Video games are fun, right? We love them — which is why it’s surprising how challenging it can be to get someone new to play them. Long-time gamers don’t always remember, but there’s a lot of frustration when a new player doesn’t know what to do.
I’ve already written a post on the best video games for beginners, but it’s a little outdated now and I’d like to write a few tips here, too. This is also all based on personal experience, since I started playing games as an adult — I know the pain! So if you’re trying to get a loved one into video games for the first time, here’s what can help. =)
1. Choose a Beginner-Friendly Game
Probably goes without saying, but don’t start them out with Dark Souls. I’d recommend a game where they can take their time, like Portal — especially Portal 2’s co-op campaign, so you can play alongside them. Journey is another great experience that lets them explore at their own pace, with no enemies to frustrate them. Slow-paced puzzle platformers can be great for introducing mechanics gradually; I’d recommend Unravel most recently, though sticking to the first couple levels is probably smart due to increasing difficulty!
2. Carve Out at Least an Hour to Play
When I get frustrated with something, sometimes I just want to give up right away. I had that experience getting someone to try video games before — they weren’t having fun due to feeling bad at it, so they just set down the controller. If you sit down with the mindset that you’re going to spend the next hour or two just playing this game, it can really help remove that feeling of, “I need to be good at this right away, or it’s not for me.” Learning video games takes time, and that’s okay.
3. Give Them Breathing Room
Let them be in charge. They should be — it’s their experience. That means letting them go at their own pace (which is often a snail’s pace) and make mistakes (they’ll learn from them). If you’re playing co-op with them, give them space to try things on their own, and don’t hog all the puzzles or enemies yourself. It’s not “letting them win” in a cheaty way, it’s just sharing the introductory experience with them.
4. Offer Advice (Not Commands)
This isn’t the time to pretend you’re issuing commands to your party in Mass Effect or something. A friendly, “There’s a potion that helps you stay alive if you want to try it,” can be a lot nicer to hear than the battle cry, “Use the magic potion! Use the magic potion!” Frame your advice in a calm, shrugging kind of tone. Everything is up to them. And offer this advice so sparingly — don’t tell them what to do every second. That’s backseat gaming, and it’s not just annoying, it causes stress. You don’t want a new player to associate video games with stress!
5. Laugh a Lot
Trying video games for the first time is a learning experience. That means there will be many mistakes. And there’s no better way to make that okay than laughing about it all. It’ll ease tension and make fumbles feel fun instead of frustrating. Just make sure you’re laughing about the game, the environment, the weird mechanics, the visuals, your own stories of being bad at video games in the past. Don’t laugh at the player. (It can be a surprisingly fine line.)
For first video game sessions, I recommend Portal, Journey, and games like Unravel, as I said.
As a jump from that, I recommend the Assassin’s Creed series and Dragon Age series as great options for beginner gamers to learn the complexities of how missions and inventory management work in games. I pretty much started with Dragon Age: Origins, and it was an awesome experience for me to learn gaming (with an epic story, too). These are also combat-focused games with fairly simple controls and forgiving difficulties.
Finally, Halo: Reach and Gears of War Ultimate Edition are great options for first-time shooters, playing on a low difficulty setting as a beginner. With Halo, you get beautiful, streamlined FPS gameplay and settings. With Gears, you get post-apocalyptic dirt and the best cover-based experience ever, in my opinion!
Do you have any other tips to share or suggestions for beginner-friendly video games?