A situation I frequently come across is trying to explain (to people that don’t play video games) that all video games aren’t violent, horrible brainwashing devices. That they aren’t only for teenage boys or people still living at home in their parent’s basement. No matter how successful the industry gets, it seems certain misconceptions hold fast.
I do my best to dispel those misconceptions when and where I can.
I often find that if I can even show someone a trailer for a certain game (or games), it is the first step on the path to a more open mind. It also doesn’t hurt to point out that since smart phones came on the scene, an even greater number of people play video games in some form or another on a regular basis whether they think of them that way or not. So I try to show them that console gaming (or PC gaming) is no more to be feared than the games they might play on their phone. I then get to point out that some incredible and moving games are out there, if only they would keep their mind open to experience them.
The first game I always use for an example is That Game Company’s Journey. Journey is the perfect example of a game that can bridge a gap quickly and efficiently.
First of all, the controls are among the most accessible. Most people who aren’t familiar with games are overwhelmed by certain control schemes in general, and a controller specifically. With Journey, that isn’t the case.
The experience of Journey is moving, extremely so, and I find, since its meaning is open to some amount of interpretation, it creates a bond between game and player in a way most other games haven’t been able to come close to touching.
If people have been dismissive of video games, I like to show them the trailer. If I can get them to even watch that, it feels like a victory.
I once heard Journey explained to a non-gamer as the epitome of the most poetic children’s book you can imagine. I find that to be an apt description.
That Game Company made another accessible game with Flower, where the controls were even more streamlined, and the message of the game was clear. I will also use that one for an example when given the opportunity.
The other game I default to is Okami. Okami may have a middling level of violence, but the art style, the aspects of nature, and the overall message of bringing life back to the land translates in a way that many other games don’t. If I can show someone the trailer for this game, they are usually on board by the time the land explodes into cherry blossom petals.
It doesn’t hurt that you cure these lands with celestial brushstrokes, and trail flowers behind you as you run.
This may be a bit more difficult to convince someone to physically play, as the control scheme may be complicated for someone not accustomed to a controller. I don’t let that stop me from encouraging them to try!
There are so many more games I use to try to bridge the gap, but if it’s not one of these two, I often am trying to tailor the recommendation to that person’s interests. I find once I can tap into those interests, I am at least moderately successful in getting their interest past the initial “games are for weirdos” hurdle.
And that feels pretty amazing. It’s hard not to be excited when explaining all these amazing worlds that can be explored through the video game medium.
And excitement is infectious. So I will keep trying.