What Would You Show to Someone Who's Never Seen a Game?

Illustration for article titled What Would You Show to Someone Who's Never Seen a Game?

As some of you know, I'm living with my grandfather for the near term, because he's 86 and needs some assistance, and the companionship's good for him. But he keeps asking me about video games.


This past week our lunch and dinner conversations centered on video games, because one naturally talks about work, and this is mine right now. But I also sense that he's increasingly curious about them - maybe from a big-picture standpoint. The guy's a Harvard MBA after all, and video games are an enormous, multibillion-dollar business.

So I've done my best to keep this in contexts he understands. I talked about Nintendo, and its strategy of exploring growth among casual demographics - unsaturated markets, in other words. There's a Wii bowling league in the retirement community club down here. He was especially fascinated by the back-and-forth between movie studios and game publishers, how one project will become an adaptation of the other, and why. We talked about military games - he was appalled by the concept of Six Days in Fallujah. A Marine colonel, he is familiar with that operation on a different level. I deliberately didn't tell him of Atomic's claims that they'd consulted with insurgents.

Granddad's never played a game in his life but he looks like he might be interested in seeing what one looks like. He was amazed by the complexity of the PlayStation 3 controller I showed him, especially when I told him about the tilt control and rumble feedback. I told him I was playing The Godfather II - an exceptional movie he enjoyed greatly - for a review. That clearly intrigued him, but I didn't show any of it to him Had it been a better game, I probably would have at least shown him some of the cinematics.

The longer I stay here, the more inevitable it will become that he's going to watch me demonstrate a game. And that brings up a question I'd like to put to you:

If you were showing someone the first video game he had ever seen in his life, and you wanted to show him the very best the industry had to offer, what would it be?

Call of Duty: World at War, or really any military game, is straight out, because this guy was a first-person shooter on Okinawa, and it wasn't entertaining. But what do I show him? Bioshock? Do I try to impress him with the depth of a world in an MMO or a sandboxer? Do I keep it simple with something like Braid?

Would it only be a cutscene or an introduction? Would it be actual gameplay? Bear in mind my grandfather is an extremely intellectually curious man. But he's also, with a gentle smile, said that the hobby "sounds like an enormous waste of time." But he is genuinely fascinated that people would spend so much time and money with it.


Davy M Jones

The main difficulty I see in this is that many people are making many assumptions about the enjoyment your grandfather will get out of it, along the lines of "something not too violent, but not too complex."

Anyone who was actually in a war might think it hard-pressed for video games to accurately mimic the death of a human being, so most games that are violent AND fun would be alright, such as Metal Gear Solid. While controls are complex, so are the machines of war. I suspect it would be incredibly easy for a mind as sharp as the one you describe that your grandfather possesses to understand the controller. The only issue I would expect is that he might learn it under the specific context of the game you are playing at the time, and then failing to associate those buttons to anything else, should another game be put in (this of course takes exception with the usual default button settings, such as "Press X/A to Jump").

If I had to make a suggestion about any one game specifically for the PS3, I would say Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Snake isn't performing any absurd jumping puzzles, he's not doing something completely insanely inhuman like "double-jumping." The rules of MGS4 work in a similar way to the rules of our world. Physics aren't altered and characters are not superhuman beings jumping eight feet in the air and altering their trajectory in mid-air. On top of this, the main action button, Triangle, is context sensitive, and displays its actions at the bottom of the screen.

Perhaps as an interesting counter to the advancements reached by the MGS series, you might also show him the original Nintendo Metal Gear, if you happen to have MGS3: Subsistence.

Other suggestions I'd make for similar reasons would be Fable2, or Assassin's Creed. If your grandfather is or has been any kind of comic book fan, I'd even suggest going back to Spider-Man 2 on the PS2.

Just don't show him Pokémon, or he'll think we're all on drugs.