-cent Texas Hold ’Em.

4. The evolution of the movie game
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I know what you’re thinking: Charlie, enough with the movie games. However, anyone who has played the 6 million bad ones over the years is pretty happy with how far they’ve come this year with The Godfather and Scarface. However, we’ll never fully escape the past as long as games like Jaws: Unleashed are released, providing flashbacks to the horror of Catwoman and Constantine.

3. The loss of E3
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The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is the annual orgy of video-game companies, media members and super-geeks crammed into the Los Angeles Convention Center trying to catch a glimpse of the year’s hottest upcoming games. Several larger companies threatened to pull out of the event because of costs. So instead of a Los Angeles tourism boon that catered to 60,000 people, it has been scaled down to 5,000 invitees, moved to hotel suites and conference rooms and will likely be as exciting as, well, Jaws: Unleashed. The press release may call the new event “intimate.” I say the new event will “blow.

2. Release of the next-generation consoles
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No, the releases of Wii, PS3 and the Xbox 360 are not the top story in my book'although they are certainly related to the top story. The Xbox 360 started the trend off by shocking everyone with its $399 price tag. That seemed high until the PS3 came out with a price between $600 and $700. At the same time as the PS3 release, Nintendo came out with the Wii and its controllers that actually encourage physical activity. It’s a fun system, but nowhere near the quality ballpark of the other two. The 360 and the PS3 are gorgeous but priced way to high for the average gamer'especially the PS3. These will be more reasonable in the future, but until then, we at least have our old systems.

1. The death of the previous next-generation consoles
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Or do we have our old systems? Microsoft all but smashed our Xboxes with sledgehammers in the year following the release of the 360; the company that designed the machine didn’t publish one new game for it. Thankfully, other companies kept making titles, but they were a lot fewer than the year before and are likely to drop again this year. Even the much-anticipated Halo 3 scheduled for release this year will be a 360-only event. The worse part is that the price of the original Xbox is falling fast, which means a lot of people are still buying them, lining Bill Gates’ pockets'and they’re probably unaware that there won’t be anything to play on them in another year or two. The PS2 still had a great year, but in the wake of short Christmas supplies, there will soon be enough of these to go around'meaning the PS2 will soon fall the way of the Xbox.

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