Based on an rather small amount of unscientifically acquired data, a handful of anecdotes and a healthy dose of prejudice, I’m going to make the following statement:
Large parts of the previous generations are incompatible with video games.
This isn’t a new revelation. It’s not some recent discovery, nor is it something I think there will be much of a debate about. It’s just me venting.
The rift between the older generations and the younger ones is huge. There’s just so many things that a child, teenager or young adult these days has gone through that are absolutely necessary for a person if he or she was to have a thoughtful conversation about the world of video games, not to mention enjoying them.
The first thing that stands in the way is the interface between the player and the game. Those who’ve grown up with games have accumulated a set of skills that a non-gamer will need a long time to accumulate, or even get close.
Have you ever placed a non-gamer in front of a free look first person perspective game (keyboard and mouse or controller doesn’t matter)? If you have, you probably remember them looking straight up into the ceiling or right down into the ground for the first minutes. If they didn’t give up completely, they might have progressed to having great issues with the concept of strafing, or actually moving around while looking in different directions at all. You might also remember sudden inexplicable movements in directions that they can’t explain themselves and surprise over why the character hasn’t stopped when they’re actually still holding some movement key. This is assuming that they aren’t overcome by intense motion sickness and have to abandon the exercise altogether (yes, I’ve seen this happen).
They’re simply new to it, and while a gamer will have time to appreciate everything from game mechanics to the beautiful scenery, the non-gamer will have their mind completely occupied by the fact that they can’t move properly. They can’t appreciate what they can’t take in.
Joy behind complexity
Even worse is it with games where the difficulty does not lie in hand-eye coordination, but in knowing that playing is a rewarding experience.
When I play an empire building simulator or a real-time strategy game, even with one I’ve never played before, I’ll put in the time to learn it because I know that the process of building your empire/army/whatever is a rewarding one. It becomes a sort of expression of you and your plan. You’ll remember where you started, what adversities you had to go through and how your journey ended; throughout this kind of journey you’ll have done things your way and it will show in the game.
You know this, I know this, but they don’t. They’ll see the units moving across the screen, try interacting for a few minutes and after a couple of minutes turn their head towards you and ask “Why am I doing this?”
There’s NO drive.
We’ve seen why it’s a delightful experience and we take it for granted. Sure, we might try out a bad game and be disappointed over the journey not being satisfying, but we put up with the time because we know that some games offer immense satisfaction if we put in the time to explore them.
An alien experience
What’s worse is that even if they penetrate through the surface, if they go through the effort of learning how to navigate the world and come to understand what does what and somehow get talked into giving the world a chance to interest them, they will still have to face the challenge of drawing pleasure from a process that might feel completely alien to them. Not only that: they’ll have to accept a large number of things as “enjoyable” and “parts of the experience”.
We’ve grown accustomed to violence, grinding, unclear goals, exploration as a joy, psychedelic imagery, terrifying experiences, implied horrors and cutthroat competition, just to name a few. It’s very easy to underestimate the wide variety of things one goes through playing games a couple of times a week for multiple years. It doesn’t even need to be something immediately repulsive, just very different from what you’d experience while reading a book or watching a movie.
Every time a non-gamer gets past the difficulties of just playing the game, remember that there’s a mountain of things that they’re not accustomed to; every one of these things can, depending on the person, be a thing that will either scare away or intrigue. The big problem is that when these things come at the person ten at a time or more, “scare away” is probably more likely. At the very least immersion will probably be broken, which is the last thing you want while playing.
All of the above are reasons for why it would be hard for a non-gamer to try to play these games, never mind them actually enjoying it or get something out of them. But that’s assuming they actually try, which isn’t a guarantee at all.
Before the thought of trying to play would even occur to them, they’d have to punch through every one of their prejudices against the entire image that is “playing video games”. The addictions, the violent kids, the weird young adults, the nerds, the social outcasts and so on. There are so many things that you’d have to set aside and say “I’m going to see for myself” before the thought to try them would even cross their minds.
I have pretty good faith in that this is reason enough for it to be highly unlikely that that someone who isn’t a gamer would become one (and by that I mean going from “doesn’t play” to “plays a lot”).
Don’t waste your time
The gaming industry is thriving, it’s here to stay and the average age of gamers is moving upwards. Undoubtedly, these people will disappear way before video games ever will.
So why am I writing this?
The next time you come across a person that have never played and you can tell that he or she probably never will play:
Please, understand that they won’t understand. Leave it, save your breath and live happy in the knowledge that regardless of whether others get it or not, the games will still be just as enjoyable.