Picture this: It’s Christmas Eve and everyone in your family under 30 is sitting around the big screen playing a video game. They ask you to join in, but you have a dark secret: you haven’t picked up a controller since Atari was a thing.
Well, fear not. By following a few simple tips, even novices can enjoy some quality gaming time this holiday season, says Stephen Jacobs, a professor of video game design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
If you haven’t played video games in a while, you’re not going to last very long in a fast-paced action title like Halo or Call of Duty. So aim for something simpler, says Jacobs. He recommends games rated “E” for everyone. They’re much easier to learn and, as a bonus, you won’t have to fight anyone. Also, try old-school titles like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. They’re easy to pick up and still loads of fun.
Before you dive into a game, spend a few minutes getting a feel for the controller. Hold it in your hands. Push the buttons. Move the directional pad. Once the pixels start flying, a light touch will go a long way.
Broaden Your Horizons
If multi-button controllers, like those on the Xbox or PlayStation, are too much to handle, try gaming on a tablet. (Chances are someone in your family has one hanging around.) Whether it’s an Apple® or Android™ device, you’ll have access to hundreds of entertaining titles, many of which can be controlled by a few swipes of your finger. “There’s a world of video game playing outside the controller,” says Jacobs.
Most games have a single-player mode, which lets you test your mettle against the computer. Give it a try on its easiest setting. That will help you hone your skills before you take on the juggernaut that is your 10-year-old nephew.
Hone Those Skills
Often the best way to get better at a video game is to watch the experts. So check out YouTube, which is chock-full of tutorials from electronic wunderkinds. They’ll walk you through a game step by step, giving you tips on how to stay ahead of the competition. Game Front Walkthroughs and the Rad Brad are YouTube staples, but you can find helpful tutorials on other channels by doing a simple search and choosing the links with the most views.
Learn from Your Mistakes
If the last video game you played was Donkey Kong, you’re going to struggle with today’s high-octane titles. “Be prepared to be frustrated for a little while,” says Jacobs. If you can stay calm and learn from the inevitable whuppin’, one day you might have a fighting chance.
By Andrew Raven