Video games are everywhere and an undeniably huge part of our culture. Events are schedules around them. Marketing for them is everywhere. They fit into our conversations and are the basis of memes. If somebody is outside of this culture, it is reasonable for them to develop an interest in video games. Maybe they just want to dip their toes into the water. Or maybe someone they know wants to introduce them to gaming. Regardless, the whole thing can be intimidating. The whole thing can be unpleasant at first.
Part of the reason for this is that video games have become much more complicated than they used to be. There is a sort of language to them and not everybody can speak it because they haven’t developed the fundamentals. For many of us, we didn’t even notice that we were learning. Many of us take for granted just how much we know about video games. But just think of how boring tutorials are for us. “Left analog to move, right to look around.” Yeah? No kidding.
Except, again, not everybody knows that. And the consoles themselves have also increased in complexity. Gone are the days where you simply pop a cartridge into a console and turn it on. So what can we do?
Let’s first consider people who have jumped in feet first. Let’s imagine they’re older and have limited experience with computers. What do we do for them? Well, in regards to consoles, we give them a few simple directions on how to quickly access the basics of the experience. How to access a gaming library, how to download games, how to install Netflix. This becomes their comfort zone. It’s their home that they can venture away from in small increments as they get comfortable. As a whole, it’s intimidating. So break it off into small, manageable parts. This has worked for me in the past, both in working retail and just being an obvious source of information for friends and family, considering my work.
But what about games? Shooters can be an unwieldy thing to jump into. But platformers can feel dated. That’s actually a difficult dilemma to solve. Unfortunately, the solution might be to simply overcome it. Inform people that it might be frustrating at first but also let them know that it is okay to be bad. What are some games in different genres that have incredibly simple easy modes? The Call of Duty games can be good for this. Final Fantasy VII is a good introduction to both RPGs and action games. Use your love for video games and get creative. There are usually good starter games. I also like to recommend games with fairly short campaigns so the “newbs” can soon feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from beating a game. Also, do people still use the term “newb?” I feel like I’m probably dating myself.
Anyway, let’s consider the other kind of newcomer. The people who don’t think video games are for them. I maintain that this is probably just a lack of information. Video games are an extremely varied form of media. Think of all the genres you love. Think of all the genres you hate. They all have an audience. If you know a person, how can you curate their experience based on what you know about them? If you feel like you just have to guess wildly, I’d recommend some multiplayer experiences. Nintendo games can be extremely friendly to beginners. The Mario Kart series is designed to keep a level playing field, mostly, between different skill levels, is easy to understand, and it’s rare for people to feel entirely out of the running in any given match. The Jackbox games are incredibly social and use mobile devices that most people already have a familiarity with. This is what I mean when I say people can start to build a foundation and then go for there. But it’s also fine if they stay right where they start.
Another thing to consider is the initial cost of getting started. While video games definitely have a lot of value when you consider how many hours of gameplay you get for your money, they have essentially no value if someone spends money on a game they absolutely hate. What are some cheap games? Mobile, for one. Some of the episodic narrative games offer the first episode for free. Steam has regular sales and plenty of people have computers. Itch.io has a range of interesting, experimental games. You can also invite them over for co-op or lend them games if they already own a console. This is not the time to worry about whether or not they are a casual or hardcore gaming. When we are prioritizing their enjoyment, there is no reason to differentiate between the two.
Outside of some parts of the internet, and some cases where people ignore the “good in moderation,” philosophy that applies to mostly everything, I believe video games are a healthy hobby. I believe they can be amazing for bonding, whether you are playing with someone or merely talking about a shared passion. And I think they are a valuable relaxation tool that people should have access to. Use your knowledge to spread the love, friends. So long as you don’t put too much pressure on the newcomer, it should be a pretty satisfying experience for everyone involved. If they don’t end up enjoying themselves, that’s okay, too.