A common discussion in many gaming communities tends to start the same way: How do I get my __________ into gaming? You can fill in the blank with spouse, parent, sibling, whomever really. The point is that we all share this passion for gaming and want to expose the people we love to the joys of it.
In truth, more people regularly play video games than at any other time in history. It’s crazy when you really think about it. Though skeptics may claim that the numbers are padded by users of mobile games who don’t count as “true gamers”, just imagine for a second your grandmother whipping out an iPad and going to town on some Candy Crush. It’s not something I’d have an easy time picturing, but that’s the reality we are headed toward. The question then becomes how do we get people who are constantly surrounded by electronic entertainment to pick up the controller and game on a console?
Usually, it’s someone trying to figure out how to get their girlfriend or wife to play with them. It’s more than understandable. Not only do you get to share your enjoyment and do something you love together, you get to spend more time doing it and less time away from her. This is probably as good a time as ever to put this out there: I’m a married woman who games way more than her husband. We used to play together a lot, but over the years our schedules have changed and I turned into a night owl. There’s a whole list of movies and TV shows we plan to watch together, so I was left with gaming as my nighttime entertainment. Occasionally we’ll play some co-op together, but usually when he plays the Xbox I give him free reign to play all the single-player games he has in his backlog.
So, yeah, the idea of trying to convince your spouse to game with you is a bit foreign to me. I just recently really got back into gaming, but I can still remember playing some of my first games on the NES. Not only that, I specifically recall handing the controller to my dad so he could help me get past tricky parts. I’m not sure if my memory is tainted by nostalgia, but I feel like gaming used to be a family activity. Maybe it’s the content of the games that narrowed the audience to a specific demographic, but I think it’s about time we bring the family back to the console.
Here are some great types of games to welcome the uninitiated.
Like I said, I’ve just recently begun to dive deep into all that console gaming has to offer. What piqued my interest and got me to buy my first console in years, though, was Rock Band. Now, this was years ago; I’m talking the original release for the 360. The draw, however, remains the same. Pretty much anyone can pick up one of those plastic instruments and live out their innermost desire to rock out in front of adoring fans.
This game in particular spoke to me because, as a self-identifying musician, the drums felt way more satisfying and “realistic” than Guitar Hero ever did. However, those without a musical bone in their body can still have a blast wailing away to tunes without even a thought of how close it mimics the real thing. Honestly, the best thing Rock Band did in later editions was add a no fail mode. Do you have absolutely no sense of rhythm? No problem! Just ignore the crowd’s response and soldier on through the set.
Rock Band is great because it can be played by up to four people, each with their own individual part that adds to the experience. While less of a co-op experience, the latest of the Guitar Hero games, Guitar Hero Live, provides an even more engaging experience as it puts the player on stage in front of a real live audience. Even if the novelty wears off and you start cringing at the signs in the audience, you can still play along to an incredible number of music videos in the TV portion of the game. It’s as if MTV still played music videos and you are able to play along to every song on guitar.
Whichever route you choose (is there a DDR game for Xbox?), rhythm games are a great point of entry because they are accessible to all skill levels and revolve around concepts practically everyone already understands.
The Lego Games
Who doesn’t love Legos? There’s something that is universally approachable about the plastic building block toys and it translates really well to their video game series. From the licensing of recognizable IPs to the PG-rated humor that made the movie a hit, the Lego games are the type of fun that anyone can enjoy.
What’s even better is that the games are better when played cooperatively, with 2 people on the same screen. While it can be played solo, it’s much easier to manage the characters when one person controls each of them. As you wander the world, you’re given a set of objectives that are simple, but require skills that are specific to each character. The game forces you to play together, which can be annoying, but if you’re playing with a significant other, consider it a free couples therapy session focused on positive communication.
Like I mentioned before, another draw is the use of characters that many of us have already grown to know and love. The Lego games allow you to play as favorites from such popular franchises as Harry Potter, the Marvel Universe, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Yes, even Star Wars! If you know a fan of any of those (or a number of other titles) who is hesitant to play video games, the Lego games are a great way to pull them in. Just try not to get too frustrated at numerous failed attempts to work together.
Speaking of frustration, I think my husband and I managed to get through 3 levels of Portal 2 before he gave up on me. I prefer trial-by-error and he’s more of the “let’s assess the situation” type. Needless to say, I got him killed a bunch of times with my impatience. The thing that really pushed him over the edge was that I thought it was hilarious. So, consider that a caveat for what is about to follow.
Puzzlers are great because they focus more on your ability to solve problems than technical ability. You don’t have to be a whiz with a controller to be able to figure out the best way out of a puzzle, you just need to be able to see things from different perspectives. This makes for great cooperative gameplay. Two people working together (and not killing each other) can accomplish much more than one person alone.
There are puzzle games built for 2 player co-op. Portal 2’s co-op (originally released on Xbox 360, but now backwards compatible on the Xbox One) was critically lauded as one of the best experiences out there. However, you don’t have to play a game with a built-in co-op mode to enjoy a puzzle game with someone. There are several games you can play together, even if only one of you is holding a controller. Have you ever tried to no end to solve a problem only to have an outsider walk in and figure it out in a matter of seconds? It’s almost mind-blowing, but really it boils down to what I said before: perspective. Not only do you get to have input from another person, challenging ideas you already discounted, a non-gamer is also the ultimate outsider. They haven’t internalized the same set of rules that you learned over the years. Sure some of their solutions may be outside of the parameters of the game itself, but often they can notice things that you simply looked over.
Provided you are able to deal with the outlandish suggestions, you get the benefit of fresh eyes. As a matter of fact, your explanation of why something won’t work will actually engage them in conversation which may teach them more than handing them the controller ever could. You’ve successfully sparked interest and, more likely than not, they’ll want to learn more just so they can solve the puzzle. Everyone loves a challenge.
Whatever Works in the End
So, there you have it. Three types of games that open up hundreds of titles you can use to get the people in your life to play games with you. All in all, it boils down to one basic thing: if that special someone has a particular interest, there’s a game that could go along with it. For me, it was Rock Band, but there’s a game out there for everyone. If you look hard enough, you’re sure to find it. Happy gaming, folks!
Aquila is a long-time lover of all things Xbox from Boston, Massachusetts. A musician and teacher, when she’s not gaming she likes to take in all things pop culture. You can read more of her writing on movies, television and music on her blog.