Your gaming and movie/TV watching will 'come alive' with actual 5.1 speakers/sub. Avoid soundbars if at all possible. And yes, pretty much all you would need per se is a digital optical to pass along the surround sound.
$250-300 might be hard though to get many choices, but I do see at least one decent Onkyo here with plenty of features to give more of a balanced gaming/audio system-
You might also find an S5100 somewhere online in the same basic price range.
Onkyo sometimes sells refurbs direct too-
If you really want to cheap out and lose out a little more on audio quality, ecost sells a ton of refurb & new off brand 5.1 systems-
I'd encourage you to avoid the Coby, RCA/Magnovox, LG, JVC & Phillips if possible, along with those w/ wireless speakers. Sometimes ecost will have really nice entry level Denon equipment, but it doesn't stick around very long IME.
So, A little background: I have a Samsung LCD TV, and it has game mode. I play my PS3 on it, and with game mode off, the sound is fine, But the game itself plays bad (I over aim/under aim in Call of Duty is a good example) so I turn game mode on, which makes the game work fine, But it forces Virtual Surround sound, which sucks, And I can't turn it off without turning game mode off. The sound in game mode, has the voices in some games (Medal of Honor, Red Dead Redemption ect) sound quiet (unless I crank the volume up) and it also muffles the voices behind explosions and stuff some times. So I'm looking at getting some other form of sound.
I'd like to get something cheap for under $250 ($300 only if I really need to), Doesn't have to sound perfect, Just good enough so I can hear everything better than my TV speakers. Would any old Home Theater in a box or Soundbar from Best Buy or Wal-Mart remedy this? How would you hook it up? Just one of those optical cable things from the home theater/soundbar to my PS3 and that's that? Treat me like an old person, I don't know jack about this kinda crap.