Guiding an Interest in Gaming

One of the things I always seem to see a lot within comments and reddit’s and wherever people are talking about games is how to introduce someone to gaming. It’s a conversation that keeps getting circulated, often with a bunch of examples given out and then left at that. I have never really thought about that question myself as it isn’t something I’ve ever done. It is more something that has come across as the continued fetishising of gaming girls, that weird allusive creature. Or maybe it’s the interest to mold people in their own interests, or just gain a greater sense of legitimacy as a medium. Whatever the reason I didn’t care, I love gaming but it’s not something I would ever assimilate people towards as it seems mostly futile.

Lately though it has been something that I’ve had to think about. One of my friends at work expressed an interest but of course had no idea where to start. I mean, for someone that has never tried games nor has any knowledge of what they would actually like makes it rather hard.

It’s not something I’ve worried about before this because I believe you could never force or entice someone towards and if you do try then you going to create a more negative atmosphere around it. It is just something like most other mediums that a person actually has to want to seek out, to find and explore the medium. In saying that I think there are ways of bringing that out, as with most other interests you could talk about what you were doing on the weekend but yeh, avoid that “you’re boring me to death” look… it’s not hard to see. Also, gaming is in a great space as an entertainment form in that you can be a passive participant. Play on the tv while they are doing something else nearby and I find the more cinematic experiences like the uncharted games.

What I did to start was just invite them to the loveable overlord that was steam and gifted them a whole heap of humble bundle games I thought might be a good beginning point. Stuff like platformers and puzzlers mostly. That is pretty much an interest of mine,  I enjoy that genre a lot but wasn’t really passing it along for that alone but more because that’s the genre I know. I can recommend appropriate games within that area better than I could others.

In retrospect one point of experience I could have asked for is what kinds of movies and books they like. Yes these mediums are widely different but from what I’ve found familiarity can help. Having a commonality in the themes between them can help in that initial enjoyment and willingness to try. Or just mechanically what someone enjoys doing will help as well, try to marry those up to certain games and you’ll find it goes a lot better.

Simple mechanics seem to work best, and games that don’t try to introduce too much complexity. This is probably why platformers work well, it’s a very simple focus of mechanics and play. Easy to get the hang over and master. The recent trend towards adventure games is great too and are absolutely perfect for those that like a narrative focus. And then you have the hack and slash genre, cheap fun games like torchlight that mostly involve clicking and killing. I like picture find games too, although that’s probably a personal quirk that comes from my interest in puzzles.

One thing I was thinking is how many games that are recommended, or that are applauded for their ease of play and accessibility probably aren’t that good for new players. Looking at portal for instance, yeh that is a masterpiece of mechanics tutorials but the concepts and requirements of gameplay are quite excessive if you’re not already used to fps movement and mechanics.

Those self-aware comedy titles too, or the deeply philosophical like stanley parable. Yeh not that great either. It’s a style of storytelling that requires a certain amount of shared understanding. Oh and multiplayer, yeh probably not that great at the start either. This is a period where a bit of time to explore, experience and experiment at their own pace. There is often a lot of expectations during multiplayer, and even when taking it easy sometimes comparisons of performance will be made. Sure get into it eventually, it is a great activity to enjoy together but just give a bit of time first.

I think this is also where I’ll have to admit the benefit of ftp games in this age. There’s a wealth of them everywhere, in just about every style and genre which is great for those that are rather unsure. A source of valuable first impressions and at least this way there is no restrictions to trying something first.

I think the most important point out of all this is to just be available to them during this time. Give advice when that’s what they are asking for but mostly just listen to what they are telling you. Listen to the games and mechanics they are enjoying and find more of that. Listen to the stories they are telling and try reflecting on that. Ask probing questions about their games and experiences and mostly just engage with them. It can be a confusing time and there is a plethora of terms and phrases that you take for granted yet will leave others confused. Just be available during this time and Oh… no judgy judgy…. ever.

It is most definitely a hard medium to get into. there is a lot of technical knowledge that goes into it. A large amount of learning the principles of plays and the basic mechanics. It’s also a time of discovery with themes, ideas, concepts which is rather amazing but can be overwhelming. Mostly just remain understanding and aware that gaming, isn’t as easy as it looks and feels.

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4 thoughts on “Guiding an Interest in Gaming

  1. Great advice! I haven’t ever tried this with games but i did try it with comics a few times. The most common mistake is to start in right at the top with the something you think represents the zenith of the medium.

    It’s no good taking your favorite comic series and dumping it on someone with a “This is brilliant! One of the best things ever done in the form” if half the reason it’s so brilliant is how it works against expectation and turns all the expected tropes on their heads. You have to start with the basics and work up. Something that breaks the mold and brings fresh, new twists to the genre is meaningless to someone who doesn’t yet understand what the mold is and for whom the genre cliches are themselves bold, new ideas.

    On the other hand, you don’t want to do the equivalent of handing an adult a Ladybird Reader. It’s a difficult business. I love the Broken Sword series of adventure games, for example, and they should work brilliantly for anyone who enjoys a well-told adventure story with engaging characters and dry humor.

    Because they seem so accessible it’s easy to overlook just how much you need to know about Adventure games just to get started. All that trial and error. All the going through dialogs repeatedly. All the collecting every object and trying each against everything else. It’s the opposite of a narrative experience in many ways.

    Games and comics both have whole “languages” that need to be learned before you can begin to “read” them. So much of the narrative in both is carried by something other than the words and often it’s not even the pictures or the graphics ether. The shape and color of the word balloons indicating emotion, a pixel out of place indicating a clue, the size and proximity of the panels indicating passage of time, an ambient sound indicating approaching danger…

    These things take years to learn yet we take them completely for granted. For adults interested in starting to read comics I always recommend beginning with Scott McCloud’s brilliant Understanding Comics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Understanding_Comics
    If there’s something similar for gaming I’d be interested to hear about it.

    • Great points and I think a lot of people get that wrong. You often can’t start with the best, or what you believe best represents the genre as the often have a lot of required knowledge to work.

      I see people saying wow is accessible but with the movement controls, combat, quest understanding and a whole heap of other mechanics it would be rather hard.
      Same with portal too.

      For anime I love evangelion but recommending that to an anime brain would be stupid. I’ve heard people recommend Akira too, great movie but rather full on for a first timer.

      And thanks for the comic primer, going to have a look.

  2. I have successfully introduced my partner Sue to pen and paper roleplaying by allowing her to come along and watch and ask questions/roll some dice and chat/socialize when it was appropriate – I didn’t try and get her to play just showed her how much fun I was having and why I was having it. I think if people have an interest in what you are doing then often that is enough.

    We did play World of Warcraft a bit but aside from one or two platform games she has never been interested in computers – she would much rather socialize or read a book. She rolled a hunter which I think remains the best class to play (mostly because she loved the idea of a pet cat) and we leveled together.

    What I had to give up was the desire to achieve – I stripped back my gaming to “pottering about” with her – she would go auto follow and chat to her friends and we would complete quests – she actually struggled to chat and shoot things. She actually found mmo’s commands and jargon difficult to pick up – I came from a background of MuDs to Everquest etc and have always been gaming so it was second nature – as much as wow is “Noobie Friendly” these days back in vanilla/bc there was a significant wall to learning the game.

    Unfortunately our guild broke up at the end of BC and the friends we had left – that killed the desire for her to play and she quit at the same time.

    There is always the desire in a relationship to share interests, get some together time but what we found is that gaming is my down time and reading is hers – we tend to co-inhabit the same space, her on her phone/book me on the pc and enjoy each others company while doing our different hobbies.

    Totally agree that anything forced will never work – even if its subtle manipulation meant in the best possible way.

    • That’s definitely the way. Just enjoying the medium can be enough for others who see you to get interested as well. People natural gravitate towards those kind of things and will try more readily.

      And yeh, mmo’s are rather complex beasts which you often forget. There is a lot of mechanics to learn and basically a whole new language haha.

      At the end of the day though, people enjoy the hobby THEY enjoy. That us fine too and as a couple, or friends you don’t need to enjoy all the same things. In fact, I think having something that is just yours is healthy.

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