You play games, but your significant other does not. It’s a common scenario that can be a point of contention in an otherwise healthy relationship. To relax after work, you load up Overwatch on the living room Xbox. Your beau, on the other hand, wants to cook dinner with you. An hour watching you gun down virtual enemies is, to them, the definition of boring—even disrespectful of their time.
This piece originally appeared 10/06/2016. We’ve bumped it up today for Valentine’s Day.
In my experience, gaming with your significant other can solidify romantic bonds. Dungeon-crawling, role-playing, solving puzzles and even competing at fighting games together are all ways to learn about loved ones and craft memories with them. While that may be clear to you, a lot of people have mental blocks when it comes to gaming. Sometimes, that’s because they didn’t grow up doing it. Other times, it’s because they don’t think they have the motor skills or the attention span. Mostly, though, people just don’t know about all the amazingly engaging, low-barrier-to-entry games out there.
Here’s a guide on how to introduce your significant other to the wide world of gaming. Remember—compromise is key. If your significant other takes the time to game with you, make sure you try out their favorite hobby with them, too.
Pressuring your loved one into playing games is a surefire way for them to associate bad thoughts with gaming. If you make it about your convenience rather than their enjoyment, likely your significant other will continue looking down on your gaming habit. Instead, personalize the pitch. Tell them that their interest in fantasy novels might translate well to a story-heavy role-playing game like Pillars of Eternity or that their Sunday afternoon puzzle routine is a great hook into 3D puzzler The Witness.
Make it about their pleasure, not about yours.
A lot of time the response might be, “But I’m not good at games.” The idea that years of training are the only entry point into a love of gaming is false. Some games are pretty frustrating to pick up without certain gaming proficiencies, but others, like point-and-click RPGs or games with excellent tutorials, are not. Make sure you emphasize that skill isn’t a factor—you’re in it to have fun together. And that all depends on what game you pitch.
A lot of meatspace hobbies have gaming analogues. A love of socializing can translate well to Tomodachi Life, and the same with cooking and Cooking Mama. In my experience, though, this kind of thinking is a trap—if someone isn’t into gaming already, likely, they’ll ask, “Well, why don’t I just do my hobby IRL?” Instead, think in terms of tastes or ways of thinking rather than hobbies. Does your boyfriend or girlfriend like riddles? Are they into exploring? Are they patient or competitive? Considering these broader personality traits will help you narrow down the best intro games.
The best sort of games to introduce your loved one into gaming are local co-ops or multiplayer games. That way, you both split responsibility for in-game tasks and can put your heads together to solve problems. Portal 2's co-op has a high success rate for keeping the attention of someone who doesn’t play games. It increases in difficulty at a reasonable rate and feels extremely rewarding to beat. The only caveat here is that, while playing, shut up and let them figure things out on their own. If you’re too demanding, your significant other might shut down.
Indie local co-op games are perfect for shorter gaming sessions with high enjoyment: Narwhal jousting game Starwhal, horror RPG Crawl or the hilarious Goat Simulator all have a sense of humor and easily-grasped mechanics. They don’t take themselves too seriously, so it’s easier for newbies to approach them with a more open mind. Also, those are all on Steam—you don’t need a console to play them.
Too-cute platformer Yoshi’s Woolly World has an excellent co-op that’s totally intuitive for anyone who’s played a similar Nintendo game.
Games with open worlds can also prove entrancing to gaming newcomers. Skyrim’s gorgeous landscapes are immediately compelling, and, paired with its detailed character customization (something I’ve seen appeal to non-gameplayers), it’s a great place to start. If you’re in a long-distance relationship, I highly recommend easy MMORPGs like Final Fantasy XIV, which is ripe for exploring has simple gameplay.
Finally, a single-player game that in my experience is instantly interesting to newbies is Inside. It’s a side-scrolling horror game with few mechanics and a lot of fantastic puzzles. Inside is short and mysterious, hooking players until they figure out what the protagonist’s backstory and goals are. Also, you can switch off the controller each time someone dies, which is a nice way to take a break and generate suspense and excitement for more gaming.
Don’t be condescending. Don’t backseat game. Don’t laugh at them. Don’t be overly complimentary. Be chill and quietly encouraging. The worst thing you can do is lord your gaming experience over them. Everybody was new to gaming once!
For co-op games, make sure to distribute responsibility equally. Let them take the lead sometimes and allow them to make discoveries and reap rewards for tasks well-done.
For single-player games, don’t hover. Being watched is disconcerting and intimidating. Maybe, do chores or read while your SO is gaming. If you do stick around, don’t take the controller from them without asking. Give little encouragements, like, “Wow, that was a cool trick,” or “You picked that up fast!”
That’s it! Personalize the pitch, select an appropriate game and be respectful. Hopefully, your significant other will be gaming with you in no time.