Editor’s note: John Gaudiosi covers the videogame industry for Local Tech Wire and writes the Gaming Guru blog for WRAL.com

CARY, N.C. – Thanks to the mainstream awareness of videogames, more game publishers are offering cash and prizes to the best gamers.

A pair of new contests offers anyone the chance to walk away with some cool gifts.

Guitar Hero fans can sign up for GameStop’s new through October 10th. All you need to do is submit a photo and a brief description (300 words or less) of why you should be crowned the champion.

As a testament to how popular Guitar Hero is with casual gamers, the three categories include: Families Who Rock, Moms with Star Power, and Guitar Gods and Goddesses.

The family prize includes six free day passes to SixFlags Theme Parks, a $500 gas card and a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour Band Kit. The Mom prize includes a $1,000 gift card for the "star" treatment at Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas and a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour Band Kit, and the Guitar gods and goddesses! prize includes a $200 annual subscription for guitar lessons from GuitarSchool.net, a $800 gift card to GuitarCenter.com and a copy of Guitar Hero: World Tour Band Kit. There are also four first prizes that include a copy of Guitar Hero® World Tour Band Kit and a $50 gift card to GameStop.

I had the chance to get on the drums for the new World Tour game at Activision’s headquarters in Santa Monica last week and I have to say this game rocks. The addition of the symbols was very cool, although there’s definitely a learning curve. The fact that this contest gets you the full kit for free makes it worth taking the time to write about it. It’s only 300 words, after all.

Those contestants who prefer showing off their skills on the sticks can stop by N.C. State on October 15 for the

This is a 16-city contest, similar to the Madden Challenge, only it focuses on NCAA Football 09 and targets college students. The Finals will be held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA on January 1 with the winner walking away with $10,000. The contest also has an exclusive Xbox 360 online component through Xbox Live for anyone to partake in the challenge. Check out Xbox Live for all the details.

The advent of online gaming and the overwhelming popularity of games in the mass market has opened the door to tons of cool contests and opportunities for hardcore and casual gamers alike.