Off Topic: What Game Do You Introduce People To Gaming With?

About a week ago, I sat down with a non-gamer. A complete non-gamer. It was my attempt to get my friend into gaming, and I knew that first impressions matter - so I put a lot of thought into which game to play. It didn't go so well, but I'm curious to find out what you would have chosen?

There's a certain language that games speak that most of us have all become accustomed to. Specific games and franchises have it, as someone in the DmC Community Review pointed out. You know the button layout, the combat and combo system, and you know what to watch out for in terms of enemies. But gaming as a whole has this language as well, and it's one that other people just don't speak.

Some of this is very basic, like the blue key going in the blue door. These are things that we'd expect anyone who sees the full colour spectrum to be able to figure out without too much trouble. But some of it gets more complicated.

I remember the first time when I figured out, in a videogame, that the fire arrow was supposed to melt the ice doorway. Everyone knows fire is capable of melting ice, but I think the real epiphany comes when you figure out the game is capable of simulating that.

This language took a step forward when games moved into 3D, with exemplary pioneers like Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. Every time we move around statues onto switches, or turn mirrors to reflect light, we can thank those games. But as much as I love it, would I expose a newbie to Ocarina? Hmm.

Back to the subject of my real-world enthusiast friend, I thought that perhaps many people's Game of the Year for 2012, Journey, might be a good option. Easy controls, very simple puzzles, and, for me, extremely intuitive. It wasn't overly gory, it had a nice message, and it didn't take too long to play.

If it were a game, I guess you could say I experienced a "hard fail". What I thought were easy controls, she had a hard time with. What I thought were very simple puzzles, she took a while to figure out. Truth be told, I wasn't the best spectator, and couldn't help blurting one or two things out. In the end, she gave up after about 10 minutes.

I want to be good at introducing people to games. I'd love to be the type of person who can recommend the perfect game for someone. Even if they're uninitiated. Maybe there was a better choice than Journey. Perhaps the easy, child-like fun of a Nintendo game? What do you think? What game would (or do) you choose when introducing people to gaming? Would it be different for a kid or adult?

Gaming Introduction photo from Shutterstock


    I try to pick games depending on the person's tastes, but it is important to remember that if you're trying to play the game for them, they're not going to have fun. I think you realised that, Jung.
    Although they aren't the best for creating longterm, dedicated gamers, games like Wii Sport, Nintendoland and even WiiFit can be welcoming and enjoyable first-time experiences, especially if they're multiplayer.
    I think the co-op of Mario Galaxy 2, in which the second player could assist the main character, was one way to ease the introduction.
    Another likely possibility for gentle introduction is the Lego-themed movie and comic book games.

      "I try to pick games depending on the person's tastes"
      This, i introduced my missus into gaming via Fable/minecraft and pokemon, she is a creative type, but likes playing as a female character, the game has to be simple to an extent but still enough depth to allow her to explore at her own pace.

    The only game I've ever had any success with is Wii Sports and FIFA. My experiments with Nintendoland led to dismal failure - it's just too damn complicated.

    Generally I find it's easier not to play games with non-gamers, even if they express some interest. Because too many times I've seen it rapidly turn into disinterest for them, and frustration for me.

      Wii Sports is definitely a good option for a beginner. Stuff like Guitar Hero/Rock band (on easy mode) would also be an option.

      I've also had some moderate success with the Lego games (specifically lego star wars).

    I thought about Minecraft, haven't tried it on a non-gamer though...

      I managed to introduce my partners Dad to the XBLA version of minecraft by just leaving it paused with the controller on the table. Seems to be something that some people will pick up and play. Ad for general games tho....

    I got my wife into gaming to some extent buy buying her a DS with Brain Training. Once she'd started on that I got her New Super Mario Bros which she absolutely loved. Sadly, that was about as far as she got, since they never released another NSMB for the DS. I bought her the DS remake of Mario 64 but she didn't like it - the 3D approach meant she couldn't figure out where she was supposed to go etc, unlike the simplicity of the side scrolling NSMB. Tried Yoshi's Island which she enjoyed for a while but found too difficult to complete. Bought her a Wii but that was a complete flop apart from Wii Fit which she used for a while but then she took up an actual gym membership and never used the Wii again. The DS still gets taken on holidays though so it can be taken out for a quick go on NSMB when sitting around in airports etc.

    She doesn't mind watching while I play some games (e.g Uncharted and especially Journey), but didn't particularly want to play them herself.

    I used 'I Am Alive' to show a non-gaming friend of mine, and his girlfriend... The story, graphics and context, like something out of a book or movie amazed them. Also, the aeroplane crash scene in Uncharted 3 really blew their minds... They bought a PS3 that weekend, and told me they were halfway through Borderlands 2 together, last week =P

    Something that's high action, great graphics and so simple that the game practically plays itself so it would definitely be some type of sports game.

    Strangely enough the only games I can get my wife to play are Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption, both of which I guess would fall into the "harder" end of the spectrum.

    for me i would use portal, its a great puzzle game and a great way to start

      Yeah I would totally chose Portal or even Portal 2 for a non gamer.

      How could they not like it?

        Unfortunately some non-gamers are not used to the FPS control scheme that we all take for granted, tried portal on my gf with no success.

          I tried Portal 2 co-op with my dad. Was frustrating. Every time he tries a game with an FPS-style control scheme, it's an issue - he can't seem to wrap his head around simultaneous movement and aiming, or simultaneous aiming and button/trigger use. Which leads to frustration on everyone's part.

          Agreed. Portal 2 with my wife was almost divorce grounds.. But that was more because I knew how to do the puzzles after playing all the singleplayer and basically just ordered her around. I definitely agree about FPS style controls with looking and moving at the same time being fairly difficult for first-timers, but I think Portal is an exception.

    Mario Party or Mario Kart, easy to learn controls, clear and easy movements as well as a lot of fun. With party you can even get say 4 people to play so 1 experienced and 3 new gamers. Far more fun with more having the same starting skills. Do not attempt an FPS for a new to gaming first experience, bad idea as the controls are too complex. iPad gaming also comes to mind with some very easy to learn games that can be great fun and addicting.

    The Walking Dead for my wife. I wrote about it here:

    It was a HUGE SUCCESS.

    Last edited 22/01/13 12:15 pm

    I used Fallout: New Vegas.

    The controls took a bit of work, but the world aesthetics, the open world nature, and the pretty much do whatever you want element was really useful in how I tailored it to the person. I've also found skyrim useful for similar. It's all abut the sell.

    I generally go with puzzle based games.. even something with more simple puzzles with relational content such as the Lego series of games.. if they like Harry Potter movies.. start them out with Lego: Harry Potter.. and so on. I tend to avoid first-person games because they have that stereotypical (CoD etc) feel, even if it is a puzzle game that has no shooting in it.. Third person could be ok.. but something that isn't too focused on the immersion side of things.

    In the last year I've managed to get my wife into several games including Lego Harry Potter, Kirbys Epic Yarn and To The Moon. The next step I think will be Dear Esther, as it would be a good way to introduce her to first person controls.

    I'll leave that there (More people need to watch Extra Credits)

    I've never had the situation of having to introduce someone to gaming, but I'm pretty sure I'd introduce them with either Metroid Prime, Portal 2 or The Walking Dead.

    Something I think gamers fail to appreciate is that even holding a controller and knowing which buttons to press can be daunting for someone who hasn't ever played games, or did so so long ago that the landscape is completely different.

    If you want to get someone into a game these days (unless they're a kid and they're learning all this for the first time, which is easy) you probably want to start off relatively light with a platformer where only a couple of buttons get used. I know Braid has it's mind-twisting time mechanics but the interface was relatively simple, and the game gradually ramps up the difficulty and teaches you new things as you progress. I think you could start a non-gamer off on Braid and they'll understand games a lot better when they're done with it.

    Hell, 'Splosion Man only uses one button, and the rest is timing. The game is brutally difficult in places but at least they can focus on the game and not what their fingers are doing.

    I think this approach would be more beneficial than a "casual" game like Peggle where the objective never changes, or games with great stories that kind of require a basic understanding of how to use the controls to navigate a 3D environment, or interpreting HUD elements on the fly.

    Now if I were just going to demonstrate a game to show people why games are so great, it'd probably be something like Mass Effect 2 or Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

    Last edited 22/01/13 12:16 pm

      This is true. Controllers are incredibly intimidating things these days. A 360 controller, for example, has two thumbsticks, a D-pad and no less than 10 other buttons.

      And pretty much none of them are constructively labelled, especially when most games need you to be able to hit them in rapid combos on the fly without visual referance.

      Even with The Walking Dead, I handled the controller for my wife.

      Last edited 22/01/13 12:01 pm

        Yeah I'm a PC player. As far as my controller skills had ever gone was playing Tony Hawk 2 on friends systems or on a MS sidewinder on my PC.

        I bought an xbox controller for my PC as more and more games are built for them. I can't play anything complex at all.

        I could play 'From Dust" or 'Limbo' fine. However Arkham Asylum was a bit of a struggle. Once I got the hang of it, it was ok. However then I didn't play for a while and went back and couldn't remember how to use it. Force Unleashed 2 was fairly playable with the controller. Although I got stuck and don't know if it's a really hard bit I didn't have the patience for, or my controller skills met their limit.

        'From Dust' would be a good game to introduce people with.

          I'm also a PC gamer and I still struggle with controllers, though I'm getting better. My partner got me into gaming through hot seat Civ IV, and then Civ V once it came out a bit later. Then the Sims, Lego Star Wars (Wii) and SWTOR. I liked having the time to stop and think - I didn't have things jumping out at me and I could plan ahead, but I still got used to the idea of fighting something and dying every now and then.

          I'd probably take a similar path if I was introducing someone to gaming - depending on things such as age, interests, skills, guts, etc.

          Also Portal - though that took a second introduction because of the perspective.

    Jak & Daxter is always a good game to start with

      Worked for my brother, jak and daxter, uncharted and ratchet and clank, now he plays dishonored

    Little Big Planet 1/2 is always a good one. Start with Fun Co-Op gaming.

    Either any of the lego games for younger new gamers, and Journey for ones my age or older. The lego games are very engaging and a boatload of fun, and Journey is a masterpiece of gaming. I've had friends praise the way Journey has limited vocal interaction with other players, and loved every minute of it.

    Ten minutes of Super Mario Bros 3. That should definitely get them excited for more.

    Gaming virgin or someone who dabbles with some games sometimes but doesn't play very seriously?

    Thanks to the iPhone there aren't too many non gamers these days, but the firet game I ever got my wife to play on the xbox was Peggle. She liked it so much she finished it in that one sitting

    I've had enormous success with side-scrolling platformers. Rayman Origins and LBP1 or 2 have both been roaring successes with non-gamers as have the side-scrolling Marios and the fact that co-op play in these games is encouraged means you can be by their side in the game as well guiding them. Tekken and Soul Caliber have also had moderate success as well because these types of fighting games encourage non-gamers to learn the buttons while giving them a moderate level of success against skilled oponents by just button-mashing.

    Single player games rarely work, too complex and you can't help but blurt out tips to help them nor can you resist the urge to grab the controller off of them.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now