Is It Possible To 'Convert' An Anti-Gamer In 30 Minutes? [Video]

As dedicated patrons of the gamer bible that is Kotaku, we like to believe there are games out there for everyone. There's no such thing as a "non-gamer" — just people who haven't discovered their particular bag yet. To put this theory to the test, we enlisted the skills of technology writer, cosplayer and gaming veteran Rae Jonhston to "convert" Mia: the most rabid anti-gamer in our office. It proved to be a very bumpy ride.

As a professional critic with more than two decades of gaming under her belt, Rae Johnston knows a thing or two about what makes video games captivating. She was therefore an ideal candidate for our "convert-a-non-believer" challenge.

We got the idea for this after our editorial assistant Mia Steiber professed to hating video games — despite never actually having played one. It got us to wondering; could the right game steered by a knowledgeable hand completely change her outlook? Or are some people perpetually wired to despise gaming and all it stands for?

To make things interesting, we gave Rae a time-limit of just 30 minutes to bring Mia into the gaming fold. Other than that, the methods, games and formats employed were completely up to her. You can watch the experiment unfold in the video below. (Oh, and try to be kind to Mia in the comments — her sins are the product of ignorance.)

So there you go, then. Not exactly a raging success, but not an unmitigated disaster either. We'd also like to hear from readers who have ever tried get a partner or family member into gaming. Which games did you choose to ease them into it? Did you have more success than Rae? Share your experiences in the comments section below!


    I love Kotaku AU video content. Good job, folks :)

      Was just thinking, "woo video content!"

      Now to remember to come back to it once I get home :P

    I would have thought it impossible until my mum got super addicted to Tetris on the original gameboy many years ago.

      Yeah my mum got addicted to that too. Brothers?

        My mother's gateway drug was Solitaire, originally on Windows but later on an iPod Touch.

        She's never really moved beyond that, though.

        OTOH, she probably spends more of her time playing computer games than I do now - just it's largely restricted to Solitaire.

          Ahahahaha yes, my mum plays solitaire on her pc into the night.

      My Mother is hooked on Crazy Taxi on the gamecube right about now.

      I never really realized how much my mum played mobile games until I looked through her new tablet.
      See got it mainly for reading ebooks and facebook but not it's full of candy crushes and puzzle games.

      Hahaha my mums addiction was to Dr. Mario on the gameboy
      then columns on the megadrive

    I could never attempt to what Rae has done here. Well...not quietly, anyway.

    Just get her started playing something like Candy Crush or Angry Birds. If she enjoys those, that's a win.

      I disagree. My parents both play games like Angry Birds and (my mum is obsessed with) Candy Crush but they still constantly try telling me 'games are just a waste of money' or 'I haven't got time to sit down a play anything silly like that' *Sits and watches reality TV show #37636*
      Not quite a win in my book >_

        I get what you mean, but it's a game nonetheless. We can't expect them to play hardcore console/PC games, so get them started on something like that.

        I'd be interested to know exactly what your mum would say if you countered her "games are a waste of money" argument with the fact that she plays Candy Crush, or the fact that she's spending her time watching TV.

        My wife's not really a gamer (aside from the aforementioned facebook games) but at least she understands games and the fact that I am a gamer, and need that gaming time.

          Non-gamers can play a game, but say that they hate games and don't consider themselves gamers because all those mobile device games which get measured in all the surveys? Yes. It's because they don't consider mobile games to be 'games'. They're time-killers, distractions. They're no more a 'game' than the cross-word puzzle in the newspaper was, when it filled the same role.

          This is why you should scrutinize any study that tries to tell you about what demographics play 'games'. If they included angry birds or candy crush, you're not talking about the same group of people who are going to respond to who the protagonist of Dungeon Adventure The Reboot is going to be. It's why enthusiasts shouldn't assume the hobby is more widespread than it truly is. Talking gaming is still a career death sentence in many, many, many workplaces.

          Last edited 21/01/15 4:44 pm

          I don't think my mum would really be the one saying games are a waste of money specifically (though she may think it), she'd really be exactly what Transientmind was talking about above - She plays facebook games but consideres them time-wasters, not really games.

          It's more my dad who says things like games are a waste of time and money, while sitting down to watch whatever's on Foxtel. He used to love playing things like Sim City and Railroad Tycoon when I was a kid, which is probably what got me into PC gaming in the first place (both my parents used to think a console was too expensive for something that just played games when we already had a PC anyway).

          Now days though, I try show him games like Sid Meiers Railroads or Civilization V and he just says he doesn't have time to waste on games.
          I'll admit that I haven't tried to get either of them playing a game (other then what they already play) in quite a while but I'm determined one day to get them both to sit down and try Minecraft together - It's a long story but I think it's about the only game they'd both enjoy (assuming they ever gave it a try).

          After finally getting a chance to watch this video though, I think I might try Journey on them at some point.

          Last edited 21/01/15 6:21 pm

      Candy Crush in particular has more in common with gambling than gaming. Angry Birds might be a good one to try though. As much as I find it uninteresting I can still admit that it is a well-made little game, which, as far as I know, doesn't try to squeeze more cash out of you by using psychological hooks.

    Great video!

    My Mum won't touch a video game now, but back in the day, she was an Alex Kidd in Miracle World fiend. She clocked the game, but I never had the patience with that one. She also loved Castle of Illusion, but I beat that one before she had the chance. She'd also kick my Dad's ass at PGA Tour Golf II - I'd be kicked out of my room so they could use the Mega Drive, haha!

    I miss being a kid...

      My Mum was the biggest gamer I knew as a child by far. She was constantly on the top of any Super Qix machine she bothered to visit. My first established gaming memory is going through Zelda with her in a weird co-op way. She used to play some abyssmal games that I liked and kept a few levels ahead so she could help if required (except MegaMan because screw that game.)

      I once walked in on her playing Diablo 2 on the desktop at the same time she was playing a game with the laptop on her knee .

      Sadly as shes gotten older her body has developed nerve issues which make it almost impossible to enjoy her favourite hobby as much as she used to at a competence that she expects from herself.

      Last edited 21/01/15 1:33 pm

        That's awesome! Here's to cool mums everywhere! Also, sorry to hear about her nerve problems, I can only imagine how frustrating that might be!

    what a sour puss, if she smiled her face would crack

      It's a defence mechanism. I have a friend who just gets so uptight whenever she isn't comfortable with something.

      I dunno, I'd probably be a "sour puss" if I was introduced to fishing or something else I find pointless. Not everyone is going to like games and that's fine.

    Props to Mia for putting herself out there for an experiment like this on a site that is catered for gamers. I really mean that.

    Last edited 21/01/15 1:25 pm

    Can we get a list of examples of things Mia does like? Context helps.

    Personally I think you should have shot for Rez or Geometry Wars.

      I think when she said, "There's no direction!" that was the big red flag that said where she would be looking. Wolf Among Us was an excellent response to that signal. The other way I'd have considered is probably Portal, but after recently introducing a non-gamer to Portal, you wouldn't believe how big a barrier 1st-person control systems can be.

      Simply conceptualizing a virtual space and moving yourself through it is sometimes not just a ten minute job. But Wolf? Yeah, that's intuitive. Buttons for answers. Hell, even the minigames gave her the shits.

        I was thinking bright colours and techo beats might hypnotize her in half an hour.

        Portal's learning curve is pretty great though.
        "Here's a portal. There's another portal. You walk through this, you go out that."
        "Now, here's a portal, and the other portal is appearing in 3 different places. Explore those rooms. Grab the cube. Put it on the button."
        "Now take the portal gun and put your own damn portals all over the place!"

        I agree with your statement about 1st person control systems, but I would extend that to include the gamepad two-stick 3d navigation paradigm in general.

        I have tried to introduce two separate people to gaming via Journey and the two biggest obstacles were a) the poorly implemented (and unnecessary) sixaxis tilting, and b) the two-stick control system is a skill that many of us have mastered but clearly take for granted. Someone who is new to gaming still has to endure the frustrating trial and error of coordinating the two sticks.

    To be fair, I still react the same way to QTE sequences

    I believe this theory very strongly. Thanks to PS4, we've had friends who are girls / girlfriends go from refusing to even be in the same room as a console to actually beating us at games like Towerfall. All it takes is the right game, that doesn't force every face button and stick upon the player from minute one, and systems that encourage experimentation and don't punish you for hestitation.

    The Telltale games are really good for people who have never really used a controller before, especially a right stick, because it lets you get familiar with the controls step by step, rather than all at once. What we tend to forget is that not everyone had the gradual learning curve that anyone who was a child of the 90s had when it came to the analogue sticks, and learning how to look and move at the same time with them is always the biggest hurdle.

    I used to hate the idea of these indie games being a "replacement" for the barren landscape of AAA titles in Sony's eyes, but as I get older and drunker, I want more games that are simple, inclusive, encourage short plays, and pass the controller antics.

    This is why the gradual death of split screen is the worst thing that has happened to the games industry.

    Last edited 21/01/15 1:34 pm

    I don't think she's really an anti-gamer, she's just not tried any games. There are people out there who think games are only violence and if they touch a controller they'll instantly turn into a murderer - get one of those to convert and that would make a more interesting video (not that this was bad)

      I disagree, I think she's the kind of person who if she told her friends she played a video game they'd make fun of her. Her disapproval of video games just felt more cultural to me than personal.

    I installed Threes on my Mum's phone when I was completely hooked by it. 6 months later, she's still playing with a high score of 62k with a 1536 tile. I'm still stuck on 768 tile and around 23k :p

    I experienced some pretty good success with the girlfriend starting with simple games like Candy Crush (ugh!) and then moving to platformers.

    The girlfriend loves Rayman on PS3 as well as the 2 mobile versions but she still rolls her eyes in disgust at anything more 'mature' that I like such as RPGs or action games but I'm kinda hoping an Oculus Rift might help get her in to space sims like Elite Dangerous coz she's nuts about astronomy :-P

    When i saw the frontpage image and read the title i thought "Omg they're trying to turn Anita Sarkeesian into a gamer???"

    Now THAT would have been impressive.

      She'd probably kill herself as the towering realisation of her wrongness came crashing down upon her.

    I was going to try a similar thing with my gf soon but with Brothers A Tale of Two Sons.

      Man, I'm a seasoned veteran and I found that one pretty damn rough to get used to.

      I played A Tale of Two Sons with my GF (not a gamer), and she didn't do too badly in the parts that she was willing to give a try, considering the dexterity needed to control both characters. More importantly was the fact that she just enjoyed the experience in general (reacted pretty animatedly to some of the events), even the parts where she was just watching me play. I'd recommend that you try giving it a go - I'd be surprised if your GF got nothing from it at all.

    I don't see the point of this. I guess inclusiveness, but if their start point is "I hate this without ever trying it", I'd give up before trying.

    My wife played a lot when she was a kid. I tried to get her into playing games but was having very little success. After all my attempts the game that completely converted her was Fantasy Life. It's cutesy, she can play at her own pace and we can play together sometimes.

    Journey was a bad choice; mechanics wise its "easy", but its not a simple game for beginners for the sole reason its in 3D space. As gamers we overlook this, but after attempting to introduce many people to games I can tell you that fine motor control is a requirement that non-gamers have a hard time filling.

    To play Journey you need:

    - Understanding of 3D space
    - Basic understanding of common 3D game rules regarding level design
    - Fine motor control for the 3D camera
    - Fine motor control for moving the character
    - Fine motor control for jumping

    New players have none of this! Instead I recommend introducing people using a "buddy 2D platform" game like Rayman Origins/Legends and New Super Mario Bros. These games are easy to grasp, and when the non-gamer dies they just float back to you in a bubble.

      Very good point. You don't really realise all the little bits of knowledge you take for granted as a given when playing a game. After a screening of Indie Game: The Movie a couple of years ago they had the featured games available to play out in the foyer. My friend and I were at Super Meat Boy when some people tried to get one of their friends to play, who had never played a videogame in her life. It was fascinating watching her struggle with it, even the concept of a running and jump was proving too hard to grasp, having to hold an additional button to increase movement speed, and then while doing that activate the jump. Something a gamer doesn't even have to think about, but there she was trying to manually think about coordinating all these separate movements.

      Yeah I used Journey once but it's true that people who haven't experience with 3D space or the concept of controlling a camera are pretty screwed for at least 5-10 minutes before they realise what is what.

      I used The Adventures of Tintin and also Tokyo Jungle, which are mainly 2D, to great effect with my young daughter, but also fighting games can work.

      With my wife it was Little Big Planet.

        My fiancee gets motion sickness from her bad camera control so she's never been able to stick with it for long enough to learn. :(

        My current theory is 3D newbs try "watch" the game by just focusing on the center of the screen, but gamers tend to focus on objects as the camera moves so its not an issue (the whole looking at the mountains to stop car sickness strategy).

          This is also why having a spectator/navigator while playing will point out the shinies you've missed all the time. (And think they're so damn clever for spotting some sparkle while you were focussed on that fucking huge monster.)

      Agreed. When I saw it was Journey, I immediately thought to myself that this isn't going to work... I would actually suggest starting with classic games like pacman, or galaga. Since she's not a fan of animation, graphics should matter less, and more importantly, there isn't too much of a stimuli overload trying to look at all that is going on at the same time controlling your character.

      Journey may be classified as a relaxing game to us, but I am sure it is not so for a non-gamer.

    My mum didnt "get" video games until my parents bought me my Sega Mega Drive.

    My mum got hooked on Alex Kid in the Enchanted Castle, Columns and after a year or two, started playing Streets of Rage 3 and Mega Bomberman. We used to have so much fun with Streets of Rage and 4 player battles in Mega Bomberman. I gave her my Mega Drive back in '97, and she was using it for hours daily up until she passed away a little over a year ago...

    ... i miss my mum :`(

      With all the times I made my Mum screw up during an epic Tetris or Columns run, I'm surprised I still draw breath.

      Oh, and Streets of Rage 2 was beaten so many times by us, it's ridiculous.

      Last edited 21/01/15 2:51 pm

    'just pushing buttons to make something explode.' You can make anything sound like a pointless activity if you break it down that way. 'I hate writing because all you're doing is scribbling lines on a page.'

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