Editor's note: Joshua had difficulty getting his girlfriend interested in gaming. But thanks to his perseverance — and a smidge of luck and insight — he finally prevailed. -James
I’m happy to announce a true miracle of life: the birth of a gamer. No, I’m not a dad (thank God), but in a way, I did help create new life in the gaming community: my girlfriend.
This is a feat that most gamers in a relationship can only dream of. Video games are a point of contention in many relationships, romantic or otherwise. They monopolize the screen while nongamers miss their favorite shows. For the longest time, I thought she would never play anything outside of Flash games or PopCap creations, like Peggle for the iPhone.
I realize now that I had approached the topic in completely the wrong way. I was asking her to jump into games that I liked rather than picking games we could both enjoy. The first thing we ever played together was Halo 3: ODST’s Firefight mode. I thought it would be perfect: After all, we would be on a team together.
Not exactly a casual experience
That experience ended badly. It only served to frustrate and anger her. She fought with the controls, and on top of everything, it injured her pride as the announcer continuously exclaimed over my Killtrocities. This was such a setback that it was a year before she played a console video game again.
While she certainly didn’t suck at playing Halo, I now realize that asking her to play it was akin to asking a toddler to run before it could crawl. Gamers my age grew up with video games: We saw the rise of the classic Nintendo controller, Sony's Dual Analog Controller, and the Wii Remote. I remember playing Ape Escape, the first game to really use the twin analog sticks, and having the exact same problems my girlfriend did. While I was reasonably competent with the controls, I lacked the acumen required to perform exceptionally. It would take years of practice before I could shoot 10 Grunts in the head while on the move.
I think many people in my age demographic forget what it was like to start playing games. We expect others to play as well as we do. When our parents and loved ones fumble with controls, we get a chuckle out of it. Instead, we should nurture their first venture into gaming. Even if they never play a game again, their experience should involve fun, not frustration.
That’s one of the reasons why I think the Playstation Move, Microsoft Kinect, and the Wii are great for the industry. Hardcore gamers can complain about the crappy games, but in the end, what these platforms are really doing is opening the door to more complex gaming experiences. I think the industry needs to open up a bit. Not every game has to be about shooting or killing an enemy. Games like Heavy Rain, LittleBigPlanet, and Mario are popular because they offer experiences almost everyone can get into. Halo, Call of Duty, and Gears of War cater to very specific sensibilities.
This last time I introduced her to LittleBigPlanet. She loved the art direction and gameplay mechanics. From there, she started playing Super Mario Galaxy 2. I hopped in as the second player, but soon she was asking me to let her go at it alone. I now feel confident that she can play any game she wants on any system.
When we were in GameStop the other day, she said something I never thought I’d hear. She was looking around the store and spotted a poster for Fable 3. Then she began to tell me why she wanted to play it. At the same time, I thought about all the grief hardcore gamers give the Fable series. We complain about Peter Molyneux’s exaggerated promises and grandstanding. But suddenly, I didn’t care. The only thing on my mind was experiencing a fun game with someone special to me — not an anonymous jackass on Xbox Live .