Gaming for a non-gamer.
March 30, 2020 7:53 AM   Subscribe

What Games Are Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games. What Breath Of The Wild Is Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games. What Minecraft Is Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games. What Online Multiplayer Is Like For Someone Who Doesn't Play Games. This past year, my wife made the mistake of taking an interest in my hobby, and instead of just letting her play games for fun, I figured it'd be more interesting to chronicle her journey of figuring out how to play video games. So, this is a continuation of those experiments where I look into what it is like for someone who doesn't play games.
posted by Fizz (31 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
So I'm more or less a non-gamer until acquiring BOTW about a year and a half ago, and this second video is a pretty good reflection of my experiences: using the focus trigger to look around instead of the camera (I did that for a REALLY long time), struggling with camera angles, not understanding the most efficient ways to fight enemies, etc. And the great thing is that I've still managed to have a great time because BOTW is enormously open to people doing things the way they want to do them. On my second playthrough in Master Mode I ignored the objectives, left the plateau and immediately headed west into the desert (and thereafter died A LOT but boy was it fun). It's taken me a pretty long time to become competent with all the controls (and I still haven't mastered them, I'm working on that shield flip into arrow time) but the game's been rewarding enough along the way that I kept going with it.

As a mom whose child plays Minecraft while I wonder what the appeal is (ugh such a cliche), I'm curious to watch the third video and see if that also resonates.
posted by daisystomper at 8:13 AM on March 30, 2020 [9 favorites]


My partner and her roommate also discovered gaming this year when I got my partner hooked on Overcooked and then gave them a spare Xbox One S. It's been such a blast. Last night my partner said she was going to replay Outer Worlds, one of the first games she got really into (after Stardew) now that "she was a real gamer and knew how to play". She kept sending me excited texts about all the stuff she was finding that she'd missed!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:17 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


Not hugely into different games (although carter jr. is) - mainly due to schedule, and aging eyesight and reflexes - but man do I enjoy some Minecraft.
posted by carter at 8:23 AM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


Very interesting post. I played games as a kid from around 1977 to about 1989, then I took many, many years off. Started up again with an Xbox 360 around 2006 or so. The new twin stick controllers took me a LONG time to learn. But I'm pretty obsessed nowadays.

This person's experience with Uncharted was so very similar to mine. "Why do I have to climb around the outside of that Thing when there's perfectly good handholds just above where I am?" is so, so frustrating to me. "It's Yellow, so you can climb it" stuff is just horrible game design.

I don't know how he convinced his frustrated wife to keep playing without getting any coaching at all on these things. She seems like a very good Sport.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:40 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


My brother is a game designer. He keeps trying to interest me in his games* but always fails and he's labeled me the Anti-Gamer as a result, but I see people playing Minecraft and wonder, WTF? so these videos are helpful to me - thanks!
*or any game, really -- the one success was with Set.
posted by Rash at 8:41 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


As a non-gamer who has never even heard people talk about gaming, I found the first link fascinating. It reminded me of my teaching career: most of what I did was to immerse youngsters in situations where they had to figure things out for themselves, but occasional pointers ("teaching") were sometimes invaluable.

Gaming is also (obviously) like navigating through life. We learn through mistakes and breakthroughs, and also sometimes learn the wrong lessons. Tips from friends, books, or gurus can lead us to trying strategies that we would not have come up with on our own.
posted by kozad at 9:25 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


I do think about the types of games that people will try to introduce other non future-gamers and how that sets a tone for whether or not they'll learn to love games. I'm not sure that throwing someone into Fortnite is a good experience (maybe it is for the right person), but like maybe easing someone into the world of gaming with something like Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley or just basic ass Super Mario Bros. These for me are good places to get someone into gaming.

I also think that controls are the main barrier. It's come up in gaming posts time and time again. Not liking modern controllers and the way that impacts gameplay for games that require precision, looking at you first person shooters.
posted by Fizz at 9:26 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed the first video but anyone who would choose to romance and marry Penny of all people in Stardew Valley is someone I view with deep suspicion. ;-)

If people want a much longer form version with a great deal more encouragement and warm fuzzies, Carrie and Dan Floyd did a full playthrough of Celeste. Carrie is also someone married to a gamer (and game animator) who doesn't play many games and definitely not platformers, but she wanted to learn. Celeste is known to be punishingly difficult, but it also has options to adjust the difficulty along several dimensions on the fly. You can see how the signposting problems discussed in the first video show up, but you can also see encouragement and accessibility tools serve their purpose too, and all in real time.
posted by Scattercat at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


Well, now I want to play Breath Of The Wild!

His discussion of the "language" of gaming was astute. There are expected scenarios in video games (always talk to the NPCs, mutiple times) that un- and in-experienced players don't realize are required to make progress.
posted by JawnBigboote at 10:13 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


Rash, please tell your brother from me that the Loony Labs games are enormously important to my little boy. He started playing Fluxx when he was about 5 years old and we have about 7 different versions now, along with the board game. He loves the make-your-own-cards expansion decks especially, so he too can be a game designer.

Anyway, as someone on a trajectory much like daisystomper (got a Switch for the kid, I started playing BOTW and oops now I'm a gamer) I have one plea to longtime gamers: stop describing game genres in terms of other games. I have no fucking idea what "metroidvania" means in practical terms. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:39 AM on March 30, 2020 [7 favorites]


It's an interesting experiment, but how many gamers got into games without any guidance at all, which seems to be his method here? The first time I played Minecraft, my kid gave me pointers. Heck, the first time I played Space Invaders, my brother gave me pointers. He learned how from a friend. And so on.

If I were to suddenly want to take up a new game and didn't have anyone around to teach me, I'd be poring over Youtube videos every time I got stuck.

It was kind of funny to see him realize "Minecraft creative mode is easier for new gamers!" yeah dude, not having to fight off enemies is much less stressful.
posted by emjaybee at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I also think that controls are the main barrier. It's come up in gaming posts time and time again. Not liking modern controllers and the way that impacts gameplay for games that require precision, looking at you first person shooters.

1. barrier to whom? "controllers are bad for games" is an enthusiast view. The new-to-video-games person is likely to be flummoxed by figuring out how to maneuver an avatar in threespace using any control scheme. It's not like WASD + mouse is especially natural.

2. before you criticize controllers, please note that for me and others, controllers are critical to game accessibility. My wrists are burned and I can't play video games with a mouse for more than about fifteen minutes. What is "impacts gameplay for games that require precision" to you is "I get to play games at all" to me. I'm always gratified to see PC games supporting controllers and I worry that game companies are going to start paying attention to the folks who disdain controllers.

when I close my eyes and see my future I see myself perhaps maintaining open-source drivers for the Steam Controllers that I've stockpiled.
posted by Sauce Trough at 10:53 AM on March 30, 2020 [3 favorites]


I disagree with the bit about precision -- mostly, fps's have just stopped requiring precision with aim assist and the like. But modern controllers do have a fairly steep muscle-memory learning curve. Lots of fingers have jobs to do.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


Dropping someone into Minecraft survival mode with no explanation seems a bit pointless - especially if they land on a small island with no trees!
posted by Segundus at 11:10 AM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I played a lot of video games in my childhood and early teens, mostly on the Commodore 128 and the Amiga 500. Then I completely stopped because my new high school friends weren't interested in games and that made me lose interest as well.

I was over 30 when I started playing again, and the first modern game I bought was Half-Life 2 on PC. It took me more than 70 hours to reach the end credits, and that game is in no way a difficult game. But I was dying a lot because it took me ages to adjust to modern controls and somewhat realistic 3D environments. The struggle of controlling movement and camera independently was a total nightmare.

But also: I spent ages looking around at everyting and exploring every little corner of the game. Not having played any games for fifteen plus years I was absolutely blown away by how good things looked. I felt like rushing through the game would be extremely discourteous to the developers.
posted by Dumsnill at 11:14 AM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'm always gratified to see PC games supporting controllers and I worry that game companies are going to start paying attention to the folks who disdain controllers.

I wouldn't worry about it, as this would be a reversal of the popular trend of designing for consoles that will be played with controllers and building PC ports where the menus in particular are operating on the assumption that the way you use M+KB is just the same way you use a controller but with different buttons (and this is in no sense a relic of older times, Borderlands 3, I am looking at *you*).
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2020


The new-to-video-games person is likely to be flummoxed by figuring out how to maneuver an avatar in threespace using any control scheme. It's not like WASD + mouse is especially natural.

Everyone is different and is going to approach gaming in their own way. I've just noticed with a few of my friends who have slowly eased into gaming that the common complaint is that there are a shit ton of buttons to keep track of and using a modern console controller feels overwhelming at first. That is what I was trying to get at. People of course adapt and new things become old and familiar but I do believe it is a high bar for many people as they get into gaming.
posted by Fizz at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


Another thing about WASD+mouse is that a lot of people don't have desktop computers. Before we got our Switch I played PC games on a laptop while sitting on my couch and controller support was a requirement. Games that technically support a controller but are shit at it were so frustrating.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:24 AM on March 30, 2020


Soren_lorenson...looks like a Metroid game is next on your list ;) I suggest the metroid prime trilogy (if it's avail for switch...orig on gamecube and wii...i think they released it on wiiU too...check the store) It's super fun...you get a bunch of visors that give u xray and thermal vision and you can roll into a ball and do all sorts of tricks) It's very spacy and mysterious. The original was designed by the same guy who invented Mario AND Zelda...same music director too.
For new gamers I always go with Diablo3 (and often have them asking to come over and play more...it's really fun in 2player)...The starting controls are dead simple (it's a top-down view so there's no camera stick...u use it to dodge instead), just move and shoot. As you level up, it unlocks additional buttons that u can assign spells to and there's all sorts of other stuff to unlock, but at the beginning it's just move-shoot-dodge.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:44 PM on March 30, 2020


His discussion of the "language" of gaming was astute. There are expected scenarios in video games (always talk to the NPCs, mutiple times) that un- and in-experienced players don't realize are required to make progress.

It's not necessarily un- and in-experienced players.

One of my favorite games of recent years is the PS4's Horizon Zero Dawn. I've finished it 4 times, and started a new game when the Bay Area went into lockdown because it's weirdly comforting. I recently watched a YouTube streamer play through the game for the first time (I believe his series was recorded at the end of 2019, into early January), and it *astounded* me how hard this person, who'd obviously been playing and streaming video games for a long time, had to struggle to understand the visual language of the game. It really made me ponder how rare my ability to 'read' games is.
posted by hanov3r at 12:51 PM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


I think "content creators" are incentivized to / selected for what will provide engagement, and what gets people to engage with your content? When someone is wrong on the internet. The streamers where competence is actually a selling point will stream the same game over and over, sharing advice for people who want to get better at that game. They won't be streaming a lot of first playthroughs where they have no expertise.
posted by RobotHero at 1:08 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


how many gamers got into games without any guidance at all, which seems to be his method here?

...raises hand...

Other than bits of help from than self-taught Kidlet (who is not a Kidlet anymore), I learn games from scratch, by installing them and reading the meager instructions. And for most of the "big" games, that means I quickly give up on them because they are incredibly non-intuitive for people who don't already know how these games work.

Case in point: Kidlet acquired Untitled Goose Game, which I expected to be my kind of game. She handed it off to me, and I spent 20 minutes in the initial clearing, walking and honking and flapping my wings and utterly failing to figure out how to duck under the log to get to the village.

No really--I was ready to scream. I knew this was an easy-controls game, that I must need to go under or over that log, and I could not figure out how. I'd missed the two-second instruction that told me how to duck and managed not to click that particular button while I was testing everything I could think of.

I keep up with a lot of gamer culture, but that tells me absolutely nothing about "which button is normally the Do This Thing button on the controller?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:14 PM on March 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


Ugh. Why can't gaming people just leave non gaming people alone? I'm tired of people trying to convert me. I'm not interested in video games, can't you just let me be me?
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:42 PM on March 30, 2020 [6 favorites]


Ditto, WalkerWestridge. Mostly I just want to do other stuff instead of being sucked into a game for hours upon hours upon hours, but then there's the whole being female thing too.... God, it ain't worth it.

I'm afraid to watch these videos for that latter reason too, btw.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:12 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I would be a good subject for a "how do non-gamers experience video games" (I kept saying "yeah!" when watching the video).

When I tried playing Stardew Valley, I was finally getting started, put all of it into planting a bunch of cauliflower, and then summer came and all my cauliflower died. I also kept getting lost. Part of this might have been my playing on an ordinary-sized laptop screen (without ginning up the resolution so everything was tiny), but surely others play on a laptop and don't spend most of their time walking around lost.

Then my partner saw that I was mildly interested in Pokemon so found me Pokemon Fire Red, and he had to get me out of Mt. Moon because I was so lost among the levels, even with a map from the internet. Also, every time I re-opened the game, I have no idea where I am.

When I try to play Overcooked (or anything with a controller), I notice that I don't really know how to move in 360 degrees -- I move jerkily only in up / down / left / right.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:00 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]


I enjoy playing games, but gamers are the worst. Why anyone would do this is a mystery to me. I think it might be a desperate cry for validation and legitimising of what has long been considered a trivial time waste of a hobby. Why people can't just enjoy themselves without demanding others take part is beyond me.
posted by Acey at 1:08 AM on March 31, 2020 [4 favorites]


I have no fucking idea what "metroidvania" means in practical terms.

With the caveat that "metroidvania" is a genre name that everyone involved hates and wishes was descriptive: they are games where you have to explore a world and remember where you've been, as opposed to knowing clearly where you're going, and find items that give you new abilities that you can use to both get past obstacles and fight enemies more effectively.

A close cousin, that scratches a lot of the same itches, are "Soulslikes", which also don't have a useful name because the genre is still in the shadow of Dark Souls. These games share the densely interconnected worlds of metroidvanias, but usually have more level-and-stat based combat. They also tend to be punishingly difficult. One of the best metroidvanias, Hollow Knight, takes quite a bit of inspiration from Soulslikes but is still firmly in the metroidvania category.
posted by Merus at 2:20 AM on March 31, 2020


I have no tolerance for learning digital games past dots and threes in my phone, but I can watch my son play BOTW for an hour like it’s a beautiful movie. I enjoy being a spotter and being pan-episodic memory for him: “Hey didn’t you try the other way last time and it worked?”. I get to participate in something he’s good at, he doesn’t hide in his room, as he improves we are both rewarded. So far so good. Fortnite not so much, tho...
posted by drowsy at 6:00 AM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings about this, as someone who has played video games for countless hours (several thousand on steam alone), since almost none of that time has been on games that resemble any of the games shown here.

On the one hand, I enjoyed the additional insight about why I haven't had much fun with those types of games when I dabbled in them (aside from the main reasons, that I'm not skilled enough with a controller to enjoy any precision-based game and have no desire to learn since 3D perspective games make me feel sick anyway).

On the other hand, it's kinda frustrating and othering to see, yet again, the implication that "video games" mean scrolling-platform or 3D perspective games. The series is supposedly a "diverse spread of genres and gameplay mechanics" but it seems to completely ignore turn-based games, 4X games, city-building games, sims/stardew-type games, real-time strategy games, MMORPGs, survival/exploration/puzzle games that aren't in first-person perspective, and many other genres.

If the goal is to introduce people to gaming, it's important to be aware that games come in a much wider variety than many people think. Many of the ignored genres are far more beginner-friendly than the games explored in this series, since they often rely mainly on something everyone has (a brain) rather than something requiring physical dexterity plus many hours of practice (skillful use of a controller or mouse/keyboard).
posted by randomnity at 12:17 PM on March 31, 2020 [5 favorites]


it's kinda frustrating and othering to see, yet again, the implication that "video games" mean scrolling-platform or 3D perspective games

Yes this.

...Hidden object games, point-and-click adventure games, idle/incremental games, visual novels, god games, escape-the-room games, physics puzzle platformers, tower defense, dating sims...

I was annoyed that "I decided to introduce her to a wide variety of games" apparently meant "I introduced her to a handful of action platformers, metroidvanias, and first-person shooters."

If his wife is interested in "what's the appeal of this video game stuff anyway" rather than "what does my husband like about video games," she could be pointed at Gorogoa, Dream Daddy, Cookie Clicker, Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink, World of Goo, or Little Inferno. ...But none of those involve blowing up swarms of enemies or dodging quickly to avoid being slaughtered.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:41 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]




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