A friend recently asked me if he should get a PS4 or Xbox One, followed by asking which games he should get. I suggested the PS4, because I’m obviously a fanboy. Just kidding. I told him that the differences between consoles are marginal, but if he got a PS4, then he could play online with me. However, I felt stumped when it came to recommending games. Readers, do you know what games I should recommend to my friend? Because I sure as hell don’t. In fact, I never know what games I should recommend to my non-gaming friends, because they barely qualify as casual gamers. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I’m friends with them!
I’m kidding, of course, but I do dread this question because it’s an exercise in perspective. Writing a review for Cheat Code Central’s readers is different. I generally don’t need to explain the terminology to you - just my professionally stupid opinion about why you should or should not buy a game. If I were to rant to my friend about low framerate, faulty camera, or excessive palette swaps, he’ll likely just stand there and nod - not in agreement, but with acknowledgement that I’ve completed a sentence.
Basically, recommending games to casual and non-gamers is hard, but I have a few pointers that have yet to be scrutinized using the scientific method.
Don’t Immediately Recommend the Highbrow
The Supreme Court has ruled that games are protected under the First Amendment, and The Smithsonian has dedicated a section of its museum to video games. Not that they speak for the countries outside of the US, but the cultural attitude towards games seems to be shifting in the medium’s favor. Some might still see games as toys, however, as did celebrated film critic Roger Ebert. When he told everyone that games could never be art, I remember reading comments imploring him to try games like Shadow of the Colossus or Bioshock. However, think about when your friends grew up. If they grew up during a time in which games were largely seen as toys, offering you little mobility beyond left and right, then what makes you think they’re going to immediately take to the frustrating controls of Shadow of the Colossus?
Start With Popularity and/or Accessibility
I’d imagine recommending a game based on its accessibility sounds patronizing, yet it seems to work. Just look at the Wii! I know, I know, waggle controls can only get you so far, but that didn’t stop my mom and two ex-gamer brothers from having fun with Wii Sports. Best of all, you don’t really need to explain Wii Sports other than "you use your arms to perform feats of athleticism." The caveat here is, you probably don’t need to inform your friend of games like Wii Sports or, as a more recent example, Pokemon Go, because those games have already benefitted through word of mouth. Recommending, say, an online shooter is a bit more complicated, but chances are your friends and family members have played or seen one. If that’s the case, start with the mainstream. In fact, what shooter are you playing right now? Do you think your friend will enjoy Overwatch? Do you think it's friendly to noobies? Casual gamer or non-gamer, make your pick and tailor your language to their level.
For Your Friends Who Want Something More, Consider Their Interests
Some people expect more out of games, and that’s fine. Perhaps they have a passing interest in games, but they don’t want anything that “looks like a game.” Whatever. In that case, consider their interests outside of games. What I know of my friend is that he’s into classic literature and studied art in college. I saw footage of Bound and told him to check it out; he’s enthralled by it. I have another friend who has a background in mental health. I told her to check out Nevermind and she told me she’d play more games if they tackled similar subject matter. Granted, last time I checked with her she was hooked on Diablo III, but you get the idea.