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

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

      • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

        • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 😛

  • 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.

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

    • 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.

  • ‘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.’

  • Great video, sound volume was a little low.
    This should be a weekly segment! 😀 Or at least fortnightly.

  • I love how she is taping the screen at 5:45 . She has potency, give her something more action/adventure oriented. On a side note Journey is an incredible game, but not for everyone. It challenges the player not only through gameplay but also his philosophical ability to perceive a deeper understanding of the game’s odyssey. The elements of religion, faith and feelings like melancholy, appreciation and liberation are under each individual’s judgement to foresee and to put some thought on them.
    Don’t forget when you are playing games for decades you will want to play something different (like Journey), but most of the beginners will want to start with something more mainstream entertaining, like an arcade style or mobile game.

  • My wife got into gaming with Little Big Planet, but then sometime after Little Big Planet 2 came out, she gave it up,, claiming she was getting too addicted to LBP to the extent she was neglecting our young daughter. She has since gone through phases of Candy Crush, Pet Rescue and most recently Rummi Plus on Facebook, spending months at a time going to bed at 4 or 5am because she has been playing all night. And she says I spend too much time gaming, when I get maybe 2-3 hours per day if I’m lucky.

  • What a great article! I always get frustrated at peoples negative attitude towards games that sometimes makes me feel the term video game is outdated as people have preconceived notions of a ‘gamer’ and what a game is and that it is set in stone and is also a very narrow view.
    Either way I think the best game to convert an anti-gamer is a mini game in Game and Wario which is basically a video game conversion of pictionary with a bit of a twist. It’s very accessible as people either have played pictionary before or have heard of it before. With a large group of people it’s alot of fun and as everyone can draw or can’t draw and everyone can guess what the drawing is at the same time it’s a very involving game. I’ve never laughed or seen other people laugh so hard at a video game before as much as that one.
    If all else fails then Peggle is the answer.

  • My mum doesn’t like to play many games, it’s just a bit too complicated nowadays, but she loves a couple of games, Mario Party, any Mario Bros games, and, the PS2 Era Tony Hawk’s Games. And she is really good at them, surprisingly, considering it’s pretty damn fast paced

  • A great job to everyone, including Mia for giving it a go! My wife enjoys games but doesn’t have the attention span to really get into them but she does watch me game from time to time. Wolf Among Us was a game I just recently played which she was always asking me what was going and really paid attention, definitely a game for anyone wanting to get into games I think.

    • Yeah, it takes some guts to hate something and know nothing about it, then agree to be filmed, knowing you’re going to suck at it, and that it’s going to be shown to a bunch of people who love the thing you hate and will probably rail on you for it.

  • Rae has just discovered that you shouldn’t start with the game, but with the person you’re trying to introduce to games 😛 I think a quick check of what makes Mia tick would be a better way to find out things that she will enjoy more. It struck me that Mia was immediately disenfranchised with the pacing and lack of direction that Journey offered her. As cliche as it is, you’d almost be better off throwing Mia into motion control games (it’s a gateway ok :P) than putting her arch nemesis, BUTTONS, in Mia’s hands so quickly.

    Please don’t cry Rae, it hurts when someone rubbishes your favourite things but at least you still enjoy it 😛

  • Mia did frustrate me, but so does my own girlfriend. She seemed very unattractive to me, even though I know it was a defensive trigger. I am sure she’s a lovely girl in most situations. I have tried putting my girlfriend through similar things. Hates – Last of Us, Journey, Uncharted, Far Cry 3.

    Now I have a Wii U though, I reckon she’ll have fun with Mario Kart 8 and SSB’s. I hope….

    This was an awesome little experiment! Rae = Wow 😉

  • It so depends on the individual. My wife generally hates games, but she totally got stuck into Guild Wars and recently Massive Chalice. She played almost nothing in between.

  • Used to play shogun and medieval TW with my dad. Staying up late talking about military tactics and army formations. Mum never got into games until smartphones and Facebook appeared.

  • Gotta say, she might not be a gamer but I’m pretty damn impressed by how genre-savvy Mia was when discussing Wolf Among Us.

  • This was pretty fun, I hope Kotaku makes more videos like this. Like Rae, I feel hurt too when a game I suppose would be enjoyed by people gets torn down to shreds, but it happens. Great job, Kotaku AU!

  • Why push people into games if they dont want to. Its ok not to like…well – anything.

    Maybe she’s a board gamer (since finding board games, I really dont play any computer games at all).

  • This was random. That “anti gamer” is my sister. Never expected to see her on this website

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