Sometimes it’s hard to get others as excited about videogames as we are, especially if they didn’t grow up playing games like many of us. Today we’ll share how to smoothly ease non-gamers into our hobby and look at some games worth trying to get things started.
“This has too many buttons!”, “You’re too good!”, “This is too complicated!”.
How many times have we heard these phrases during a gaming session, right before our friends / significant others drop the remote, give up on the game, and kill us just a little inside?
Games tend to be very fast-paced, action-packed, and competitive. Remotes like the Dualshock 4 have 17 different buttons (including the joysticks, in case you’re counting in your head), which is more fingers than we have on two hands. It’s no wonder people who aren’t used to them feel overwhelmed and ultimately intimidated by games. So how can we get people motivated to actually give games a try?
After a lot of trial and error in getting my wife interested in games, there’s a few things I’ve observed that I think would help anyone in a similar situation.
Stay away from 1 on 1 fighters or anything competitive, at least at first.
If you play games frequently, chances are you like winning, right? Well, if you play any games involving you (an expert) competing with someone who doesn’t know the game (a beginner), you will probably win. You’ll feel great, but your adversary won’t be too impressed.
You can try letting them win, but this is risky: they will probably be able to tell you’re letting them win after the initial ass-whopping they received, and even if they don’t, it will quickly become boring for you.
The best way for everyone to have a good time is to chose a game were both of you can cooperate, so the other person feels confident enough to try new things, while at the same time allowing you to work with them or do your own thing. Some games that really worked for us were: Super Mario 3D World, Overcooked 2, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Snipperclips and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime.
Teach buttons and commands gradually.
Like I mentioned earlier, controllers are intimidating. If we boot up a game, and we run our friend through all the commands in a single breath, they will most likely retain 30-40% of it, if that.
What I’ve found works best is running them through the bare basics of a specific game’s mechanics first, and as I see them becoming more confident, I introduce new elements. Take Mario Kart 8: At first, I teach them the controls to drive, brake and throw items. After 1-2 races, I introduce drifting. Finally, I teach things like throwing shells backwards or bananas forward.
Having a gradual increase in complexity makes players feel more comfortable as they learn at their own pace, while also boosting their confidence. Kind of like a tutorial in a single player game, right?
Try to slow down the action.
It’s common to hear that playing videogames improves your hand-eye coordination and motor skills, which means you are able to react faster and make quicker decisions in specific situations. People who aren’t used to games may not find it as easy, and can thus feel easily overwhelmed in games where time is of the essence or precise maneuvers are needed.
I initially thought that a game like Donkey Kong Country Returns would be a good idea to try, since we could both cooperate, while I could help out killing enemies or grabbing out of reach items, and also because the controls were simple enough with just a couple of buttons.
The problem here was that the game sometimes requires very precise jumps and reaction time to avoid obstacles and enemies. Eventually, we had to drop it because the difficulty was too frustrating. I had a similar situation with Resident Evil 5 and Gears of War 3.
Instead, I recommend you look for games that allow them to take their time, think about their actions and execute them comfortably. Turn-based games are very good choices for this like Advance Wars (or Persona 4 if you want them to try single-player). An added bonus of starting with games like this is that it helps people become better acquainted with the remote at their own pace.
Next time you have someone over or you’re on the couch with your SO, try to put yourself in their place to best introduce them to a game. Offer guidance, patience, and encouragement. Being able to win at something is the best way to get someone interested. Finally, remember that everyone learns differently, so you may have to tweak your approach accordingly.
It’s been a long journey, but my wife, who used to never even pick up a remote, has recently completed a 100+ hour run on Stardew Valley, so…Mission Accomplished! If only I could get my Switch back now…
I've been a gamer since the SNES days and Donkey Kong Country was the first game I ever owned.
I currently work as a management consultant, and my console of choice is the Nintendo Switch, which I carry with me during my travels.