At the end of every year, gamers are faced with an undeniable fact: far too many video games are released in a 12-month span for anyone to reasonably play them all. It’s literally my job to play video games and I bet someone could fill a reasonable top ten this year of titles I didn’t even get time to touch. But even as it’s a universal, undeniable truth, the revelation that you missed out on something popular is always met with the same incredulous statement.
“You’ve never played this?”
I understand the impulse. For instance, Baldur’s Gate 3 took up so many hours of my 2023 that it’s hard to fathom what the year would be like without it. This sentiment extends well beyond GOTY talks, though – some games are so fundamental to our taste or upbringing that it can be hard to process that people who did it differently exist. There are people who have never played a Zelda game or a Halo game, and I bet if you asked a middle school crowd, plenty of them have never played Wii Sports. But personally, any shock I experience is quickly overwritten by excitement. If someone I’m close to has never played one of my favorite games, then I get to do something even better than replaying it; I get to watch them experience it for the first time.
The earliest examples of this are undoubtedly tied to my relationship with my younger brother, Andre. A 6-year-old can’t play games as well as an 8-year-old, so sometimes it would be a few years before he would experience a single-player game. While I probably initially watched him because he was playing games on the only TV we had, it eventually became a fun way to reexperience games I held near and dear to my heart.
Fast forward ten years or so. As I’m about to go to college, I buy a PlayStation 4 to have in my dorm room. Later that year Spider-Man (2018) was released, and after so many hours of playing Spider-Man: Web of Shadows with my brother, I knew he would be excited to play this far superior version. So, I took the console home on the weekends and watched as he played while essentially getting a second playthrough myself. It scratches the same itch as watching a Twitch streamer, but it’s far more personal and interactive.
My gaming relationship with my partner is another great example. After we had been dating for a while, she decided to get a Switch of her own so we could play Animal Crossing together. Of course, once she had the console, she wanted to know what other games to try and wound up messing around with Breath of the Wild.
POV: It’s April 2020 and you’re on an Animal Crossing date with your girlfriend
One of the most common things you hear fans of Breath of the Wild (or other huge open-world games) say is, “I wish I could play it again for the first time.” I’m here to tell you – watching someone close to you try it out is the next best thing. Seeing the ways she would discover locations or enemies I was familiar with helped me to see them in a whole new light, and even though I had well over 150 hours in the game, I was shocked by how often she discovered things I missed.
I love video games, and because of that, there’s no better feeling than introducing someone to a game they end up loving. I got my Minecraft-obsessed friend to try Fortnite, and now it’s literally all he plays. In a few weeks, my partner’s mom went from being confused by my Marvel Snap lingo to complaining about the latest meta decks. And it’s always a joy to bust out Snipperclips at a party and watch people leave and consider getting it for themselves.
Here’s my advice. It’s going to sound preachy, but I mean it. Next time you hear someone say they haven’t played one of your favorites (or vice versa), don’t look at it as a failure in their pop culture experience. Look at it as an opportunity to connect with this person and learn or share exactly why this game is so important to warrant that reaction. Watching my friends play games has led to some of my favorite memories – maybe you can make some too.
Do you have any fond memories of introducing people to games? Let us know in the comments!