I sat in the movie theater and could hear everyone’s eyes roll. It was after one of those stupid one liners that really wanted to be taken very seriously. Looking back, I cannot recall the name of the movie but I do recall the distinct feeling that I’ve been taken for a fool. I was done with Hollywood.
I wanted more from my entertainment. I wanted something weird, wild and not rubber stamped by a bunch of rich white guys. Desperate for a chance to partake in more creative story telling, I revisited a thing that I had long written off.
They were Terrible in the Beginning
When I was four or five, I got the Nintendo. It came with two games, Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Occasionally, I would play Tetris at a friend’s house.
These games are classics and many think of them with beloved nostalgia. For me they were an exercise in futility. The mechanics were infuriating, there was no second shot if you outright failed and they were so hard to win that to this day I’ve only met one person who has beat Super Mario Bros.
I think I only got to level two or three. Fast forward seven years and the Super Nintendo came on the market with a whole new round of fun and yet frustrating games. I was at the end of my stint in elementary school and my friend would rent Paperboy 2 from Blockbuster. I, not really knowing the point of the game, would play for the sake of slumber party bonding. Then, the release of Nintendo 64 came and went and I only recall playing Golden Eye, twice.
I think these early games, with the exception of Golden Eye (maybe), are likely the reason why many people and women my age don’t like to play video games.
They Don’t Suck Anymore!
Early video games, with a few exceptions, lacked a narrative. They tended to be focused on winning the next round (arcade style), had terrible music and many shared the same mechanics. Meaning that kinetic movement within the game was governed by nearly the same principles. You will hear video game enthusiasts and developers call this the physics engine.
Today there are a variety of strange and wonderful narratives being captured in video games. Now, there are games that are dedicated to moving the player through a world or story. And, most importantly, games today can rely on a number of physics engines to make game play more or less frustrating.
I was skeptical when I first began to explore video games but I’m happy that I reevaluated my stance. Due in large part by the suggestions and encouragement of my good friend and the fact that my husband had bought a PlayStation 4.
Not all Consoles are Created Equal
My husband grew up playing PlayStation so for him, it was an obvious choice. For some of you considering buying one, you have a choice to make. There are three worth considering:
PlayStation (and its numerous iterations with larger graphics cards, more storage, etc.)
XBox (also with its own iterations)
Nintendo Switch (which can be played on a big screen and via hand held)
I’m biased. I like PlayStation as there are a lot more obscure studios making video games that are only available for the PS4. These are often referred to as indie games and I find that they tend to have the most creative and downright weird story telling. I’ve rejected Hollywood due to the creative process being hijacked by the same 15 maybe 20 white guys so I’m not about to fall into the same consumption trap with video games.
And trust me. You want it to be weird.
What should I play first?
If you have decided you want to explore the vast world of video games or if you have a loved one who you would like to include, I have a few suggestions on where to start. As someone who is terrible at video games, I recommend avoiding first-person shooter (FPS) games until you are ready for the challenge and have gotten used to the controls.
(As a side note, all the video games I will suggest are for the PlayStation 4.)
With that in mind, my top recommendation for a total beginner is ABZÛ.
This is the first game I played when I was learning. It was beautiful, thoughtful and short. The music was well composed and as a total beginner, the controls were intuitive. If you play it, you can expect a completely interactive world with stunning features and a whimsical plot. A total break from the last video game I recall playing in earnest: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.
The most incredible thing about today’s video games is that they allow the person playing the chance to control the narrative. I call these games ‘story games’ and pretty much everyone else does too. I would recommend these games to anyone but for a total beginner, I cannot stress enough how great these games are for exploring the potential that video games have to offer.
The challenge, of course, is figuring out where to begin. But I have you covered.
Telltale’s Wolf Among Us
Violent, brutal, and compelling in all the perfect places. The Wolf Among Us allows you to follow Sheriff Bigby Wolf (you may know him as the THE big bad wolf) on a mysterious case involving a disturbing and violent murder. You’ll find your other favorite fairy tale characters in this dark and terrible world too. You may even find it hard not to develop a serious crush on Bigby.
The game play, which there is little of, is fun and easy making it the perfect game for a total beginner.
If you want more of a challenge, try out Until Dawn
This game is not only scary like a typical horror movie but it is also clever in the most devious of ways. You will play as many characters throughout the game however, every decision you make determines the fate of your ‘friends’. I will not go into the plot as I won’t be able to do it justice but you can expect jump scares, mean teenagers, and gruesome deaths.
The game play is harder in that you need to keep that controller in hand, just in case you need to dodge, climb, or duck your way to safety. The plot is way more interesting than you will likely take it at face value.
It takes some practice
You’ll find that each game you play is different and has a different set of demands in time, controller manipulation and stress. For some of you, you may want to stick to story games or the no stress puzzle games like Journey (which is beautiful and intuitive).
However, I think it is important to explore different game types, especially games that involve using the controller in more traditional ways. By this I mean, one joy stick controls the camera while the other controls the movement of the character.
This was one of the more difficult things for me to learn as I began my exploration of video games. I was and still am one of those people who get’s flustered in high stress situations and will end up running into a wall with the camera pointing straight up (while also shooting blindly). I’m also terrible at jumping and please, don’t ask me to run and shoot accurately at the same time. I am not there yet.
It is incredibly challenging for a lot of beginner players who have yet to learn the proper way to finesse the controller. Finding games where you can learn how to to use the controller without the stress is actually pretty difficult. This is why I cannot recommend this game enough: Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2
This game has improved my game playing so much. There is a vast amount of content within this game that I still have much to explore. There are puzzles, quests, a multiplayer option, coordination challenges, shooting challenges and even a couch co-op mode. The characters are silly and cute. You get to decide if you are a plant or a zombie and you don’t have to pay money to play at higher levels.
If there are other video games you have played that you think are perfect for beginners, let me know. Otherwise, I’ll followup on this post later with the best couch co-ops.