Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to get your partner into gaming

I think the last couple of years have been very interesting year in terms of changes in the gaming space. There's been the casual thing, but most of what needs to be said about that can be said better by others. Then there is the continually increasing quality and scope of hardcore titles, but that's not what I want to talk about. The biggest change for me is the arrival (en masse it seems) of casually accessible hardcore games - titles that aren't just playable by both extremes but also _fun_ for both.

Last year my wife never played games. For a few special titles, she would humor me and watch me play for a while, and occasionally something would come along that would peak her interest (she really enjoyed some parts of RE4).

When POP came out I proudly showed it off to her expecting a few minutes of "wow Honey, very pretty" and that would be that. Instead she wanted to play. I didn't have to push or prod - she just picked up the controller, followed the tutorials, and was away to the races. Quite honestly after she made it about half way through the game I ended up kicking her off (Fallout3 was beckoning).

Seeing some potential in her POP interest, I kept an eye out for other titles I thought she'd like with the hope we'd find something to play together (so I didn't have to sit bored while she played, to be perfectly honest). Surprisingly I found it in Castle Crashers. A super violent hack and slash is not at all the type of game I would have expected her to get into, but the accessibility of the controls totally won her over.

What was great about CC is how the game appealed to us both for different reasons. For her, just mashing X and occasionally Y allowed her to more or less keep pace with me, doing her fair share of damage. I on the other hand was constantly changing weapons, changing animals and trying new combos trying to figure out how to do the maximum damage. It didn't hurt that we were both able to appreciate the wonderful art and animation.

Now we're trying LittleBigPlanet together. Of course the aesthetic of the world was an instant hit with us both, and what developer _hasn't_ lost a few nights sleep thinking of all the possibilities the level creation tools allow (a subject for a future post, I think). She's struggling a little bit more with the controls moving in and out of along the z-axis while jumping takes some getting used to) but last night, after dinner (and the baby asleep) I asked: "so what do you want to do? Watch a movie, or..." and she said "Lets play the skateboard level some more and try to beat our score in LBP".

For years I've been trying to find games that could interest me and my wife and to get her into my life and failed. Now in the space of two months we've played through three. Something has changed in the way games are made for the better.

Maybe POP isn't challenging enough for the hardcore - but it might just be the sexiest gateway drug. :) If you're significant other hasn't yet tried it, put the controller in his/her hands and see if they can't get a sense of satisfaction from the game.

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