Choosing or learning to play a video game can be overwhelming if you are not familiar with it. Fortunately, the sheer amount of options means there will almost certainly be a game that you will love. With some direction and advice, you can discover a gigantic virtual world in no time.
Part 1 of 3: Finding games
Step 1. Choose a platform
Playing video games no longer requires a dedicated console or gaming PC. There are more and more high-quality video games that you can play on your laptop, old computer, smartphone, or tablet. Try these out before you spend hundreds of dollars on a console or computer upgrades. When you decide to explore new territory, keep the following in mind:
- For the largest amount of games available, get a desktop computer with the latest operating system and install a good video card on it.
- For an inexpensive, easy-to-assemble option, buy a console. Choose a latest generation console (PS4, Switch, or Xbox One) to play new games, or an older one (PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 or older) for a great selection of cheap, used classics.
- Opt for a portable gaming system for a specific game that you can't get on your phone.
Step 2. Check the rating of the game
Game rating systems are different in every country, but there should be an explanation of the rating online or on the game packaging. Games rated at 18+ often contain extreme violence and/or disturbing scenes.
Step 3. Read the system requirements
If you're using a console, you should be able to play any game made for that console. Gamers using computers should find out the specifications of their computers and check them against the requirements on the game packaging or website. There are usually two sets of requirements listed:
- 'Required' denotes the minimum. If you don't meet these requirements, don't buy the game. If you're only just meeting these requirements, the game will likely be slow and/or look a lot worse than it looks in trailers and screenshots.
- 'Recommended' lists the recommended specifications so that you can play the game with shorter loading times, no lag or visual disturbances, and better graphics settings.
Step 4. Watch video reviews
Games are a huge industry, and the game itself is sometimes less good than the hype created around it by marketing. Before buying an expensive game, find at least one review, preferably a video review so you can see the gameplay for yourself.
Step 5. Find information about new games and old classics
If you have gamer friends, you're likely to hear about new games whether you like it or not. Other sources of information include gaming blogs and magazines, which you can find online with a search, or check out the large collection of games on the free game store Steam.
Step 6. Feel free to start continuing
Don't feel obligated to play the first game in a series. The sequels to a game often have better gameplay and graphics, and often don't even follow the first story directly.
Step 7. Be careful with competitive games
If you don't consider yourself a gamer, there are certain genres that you may not enjoy. First-person shooters, fighting games, "battle arenas" such as League of Legends, and to a lesser extent sports games are often highly competitive. These games are often very difficult to learn for new players.
- If you're determined to get to grips with one of these genres, pick one with a single player mode that allows you to learn on your own, like Halo.
- Some specific games from other genres also fall under this category. The Starcraft and Dark Souls series are not recommended for novice gamers.
Step 8. Try games before you buy them
If you're not sure if you'll like a game, find a free demo version. If it's not available, consider renting the game from the Gamefly website, or a brick and mortar store.
Part 2 of 3: Getting specific recommendations
Step 1. Play free introductory games
If you've never really played a video game, you might want to try a few free games first to see what you like. A quick search online or in an app store for "free games" will give you thousands of results, but here are a few suggestions you should be able to find in an online search:
- Puzzle games are easy to find in mobile app stores or online flash game sites. If you've had your fill of classics like Tetris and Minesweeper, try Loops of Zen, 3D Logic, Lightbot, and more.
- Most free online or mobile action games aren't great introductions to their more "gamer" oriented counterparts. If you have a decent computer, Path of Exile is a more comprehensive introduction.
- If you like strategy, try Hearthstone (card collecting game), Plants vs Zombies (tower defense), or Battle for Wesnoth (turn-based strategy). All three of these are available for both computer and mobile platforms, and most versions of them are free.
Step 2. Find more puzzle games
Some of the most popular casual 'coffee break' puzzle games include Candy Crush and 2048. Add a third dimension and a quirky story and discover the acclaimed Portal and Portal 2. When nothing but the hardest is good enough for you, play Braid.
Step 3. Look for action games
This is a broad and popular genre. If you like fighting and platforming (jumping and climbing) then look no further. The atmosphere and setting of these games range from horror (The Last of Us) to family-friendly (Legend of Zelda) to historical (Assassin's Creed). If you like to test your reflexes but aren't very captivated by a story or an immersive experience, try out a competitive first-person shooter (like Call of Duty) or a family-friendly platformer (like Super Mario Galaxy).
If you'd rather have fun with your friends than discover a setting and follow a story, try Super Smash Brothers (family-friendly) or Grand Theft Auto (the opposite of family-friendly)
Step 4. Play story games
Do you like elaborate fantasy environments? Then play Dragon Age or Skyrim for a pseudo-medieval experience, or one of the more recent Final Fantasy games for the Japanese approach. Bioshock 2 or Bioshock: Infinite are some disturbing examples of utopias gone wrong.
Step 5. Get some strategy games
Build an empire with turn-based strategy in Civilization V or Civilization: Beyond Earth. Test your reflexes with fast paced real-time strategy games like the challenging multiplayer game Starcraft II. Try out a Total War game to test your single-player tactical skills or take on the role of famous historical figures.
Step 6. Try out games of discovery and creativity
If you don't care about graphics, there are few games more enticing than Minecraft when it comes to building a world. You might enjoy being in control of a house and family in The Sims 3 or 4, or you might want a more detailed world and atmosphere in Sunless Sea.
Step 7. Play an online multiplayer role-playing game
World of Warcraft made this genre popular, in which you play online with thousands of other players. WoW still exists, along with Star Wars: The Old Republic, Lord of the Rings Online, and many others. Most of these games are partly free to play, but find out the cost of the full version before you get started. These games are known to be addictive, and once you get into them you may find yourself spending a lot of money on monthly subscriptions and in-game purchases.
Part 3 of 3: Playing the game
Step 1. Learn how to play
Many games have tutorials that will show you the gameplay. If you prefer to learn on your own, read the instruction manual or look for the 'documentation' section in the main menu or on the site.
Step 2. Dim the lights (optional)
This is especially recommended for adventure and horror games. Besides giving you a greater sense of empathy, this will reduce the glow that makes it harder for you to see the screen.
Step 3. Lower the difficulty if you want
Games don't have to be about suffering and pushing yourself to your limits. If you're playing a game to relax, set the difficulty to easy. The higher levels of difficulty are often intended as tough challenges for people who have been playing similar games for years.
If the game has both single player and multiplayer options, the single player part is almost always easier
Step 4. Change the control settings if necessary
You can ignore this step until it becomes a problem, but if you find yourself pressing the wrong button all the time or getting pain in your fingers, go into the settings. There is almost always an option to change the controls so that you can use the buttons you like best.
- A laptop trackpad makes it very difficult to play some games. A real mouse is a big improvement.
- If you like the feel of a console controller, you can also connect it to your computer, if you have the right adapter. However, not all games support this.
Step 5. Save your game often
Most games automatically save your progress on a regular basis. If the game also offers an option to save your progress yourself, do it often. There's nothing worse than losing hours of progress due to your system crashing or having a power outage.
If you have the option to save multiple games at once, create three or four saved versions of the same game. This way you can reload an old saved moment and try a different option in the story, or restore your game if there is a problem with your most recent save
Step 6. Explore and experiment
One of the most attractive features of video games, as opposed to other art forms, is the fact that they can contain hidden content that you have to actively search to discover. Here are some tips to get the most out of your games:
- In platformers, role-playing games, and even racing games, try to go through walls or attack walls that look strange in the environment.
- In strategy and action/adventure games, try out new tactics, even if they don't seem that great. The later parts of the game (or the more difficult battles) often require you to be able to recognize when a strange weapon or weird strategy has a chance to take the spotlight.
- In games where you can talk to 'NPCs' (non-player characters), use every dialogue option, and read carefully to look for hints.
Step 7. Seek help when you get stuck
Unless your only goal is to be able to say you did it yourself, why lose the same fight or puzzle for hours on end? Search online for the name of the game and the word "walkthrough," and you'll find strategy advice or answers for every part of the game. If you'd rather figure it out on your own, ask friends or gaming forums for hints and advice. Hints and advice can make the game easier!
If it's not possible to follow the walkthrough advice (such as talking to a dead character), or if you follow the instructions but nothing happens, then it could be a glitch. Search online for a description of your situation and you may find other players who can help you solve the problem
- Read product descriptions carefully to ensure you get the game you want. Many games have variations for different systems (for example, the five different types of Nintendo DS), or more expensive special editions with special bonus content.
- The older the game is, the more likely it is to have confusing instructions or frustrating gameplay. It is better to start with games from the mid-2000s.
- Portable systems are generally a bit fragile. Think about buying a screen protector and case.
- Check your sources! You may be downloading a 'free' demo that is actually an application.
- Sometimes systems are backwards compatible. If you want to keep playing games from the previous generation while keeping up with the trends, see if your system is backwards compatible or has retro game collections.
- Video games can cause seizures in people with epilepsy. If you have a history of seizures, it's best to see a doctor before using a game.
- Video games are supposed to be fun. If you get frustrated or angry with the game, stop playing and take a break. Also, having fun taking a break from stretching every now and then can help prevent muscle or eye pain.