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Good games for non-gamers

With the UK now into its fifth week of lockdown thank to the coronavirus, many of us are turning to our video games for entertainment. But what if there’s someone in your household who hasn’t picked up a controller in years, or even ever, and they need a little convincing?

There are plenty of releases out there to appeal to someone who has limited experience and now is a great time to point them in the right direction. Get them on side and the rest of this isolation period could be spent gaming! The releases on today’s list are great gateway games to help ease someone into our hobby, and this post is dedicated to the lovely Larissa from Games (and Other Bits) who very kindly tagged Later Levels for a Real Neat Blog Award last month.

Coloring Pixels

If the non-gamer in your life has an artistic nature, then Coloring Pixels by ToastieLabs could be something that appeals to them. It’s also great for a gamer who’s looking for a form of digital stress relief (just what we need in these uncertain times). Think colouring-by-numbers: you simply choose an image you’d like to complete, pick a colour and then start clicking away on the pixels tagged with its associated number. You can see my attempt at filling in 40,000 squares to create ‘Ocean View’ in the video playlist opposite.

Eastshade

Eastshade by Eastshade Studios made it onto my favourites list as soon as I finished it in April last year. Think of a game like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim but without the combat: somewhere you can explore without fear of being attacked, where there are secrets and interesting characters to discover, and plenty of gorgeous artwork to see. It’s an excellent title for anyone who may not yet be experienced to tackle RPG combat mechanics and who knows, it might even get them wanting to try The Witcher or Horizon Zero Dawn next.

Journey

Some people may be opposed to video games because they think they’re all about violence and competition, but Journey by thatgamecompany could be just the thing to convince them otherwise. It was on one of the first titles I played with my stepson and I’d highly recommend it for non-gamers. The controls are easy to learn, there’s no combat and the other players you meet in-game can only communicate with you through musical chimes. When Ethan realised the other characters were real players, he was keen to interact with and help them.

Life is Strange

I finally completed DONTNOD Entertainment’s darling last month and, although Life is Strange wasn’t for me, I can see how it’s a good release for non-gamers who love movies and good stories. Everyone has been through those teenage experiences so its characters are relatable (regardless of any supernatural abilities); and the time-travelling element makes for a few simple puzzles which could inspire players to go on and try more from the adventure genre. There’s also a whole host of other walking simulators to play if they enjoy it.

Little Inferno

I’ve returned to Tomorrow Corporation’s Little Inferno several times over the years because it’s fun and has a lovely message underneath its cartoony exterior. You’re given a ‘Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace’ and must burn items for money, which can then be used to purchase new objects from mail-order catalogues. There’s no scoring system or time penalties which means you’re able to freely experiment in order to find all 99 combinations. This could be a good choice for anyone who likes completing puzzles.

Overcooked

This has to be one of the most enjoyable yet frustrating releases ever published. Overcooked by Ghost Town Games is regularly pulled out at our family gatherings and everyone, even those who don’t usually play video games, want to have a go. It’s a good one for making non-gamers feel as though they’re working together as part of a team and plenty of communication between members is required to fulfil orders correctly and on time. There’s always someone who does nothing except spin around with the fire extinguisher, though.

That’s You!

That’s You! by Wish Studios is another title that frequently ends up getting played at our family gatherings because it’s just so hilarious. It’s kind of like The Jackbox Party Pack games in humour but here, team members take selfies which are then used to answer challenges to find out how well they know each other. During the later stages you’ll find yourself drawing on the photographs so things can get a little risqué if only adults are participating – this is exactly what happened when we streamed it for GameBlast18.

The Room

Do you know a non-gamer who enjoys escape rooms? Then get a copy of The Room by Fireproof Games for them because they’re going to love it. You’re presented with a series of boxes and must solve puzzles in order to unlock them, uncovering a story about their mysterious creator and an element with strange powers along the way. There’s such a sense of achievement when you reach the end. We played the latest release in the series, The Room VR: A Dark Matter, recently and really hope the developer treats us to another instalment very soon.

Thank you once again to Larissa from Games (and Other Bits) for her kind nomination! Hopefully this list will inspire the non-gamer in your life to grab a controller and become your player two. What have you been playing with your friends and family during the lockdown, and do you have any additions for today’s list?

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

14 thoughts on “Good games for non-gamers Leave a comment

  1. I have to disagree with your list, as I have made completely different experiences when going through the process of recommending someone a first-time video game. Although I’ll admit, our “modus operandi” is probably very different. From what it seems, you emphasis more on having some people around that you want to play with. I had friends come and say “hey, I have a new computer and a Steam account, what should I play/buy?” and I try to get them hooked on the long term. So I might not really disagree with you, but only talk about my experience so far.

    First of all, let me tell you that I do not take making recommendations lightly. I do not eat or sleep until I’ve found a game that they thoroughly enjoy and have finished it! (I nearly starved when I recommended Skyrim…). Jokes aside, I really do not tire of discussing back and forth, and regularly check on them to see if my recommendation was good or if I need to adjust it. I’ve found that people who have no idea about video games are looking for a pretty video game-y experience. Whenever I tried to start with some “obscure” or meta titles, they didn’t like it or at least it hadn’t been what they were looking for.

    Most of the time, they have seen a Let’s Play on Youtube or read a Top-List online, so when asked what kind of game they are looking for the answer is “Something like *insert rather popular game*”. From what I’ve learned, these games often are not good starting points. Take any big, modern RPG: Skyrim, The Witcher, Fallout. These are good games, no doubt about it, but for someone who has no idea about video games, they need far too much “knowledge”. We have to keep in mind, that the newly introduced have no idea about anything, they don’t know that WASD lets you move, Space is Jump, let alone how an Inventory works, how to distinguish main content from side content and just about how to do anything!

    What works best as a very first video game is something linear, on the short side, with one clear main character, and engaging, but forgiving mechanics. There should be a story, but more in the background, just to give you context. I think the art style shouldn’t be too “out there”, and it should generally be either funny or appeal to power fantasies in a broader sense. Non-gaming people still view video games primarily as a source of quick entertainment, and we need to ease them into the idea that they can be so much more. If someone can barely read, it would be unwise to give them Moby Dick, but they should start with something rather light.

    Usually, I start them off with one of four big genres – Shooter, Adventure, Action-Adventure (instead of RPG, and yes, I count them as a separate genre), Platformer – and work my way in from there. Simple Shooters and Platformers might not be a proper representation of video games in general, but we have to remember that we don’t want to represent video games with a single game and offer them everything that video games have to offer in one single game. It’s merely the first step to a (hopefully) longer journey, so they might find our hobby’s true potential on their own.

    I’d say success proves me right, as I have introduced several people to video games, already, and their “returning quote” is quite high.

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    • I guess this totally depends on who the the person is that you’re trying to recommend a game to! The non-gamers in my life aren’t the sort of people who’d get a new computer (other than a laptop for work) or even know what Steam was, so I’ve taken a very gentle route – in a sort of ‘While you’re bored during the lockdown, why not give this a go?’ kind of way.

      In the past I’ve been able to persuade my mum to play Coloring Pixels and a non-gaming friend into trying The Room, and most people in our family have been roped into a few rounds of Overcooked and That’s You! at least once. They therefore seemed like good suggestions for my list! The mark of a great recommendation is knowing the person you’re recommending to and what might get them hooked, so it looks like we’re both taking their personalities into account. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, so you “focus” more on non-gaming people that pretty much stay non-gaming people. I suspected as much, and therefore ruddered back a bit on the “I disagree” part of my comment.

        WIth that in mind, I agree that your recommendations with rather “little” gameplay and/or a focus on just dicking around makes perfect sense. Carry on 🙂

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        • Those stay-non-gaming people are going to need something to get them through this lockdown, so we might as well bring them over to the dark side (gaming) so at least a little while. 😆

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  2. Thanks! I feel honored ^_^

    This is my first time hearing/seeing Eastside and now I definitely want to play it at some point. Also, I can confirm that Overcooked is extremely popular at holiday parties and gatherings.

    On thing I’d be really curious to know more about is how well a new player could handle the camera controls of a game with a fully controllable camera like Eastside. I’m thinking of that one video series on Youtube on “What Games Are Like For Someone That Doesn’t Play Games” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax7f3JZJHSw – it’s got a ton of views though so you might have seen this already). In this video and in the Breath of the Wild video, he discusses his wife struggling a bit with camera control. Would a game with partial controller support be easier? Or would it make things more complicated? (I personally remember having a lot of trouble back when I played ICO because I wasn’t used to it, but what if I wasn’t used to full camera control?).

    However, what I’m mostly curious to see is the difference between mouse/keyboard vs a controller. I can see how using two joysticks is definitely sort of difficult, but a mouse feels more intuitive for camera control. I haven’t actually had the opportunity to run an experiment like this or talk to someone who has, so I’d really like to hear about it if anyone has any anecdotes to offer.

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    • You know what: I hadn’t actually considered it but you make a very good point about the camera thing. I picked Eastshade for my list because it’s an RPG-like experience without any pressure of combat or having to react quickly, and didn’t even consider that the controls might not be great for someone who’s not familiar with video games. I’m now wondering how my mum (for example) would handle it – and I’m tempted to do an experiment with her once the UK lockdown ends!

      A controller has always felt more comfortable for me but I guess that’s because I was around when the NES was released and grew up with those kinds of controls, more so than a keyboard and mouse. My husband on the other hand grew up playing loads of online multiplayers and now struggles with a controller. It would be interesting to give both to a totally new player and see what ends up happening. 🤔

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  3. Two more games I’d add to the list are contingent on still having the console or peripherals around. Wii Sports and any of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band games. I knew of so many people that had absolutely no interest in playing games, suddenly wanting to try Wii bowling or play “that guitar game”.

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    • Wii Sports is a great suggestion! I didn’t even think of that one. But I remember getting my Wii, and my parents wanting to come over just so they could try it out. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You pretty much hit on all the games I’d recommend to a non-gamer. I think puzzle based ones and ones where the mechanics are simple and about exploration (Journey) are fantastic for that. I’d throw Dear Esther in there, too, since it’s arguably “just” a walking simulator, but at least it allows exploration. I’d also say games like Picross, PIc-a-Pix, and Piczle would be good. They all have the same puzzle premise.

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    • I have to admit that I’d never have thought about including Dear Esther because it one I just never ‘got’. But now you mention it, it *would* be good one for non-gamers; the controls are simple and the artwork is lovely. I’m now also wondering why I didn’t include something like Gone Home or Firewatch, and I’m surprised they’re not here! 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      • I actually just read an excellent review by Red Metal about it that I can’t help but concur with. I think it would function better as not a game, but since it IS one I’d say it would be a good start for a non-gamer. I still need to play Gone Home and Firewatch!

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