Bring Them Into The Fold
Remember when we were young and everyone thought that video games were for kids? They said that we would grow out of playing video games, and that we would find ‘better’ and ‘more interesting’ hobbies (more interesting here is supposed to mean worthwhile) to occupy ourselves with as adults. That our hours upon hours spent in those virtual worlds was worth about as much as the time we would spend pretending to be doctors, astronauts, celebrities, or adventurers. Decades later, we’re still playing.
And the nay-sayers are starting to play with us.
The people who called our hobby stupid and childish are starting to play along with us. Grandmothers use the Oculus Rift, parents beat their sons in Mario Kart Wii, middle aged business people hold drunken parties where Dance Central is the main feature, mothers play Animal Crossing with their kids who are overseas fighting in wars. And it is all wonderful.
But video games are a complicated place, sometimes. For every hit like Angry Birds there’s a complex beast like Dark Souls. For every smiling, welcoming, son or daughter there’s an asshole troll somewhere who thinks all the ‘casuals’ need to gtfo his game. And you might find yourself agreeing, might think that the people who are just now getting into gaming are just doing it because it’s popular, because it’s trendy, and you don’t want them around. You want to keep the hobby pure.
As an experienced video game player you should be encouraging everyone, yes everyone, to play more video games. Young, old, male, female, genderqueer, straight, gay, bisexual, on and on and on. Gaming isn’t the refuge of the white male nerd anymore, and it never should have been in the first place. Games are an experience common to all humans. Across the world children play endless variations on tag, or cops and robbers, or fort. And as they grow older the games grow more complicated, instead of pretending to be robbers we try to get the cute person we have a crush on to notice us. We strategize, plan, maneuver, and then make our moves. Sometimes it fails, sometimes it doesn’t. And we grow older still, the games change again. We struggle to make it to the top of our company, or debate with our kids the merits of a 10:00 curfew. Even when we’re close to death we still want to game, be it bridge or playing ‘hide the pills from your nurse’.
Everyone plays games their whole lives. Some of us just had to make our own games because no one else wanted to play with us.
But now that technology has lowered these barriers to entry, made it so games can be understood and enjoyed with simple presses and swipes, more and more people are seeing the joy that is gaming. Why would we want to deny access to these people who have missed so much of gaming’s history? The people who spend their train rides playing Angry Birds might just end up loving Zelda as much as you do. The people who love the Farmville games might find Animal Crossing to be a far more fulfilling and less soul sucking experience. The people who love Candy Crush Saga will probably find Super Puzzle Fighter to be a more rewarding experience. Those who love Plants vs. Zombies could find themselves sucked into Warcraft and Starcraft.
As the long time veteran gamers you shouldn’t be taking the role of an aging hipster, but of an encouraging teacher. More people playing games means more voices, more unique experiences produced, more games released, more hilarious videos made, more people to talk about why Skyrim just really isn’t that good of a game.
In all seriousness, the only reason you have to not encourage people to become gamers is if you’re happy seeing nothing but Assassin’s Creed, Halo, Call of Duty, and Gears of War. If you want nothing but endless updates to Madden and NHL, if you want the same generic JRPG stories told with the same creepily underaged girls time and time again.
Sounds pretty boring, doesn’t it?
Then help people into the fold! Give them your old games, help them learn the sometimes obtuse and overly complex systems and controllers, steer them away from the Vampire Rains and into the Half-Life 2’s. Gaming is a wonderfully unique experience for human beings, there is nothing else quite like it on the planet, and sharing it with more people is only going to make it better.
So stop acting like gaming is some sacred temple we can only let the elite into.
Stop acting like it’s only for those who grew up playing games.
Stop acting like you’re the authority on what makes a gamer a gamer.
Because you know what? If you’re trying to keep people out of gaming, then we don’t want you.
Spread the word.