Illustration by Sam Woolley
You're at a social gathering and the people you're with start talking about games. Games you've never played. You listen along and laugh and nod, but you start to wonder if maybe you should say something.
I've written the following guide for faking your way through conversations about some of the hottest games around. In addition to a summary and talking points, I've included an eject button for each game. That should let you gracefully withdraw yourself from the current topic without revealing your complete lack of knowledge.
What it is: A team-based competitive game where players control cartoony heroes, all of whom shoot each other with outlandish weapons.
What they will talk about: The way Blizzard has tweaked the balance, which usually draws complaints. Whatever new hero has been unveiled, usually in a splashy animated short.
"They keep buffing and nerfing Dva and I can't keep up!"
"I stay away from competitive play these days. Too much salt."
"I just wish people would stay on the payload!"
"All I know is, Hanzo is the worst!"
"All I know is, Genji is the worst!"
"I've seen some really good Overwatch cosplay over the last year. The work these people put in! Amazing."
Don't bring up: Anything related to how attractive you think a character is, or with whom you think they should be sleeping.
Eject button: Say that you played Overwatch a whole bunch last year, but don't really anymore. Too many changes to the meta.
What it is: A Japanese role-playing game where you play as a boy in high school who splits his time between fighting demons and dating lots of cute girls.
What they will talk about: The main characters, the setting, the art and music. Everything but the story. Most people will not yet have finished the game, so everyone will be wary due to a fear of spoilers. Use this to your advantage!
"I like almost all the characters, but I like Makoto best."
"Shoji Meguro really outdid himself with the soundtrack this time out!"
"Isn't it funny how many Personas look like dicks?"
"Ryuji sure is annoying." (Actually, maybe this is controversial? It shouldn't be. I guess maybe don't say this.)
Don't bring up: Anything about the quality of the translation, how the game handles sexual themes, or what the game is trying to say about Japanese politics.
Eject button: Stick your fingers in your ears and say, you know what, I'm too worried about spoilers. Let's change the subject!
The Witcher 3
What it is: A Polish role-playing game where you play a sexy white-haired monster slayer named Geralt who roams the land bedding sorceresses and re-connecting with his long-lost adopted daughter.
What they will talk about: Which ending they got, their favourite sidequests, the coolest monsters, which sorceress they wound up with. This game came out a couple years ago, so people won't worry as much about spoilers.
"All I know is, Yennifer is super hot, amirite?"
"All I know is, Geralt is super hot, amirite?"
"Everyone in the game is just so hot!"
"I wish the alchemy system felt more necessary. I mostly get by on swords and signs."
"I found the game to be more rewarding at a higher difficulty level."
"I wish you could have romanced Cerys."
Don't bring up: Probably best not to bring up the books the games are based on, since you'll almost immediately be out of your depth.
Eject button: Tell everyone that you accidentally got the worst ending and it bummed you out so much that you don't even like talking about the game.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What it is: The latest Zelda game. It's a big open-world game where you adventure around discovering hidden secrets and fighting evil.
What they will talk about: Most people want to tell some stories about unlikely things that happened to them, or improbable things they discovered.
"I just can't believe they put so much stuff in this game!"
"I did A Major Test of Strength before I was ready, and wow, it was hard!"
"Do you think Link and Zelda were banging?"
"I love the guy with the accordion."
"I love the hot shark prince."
"I just love the horses."
Don't bring up: Weapon degradation. You can break almost every weapon in Breath of the Wild, and people have very strong opinions about whether or not that is a good thing.
Eject button: Tell people you don't want to hear any more, because you're waiting to play the rest of it until hard mode comes out this summer.
Final Fantasy XV
What it is: The latest in the long-running Japanese role-playing game series about young people who band together to save the world using crystals.
What they will talk about: How strange that publisher Square Enix elected to patch the game's story after release, and whether or not they regret playing it when it first came out.
"Noctis is kind of annoying."
"Prompto is kind of annoying."
"Gladio is my favourite."
"I don't really get combat. I just fake my way through." (People will not get the irony.)
"I'm not sure what happened in the story. Can someone explain it?"
"Wow, Chapter 13 was bad."
Don't bring up: Selfies. Selfies in Final Fantasy XV are an unusually complex subject.
Eject button: Tell people you played a few hours but gave up after they announced they'd be patching the story and changing chapter 13.
What it is: An online game made by the studio that made Halo, where you and your friends shoot a lot of aliens together.
What they will talk about: Most people will be talking about Destiny as it relates to Destiny 2, which is coming out this fall.
"You know, I'm ready for a fresh start with Destiny 2. It may be an unpopular sentiment, but that's how I feel." (It is not an unpopular sentiment.)
"I'm glad they got Nathan Fillion to come back for the sequel. He's my favourite." (He is everyone's favourite.)
"All I know is, I hope there's a Fatebringer in Destiny 2."
"I can't decide whether to play Destiny 2 on PC or console!"
"I don't have time to explain how much I hope the story is better in the sequel." (This is an inside joke, so say it with a knowing smirk.)
Don't bring up: Anything relating to player-vs-player (PvP) Destiny. Most people won't have any opinions about this, but if someone you're talking to does, you will quickly be out of your depth.
Eject button: Tell people you quit playing back when the Loot Cave was a thing and that you haven't looked back.
What it is: A notoriously difficult action role-playing series where you fight through mysterious, dangerous kingdoms and defeat massive bosses.
What they will talk about: The most recent game, Dark Souls 3, just concluded. The series has also concluded, apparently. Most people will be talking about whether or not they're sick of Dark Souls.
"The first game is the most pure one, you know?"
"I've seen people say they like Dark Souls 2, but I just don't get it. I didn't even finish."
"At first I thought the controls were weird, but once I got used to them, they're actually good!"
"I'm ready to move on. How about Bloodborne 2, amirite?"
Don't bring up: Anything relating to the poise stat. This was a point of much contention among hardcore Dark Souls players back when Dark Souls 3 came out. Trust me, you want no part in a discussion about poise.
Eject button: Tell people you haven't played a Souls game since losing your save near the end of the first one. Say most of that game is a blur because the memory is too painful.
I hope those guidelines are helpful. If you have any similar tips for games or series I left off, I hope you'll share them below. Never forget that you can always just say, "I didn't play that game," and wait for the subject to change. It's a less fun option, but definitely valid.