At some point over the past few years, I came to a realization. I will be playing video games for the rest of my life.
It’s an interesting thought. Our generation has available to it an entirely new branch of interests and hobbies related to digital entertainment that simply didn’t exist 30 years ago. As a hobby, video games are no different than reading, watching tv and movies, or playing board games.
I recently became engaged. Part of being in a committed relationship involves sharing your interests with each other. My fiancé and I play games together, but she isn’t a gamer per se. But, I didn’t just throw a controller in her hand and drop her into The Witcher 3, nor did I set her up as a priest and make her my pocket healer in World of Warcraft. I choose the games we play carefully so that she actively enjoys them.
If you have a significant other who isn’t a gamer, but you’d like to enjoy a video game with them once in a while, here are some tips that might help you find success.
1) Play to their interests.
Does your significant other like zombies? Try Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Do they remember playing the original Super Mario Bros in an arcade or on an NES console? Play some New Super Mario Bros on the Wii. In my case, my fiancé played the original King’s Quest as a child on an Apple II. So, when Telltale’s new King’s Quest title came to the PS4, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to do some gaming with her! She loved it, and we played through the whole thing together. The main takeaway for point number one is this: Don’t play a game you want to share, play a game they’d like to play.
Corollary to 1): You can meet somewhere in between your interests and theirs, but don’t test the limit. For instance, I love Magic: the Gathering, but I realize my fiancé would not dig. On the other hand, she does like classic board- and card-games like Life and Uno. So, I tried to find middle ground and get some paper games that are not quite Magic the Gathering but are a fair bit deeper than Sorry. Exploding Kittens and the DC Comics Deck-Building Game are two of our favorites.
2) Choose games with a focus on narrative.
Someone who doesn’t play games regularly is not going to be excited by nuanced gameplay details in the same way that us nerds are. So, choose a game that has a strong focus on narrative to hold their interest. Again, King’s Quest is a great example of a narrative-focused game. Humor is a huge plus in this regard. If a game can be charming, it might charm your SO into enjoying it more than they expected!
Another title we’ve been enjoying recently is Broken Age. The game had us doubled over with laughter, and although the point-and-click control scheme is not the fiancé’s favorite thing in the world, the humor alone kept us coming back until we beat the game. Something else to consider: Your SO may not enjoy reading game dialogue, even if it’s super witty stuff. Play a game with solid VO.
3) Avoid complex control schemes.
Would you sit your non-gamer significant other down for a quick bout of Starcraft 2? Of course not. That game is an absolute beast to navigate and play well. In fact, the whole RTS and MOBA genre is off the table, as far as I’m concerned. The control schemes are just too intimidating. Control group? What is that? Hotkeys? Movement and order queues? Whah??
No no no.
Avoid complex control schemes at all costs. You may take for granted what exactly counts as a “complex”. This will certainly differ on a case by case basis, but for my fiancé, this limitation is a big one. Twin stick anything is a no-go. We tried to play some Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, but the twin stick shooter control layout just left her frustrated. I’d even be wary trying to play a 3D platformer with her. The camera controlling that we all do almost subconsciously with the right analog stick in most 3D games would be an absolute nightmare for my fiancé. I tend towards games that have no camera control whatsoever. 2D platformers are great here, as are games that eschew camera control entirely in favor of scripted scene movement.
4) Co-op or pass’n’play, never pvp.
Repeat after me. Thou shalt not frag thy fiancé. I cannot think of an instance where I’d use a competitive game to introduce the uninitiated. Think about it: player-vs-player games derive a lot of their difficulty by the inherent delta between your skill and your opponents’. A new player has no skill, which means the difficulty of their gaming experience approaches infinity. Feel free to check my math on that one and email any corrects to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instead of doing something silly like head-shotting and tea-bagging your significant other, err on the side of cooperative games. We played a game called Never Alone recently on the PlayStation 4. The game was not stellar, but it was actually perfect for some spousal video gaming. It is a simple 2D platformer where each player plays as a different character with complementary skills. It encouraged teamwork and communication. Another option we exercise is just passing the controller back and forth while playing single-player games. During our King’s Quest playthrough, I would only take the pilot seat when the fiancé was stuck on a puzzle. Or eating.
Video games are awesome, and falling in love is awesome, too. It’s only naturally that we feel the urge to blend these two awesome experiences together. It’s totally doable and nobody has to feel obligated or annoyed. I’ve found plenty of success, and my significant other is a far cry from gamer. But, by being selective and considerate of her interests, we’ve been able to have a helluva time playing games together. Try these tips and make your own memories sharing some sweet video games with the love of your life.