According to a recent study, sixty three percent of the US population plays video-games. Despite this being several times greater than the percentage of the population that reads for fun, there’s still a huge negative stigma attached to the hobby. Media freak-outs aside, there’s a strong negative connotation attached to gamers as horrifying monstrosities of pent up violence and poor social skills, one funny look away from a school shooting.
As a result of this, many people find themselves with a very enjoyable hobby which is greeted with blank incomprehension or outright distrust by everyone around them, including romantic partners. So, let’s say that you are one of these people, and you’d like to get your significant other involved in your hobby, at least enough to understand the appeal. How do you go about it? Well,
1. Find their gateway drug
Videogames are an extremely varied medium. You’ve got everything from Wii Sports to Manhunt, from Left 4 Dead to Scribblenauts. There’s something for everyone. Maybe they don’t like watching eight-foot-tall muscle tumors with biceps the size of mules chainsawing their way through major alien civilizations. Maybe they get eye-strain from staring at all the little units in RTS’s. As you presumably know what they’re interested in, find a game with a hook that appeals to them. If they like zombie movies, the Left 4 Dead games are a slam dunk. If they like history, there are a number of fairly accurate WWII shooters, or RTS’s that they might enjoy. If they like sci fi or fantasy, there are a dozen rich, complex and engaging games in both those genres that would work wonders. Bioware’s offerings, like Mass Effect or Dragon Age are both mature, deep, and well-plotted experiences that hold up well against many films in both genres.
2. Start slow.
Let’s be clear, here: There are games, and then there are games. Some games are fun, light diversions that you can pick up in an afternoon. Other games are Sisyphean exercises in inhuman frustration that require borderline masochism to complete.
While the latter are fine for veteran gamers looking for a challenge, they are not good ways to introduce someone to the genre. Don’t start them off with, say, Dwarf Fortress, a game with a vertical learning curve and an interface that looks like a spread sheet having a seizure. The game is incredibly deep, but for a new gamer, getting over the immediate obstacles will simply be too frustrating. It’d be like starting off a new reader on Tolstoy.
Avoid excessively complex games, and play on easy mode when possible. It may be a little slow for you, but you have miles of synaptic connections that they lack. You have reflexes in abstract space. They’ve got to build all that from scratch, and it’s going to take some time. Also, consider leaving online games until later: there’s always a period of getting your ass kicked before you get the hang of it, and they tend to lack the narrative hooks.
3. Play together.
If you’re trying to get someone interested in gaming, co-op mode is a godsend. It allows you to show them the basics, and help them past the initial frustrations. It also turns it into a bonding experience: something that the two of you can enjoy together, which is the whole point of this exercise in the first place. Even in games without co-op, you can still play together, particularly if it’s a more cerebral game. Sharing a character can be a very pleasant experience, although it can lead to some interesting fights if they log on after a late night to find that your shared fallout 3 character is naked at the base of the Washington monument, surrounded by empty beer bottles and dead hookers.
When gaming together, it is very important that you exercise patience, as much as possible. It can be painful to watch someone fumbling their way through minor enemy fights and, say, getting killed by headcrabs. It’s fine to help them out if they’re really stuck, but let them figure it out, if you can.
4. Be prepared to show an interest in their hobbies as well.
It’s only polite. And, hey, you might find that you like one of their hobbies as well. The whole point of this is to find things in common, and that goes both ways. Plus, it might make them more receptive to your weird past-times.
5. Embrace casual gaming.
Yes, it’s kind of crappy, but it’s also easy to get into and highly addictive, and has a good complexity curve – there’s always a game just a little deeper than what you’re playing now. If you’re interested in getting someone into gaming, it isn’t a bad place to start. Try Guitar Hero, or something similar, and then graduate to something a bit more interesting Just make sure they don’t get stuck playing Peggle and never move on. That game will eat your life.
6. Be prepared to accept failure gracefully.
Some people just don’t like certain things. Banana milkshakes, erotic woodcarving, the Eagles: all these things are just a matter of taste. Despite your best efforts, they might just not like gaming. If this is the case, accept it gracefully and move on. You presumably have other things in common. Hopefully, they’ll at least understand some of the appeal, and gain a better grasp of how you spend your time.