Some time ago (last year to be exact, yikes!) one of the monthly questions required that I conjure up my own personal selection of best game for a non-gamer. Most of us probably have go to games for such an occasion, those times when not-so-gamery friends are around, or the family is visiting, or you just need something to cater for a wide variety of tastes and players. My wife and I … well, it’s usually more my wife than me… often proposes a few rounds of Overcooked; simple controls and a concept everyone can get on board with wrapped up in cartoon chaos generally seems to go down well and get everyone at least involved if not entirely at head-chef standard.
… this isn’t about those games…
At the other end of the rainbow are those games that we would never consider handing to a non-gamer, they reside in those genres that just don’t make for easy to pick up gaming. For various reasons I began to think about these games the other day, so for no other reason than it’s on my mind, here are my “top 5 genres that have a high entry barrier for new players and aren’t suitable for easy casual non-gamery times, or those times that you want something causal and easy going that everyone can enjoy” – catchy title huh?
Point-n-click adventures are some of my favourite games. There’s a kind of tranquillity in gradually uncovering a story, exploring where you want in the scenes of this world, and solving puzzles to progress your character. Of course it also carried with it a very special brand of frustrating gameplay characterised by some of the most obtuse puzzle solving imaginable at times and a certain set of rules that nobody has explained to you. Only point-n-click aficionados walk in to a room and systematically work from left to right clicking on everything that looks even vaguely interactive (paying special attention to that one thing that MUST be clickable but doesn’t seem to do anything so you carefully try clicking on every possible pixel just in case). Manage to find an object and it’s now mandatory to try rubbing it against everything and everyone in sight regardless of how illogical that seems.
All that is without the in game dialogue where experience has taught you to not only attempt every single branch on the dialogue tree, but also to make sure that you speak to every character in every possible location and every possible secondary detail in place (have you spoken to the bartender? try it again when the man at the far side of the room is standing up, or when he’s cleaning a glass).
Yes, undoubtedly these games can be great fun, but to the uninitiated they carry an unseen rulebook gained from years of fruitless clicking followed by frustrated and guilty looking at walkthroughs.
4. Pinball Machines
Fine! you got me, they aren’t exactly a “videogame” (but it’s my blog dammit and I’ll write what I like). Pinball machines are fascinating pieces of kit; the satisfying weight of the ball, the mechanical thunks and clicks of bumpers, the excellent themes , the chaos of the multiball, and the elaborate rails, spirals and paths, all add up to make a unique game experience.
They’re also buried in their own mythology and terminology which in turn is often buried in a busy arcade or bar where it’s difficult to follow what’s going on. If you can tell me what a kickout, plunger, habitrail, twibbler, or magnasave are then you’re likely amongst the initiated.
… although you’re probably like me and didn’t notice that one of those was made-up and not a pinball term at all…
I’ve still yet to learn what a ball lock is or exactly how the replay numbers at the end are generated, but I still relish in the experience. Aside from the jargon, pinball tables also force the player to learn the table. Often there are similar elements between machines, but the specific tables are each a puzzle in themselves requiring coin after coin to understand and progress.
Despite being one of the older genres of games, and despite the backlash that I might receive for this, I’m going to go on record and say that RPG’s are not very accessible. My own experience is minimal being limited to the first person fallout games and.. erm.. BotW?… neither of which I imagine count in the eyes of true RPG fans.
Pages of stats and numbers tend to put the uninitiated on the back-foot and in their worst incarnations I’ve seen screenshots of games that to an outsider have more in common with playing excel rather than a thrilling journey through a fantasy kingdom. Each number carries with it mystical abbreviations: Mp, Hp, Ac, Ma. There are also unspoken concepts such as elemental damage, classes, and random encounters.
This all adds up to something that can be impenetrable if you’re not familiar with it.
2. Modern Military Online Shooters
My recent reinstalling of PUBG highlighted that, despite spending an unhealthy number of ingame hours with it last year, any skills I once had were essentially reset and this was a game I needed to relearn.
Allow me to outline some typical scenarios:
- You’re walking along and oh no, you’ve been shot.
- You’re walking along and, oh.. is that something brown near a tree a few miles awa.. on no you’ve been shot
- You’re stealthily sneaking past some buildings, you’re silent for a few minutes listening for footsteps.. you step gingerly out into the street.. and on no you’ve been shot.
- You finally see someone and proceed to cleverly encircle them in bullets without a single one finding their mark before.. you guessed it.. you’ve been shot.
These are games that require extensive and instinctive knowledge of the game mechanics, weapons, and environments; you also need to be fully in tune with the visuals in order to even spot players… and this is just the prerequisite to begin properly “playing” before improving or being competitive is even on the table.
1. 2D Fighters
… and I know what you’re going to say “hey! I’m pretty good at Street Fighter II, I used to play it all the time”… but are you?… are you really? Just because you can nail Dhalsim’s teleport 90% of the time doesn’t set you that much above the button mashers in this quite frankly staggeringly complex genre.
A few years ago I set out to “learn” how to play 2D fighters (in the form of Skullgirls, apparently one of the more accessible ones) and barely made it past the core concepts of attacking, blocking, and finding an opening. Knowing a few combos is the easy part of these games. Understanding throws, reversals, throw reversals, combo breakers, and parrys is necessary to even begin to be competitive. Finally, being able to apply the theory with split-second timing in a match takes years of practice to build an instinct for it as far as I can tell.
So what do you think? Am I being unduly harsh? … have I missed some worthy genres off the list?