Category Archives: Games for Non-Gamers

Games for Non-Gamers- First Person Shooters (aka How Can I Get My Girlfriend to Play FPS)

I’m female, and often as a female gamer, I will get the question, “Yelling at Pixels, you reek of awesome. How can I get my girlfriend to play games?”  They say games – but often they really mean first person shooters. They secretly hope that somehow, their wife or girlfriend will pick up pokemon, love it, then graduate to Halo the next weekend. 

Halo 3

I'm usually the person NOT standing. Courtesy of

 To that I say “Dude, you can’t make your girlfriend do or enjoy anything, because she is her own person with her own mind. I also don’t know your girlfriend. Women are not a monolith: we are not the same type of person with the same likes and dislikes because we all have a vagina. Some girls respond to the “shrink it and pink it” method of marketing, but others would puke if they played something cutesy.  In short: listen to what she wants to play in a game then figure it out for yourself.” 

This is the attitude I attempt to bring to this series. I try to say what type of person will possibly like the game, but I also caution that one must figure out what is working, what isn’t and then go from there.  This is going to be doubly true this time around as we take on perhaps the most difficult-to-enter gaming genre of them all: the first person shooter. 

Who May Enjoy First Person Shooters? 

Non-Gamers who have said the following: 

  • I really do want to try something fast, competitive and on-line.
  • I am fine with using a controller
  • I am fine with hearing some of the worst sexist, racist and juvenile language known to man
  • I am fine with people abusing me if I am not good at a game: this isn’t going to bother me
  • I like and want to be apart of a bigger online culture, this really appeals to me

And maybe/possibly: 

  • Alright, my significant other/ someone I care about/the entire gaming universe seems to have fun with this game: I just want to give it a try to see what is up.

What is it? First Person Shooters Defined for the Non-Gamer. 

The first person shooter (FPS) is a genre of game where “you” the character go around and… shoot things. The view-point is first person: i.e. it’s like you are looking through your own eyes onto the play area. Think Halo, Call of Duty and the like. In truth, I mentally include third person shooters, like Gears of War in this genre as well, since so much of the game mechanics are so similar. While all FPS shooters can be described this simply, they all have a slightly different feel. This slight difference in feel can make various FPS games feel much different from each other.

FPS have two main components. First is the single player campaign, where you play by yourself, or cooperatively with a partner, to save the day: just like any other game. However, it’s not really the single player campaign that makes the FPS as popular as it is, the multiplayer campaign tends to be the big draw. 

Multiplayer is where you play on-line with other people from around the world. You will need to have access to the on-line component: the game, an internet connection and if you are console gaming, access to the Playstation Network or XBox Live. 

Sometimes you can choose whatever game type you want, then go into a “lobby” of players waiting to start the match. Sometimes you can play with your own friends, and your leader will choose the game and the “rules” around the game. 

These “mini-games” come in many flavours, but can be broken into three big groups: 

  • Free-For-All (FFA) where you shoot every other player that you see. There are no teams.
  • Team Deathmatch (TDM) where you are put into one of two teams, you shoot anybody not on your team.
  • Objective based games – This is the gametype where you have something to “do.”  You may have to capture the other team’s flag (Capture the Flag: CTF) or shoot one target, or occupy a space. There is lots of variations here.

First Person Shooter Culture: (Warning: Here be Dragons) 

So far, everything sounds pretty good. Very fun, right? Why the trepidation? 

Multiplayer FPS has its own little subculture in gaming. This FPS subculture can be quite unforgiving, as there are many unwritten rules surrounding  how to play”properly.” Just for kicks, go into gaming forum and post “Camping: is it part of smart gameplay or is it cheating?”  Guaranteed, you will get pages upon pages of back and forth passion about one tiny aspect of this gaming subculture. Most of it will be heated to say the least. 

There are unwritten rules about what kind of “load out” to use, (some FPS let you have special abilities, some of these abilities are considered “cheap”) there are rules about what weapons to use (again, some are considered “cheap”). There are rules about how to play the game (i.e. ugh: don’t even get me started). No one agrees on these rules, and it’s rare to see a rational discussion about these things.

To top it all off, for some reason, FPSers can be both vocal and vulgar. If you are a woman you will hear more of it and will consist of anything from the benign (WHAT? You are a GIRL? REALLY!!) to full sexual harassment (guys will send you pictures of their boy-junk over Xbox Live – don’t open pictures from people who are not your friends).  I’m not even going to go into the racism. Let’s just say FPS can highlight the worst of the worst of gaming and on-line culture. 

Why Would Non-Gamers Enjoy This Game? 

GEEZZZZ Yelling at Pixels, if it sucks so much, why do it? 

Because – if you can fall in with a great room, with a great bunch of folks it is possibly the most fun you can have in gaming. The trick is to somehow get to that point where you know enough, know how to handle yourself where you can find these people. 

It also has the potential to be incredibly social. Remember that subculture thing? Well, not all of the folks who are part of that subculture are knuckle dragging neanderthals. Some of them are really cool people. And being part of a subculture is fun. Last time when I was on maternity leave, I got into first person shooters. I was at home all day with a baby, and once she was in bed, it was nice to play an adult game with adults and be silly, loud and yes, a bit vulgar amoungst friends. I enjoyed it, far, far more than this RPG fan ever thought she would have. 

Give it a chance. Just try it. Even if it’s just to see what it’s all about and to try something really different.

Advice for the Non-Gamer 

  • Play the single player campaign. It will guide you through how to play the game. Play it on easy if need be. The objective here is to get a feel for the game, to learn and to not get too frustrated. 
  • Think long term. The people you are playing with/against have *years* of in game experience. You will not be that good. It’s okay. Have fun anyway. You will improve over time. Learn to enjoy your own death sequences, because you will see them often.
  • Be a good team mate. Tell people they played a good game. Try as hard as you can. Pull out the rules you learned in Little League and Timbits Hockey. If people are jerks, don’t worry about it. Just leave the room, and find a new one. Mute, Report, (and theoretically) Pwn.
  • You can mess around with the controller settings. Try it… it may feel better if you switch the axis around or increase/decrease sensitivity.
  • Remember that not all FPS games are the same. There is a different feel to each one. You may like Halo, but you may LOVE Battlefield: Bad Company and vice versa. Rent new games, play the single player campaign until you find something that feels right.

Other Ways to Make the Game Fun

There is strength in numbers. Get a clan.

A clan is a group of like-minded gamers who play together. There are a wide variety of types: some are serious and hold try outs. Some are just incredibly social and are there to have fun.  You can go to the official website of the game you are playing and look in the forums. Let people know that you are just starting out though. Someone will take you under their wing. Just be a good team mate, try as hard as you can. If you let people know that you have not played before, they are not expecting you to help them, they KNOW that you are going to cost them games. But people like to show off their knowledge and some people even (gasp) are really nice and want to help out a junior gamer. 

  • Over 25 and NOT a jackass? Sign up with find “J-Cat” (ahem… that’s me) and ask for help. I’ll find you a clan. If you are a woman, over 25, join up with 2old2play, find me and say pretty please: I’ll let you into TheCabal: the woman’s clan on 2old2play.
  • YellingAtPixels Favorite Pick 

    For the newb, IF you have a crew of people to run with… I say that silly custom Halo 3 matches are the way to go. My first clan was a Halo clan. We played a game called “pinball” where the shields were high and the gravity was low. Grav hammers and rocket launchers only. The result? You run around whacking each other with these huge hammers, but when you do, your character goes flying backwards… very silly. Very fun. 

    If you are thinking a little more hard core: I preferred objective based games. Often people with say “FFA is the way to go for newbs.” I disagree: you are on your own too much. Where do you go? what do you DO? No clue. BUT If i’m told to take a position… well, maybe that is something I can do.  

    But keep in mind I rarely play FPS without a full room of folks I know. Too much hassle.

    Important Last Words 

    While games can be fun in and of themselves, it’s also important to have the right atmosphere. First Person Shooters are high-risk, high reward in terms of fun. It isn’t for the faint of heart… but give it a try. And let me know how it’s going!

    Games for Non-Gamers: Civilization

    Humans are wired to play.

    There is a game for every person, if you (or someone you know) hates games, it may be because that person just hasn’t found the right game OR something else made the game unpalatable. This series explores games for non-gamers. This week is Civilization.

    Civilization, and it’s creator Sid Meier are legendary in the world of gaming. Civilization has been responsible for more sleepy office workers than about any other franchise… okay that’s probably an exaggeration. But I’m sure the line “One More Turn.” was coined during one of the earliest installments of this game.

    Who is it for?

    Non-Gamers who have said the following:

    • Games are stupid: there is no thought to them
    • I don’t think I like fast paced action.
    • I like to be challenged
    • I would want to spend some time on a game
    • Controllers are intimidating
    • I may want to play with someone, but maybe not.
    • I like making things from scratch, building things up the way I want to build them

    What is it? The Game Defined for the Non-Gamer.

    Civilization is a  “Turn Based Strategy” game. It’s a strategy (i.e. thinking) game where you take a turn, then the opponent, either the computer or a person, takes a turn. It’s basically a board game, turned into a videogame.  It’s also called a “god-Sim” (god-simulation) because you play as an omipotent being, or leader, and you control your people. Take care of your people, they prosper, don’t take care of them, they fail.

    In this case, you don’t play as a god, but you play as a real life historical leader. Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln all get play as well as about a dozen others. The object of the game is to take over the world. This game is incredibly complex, however, so taking over the world might mean you become the dominant cultural force known to mankind. Or you may be the richest, or you may colonize another planet. Or you may just drop tons of nuclear weapons on your neighbours and walk all over them, the choice is yours. But there is no wrong way to really play or win this game.

    Why Would Non-Gamers Enjoy This Game?

    Turn based games are great for early gamers. They can sit and think before they do anything. They don’t need twitch reflexes (i.e. to be really good at moving a controller fast) in order to win the game. All they have to do is pay attention, and learn the rules of Civilization. Then have fun.

    But while this game is slow on the second to second action, it is fast on the cognitive skills. It’s a thinking person’s game. It isn’t silly or dumbed down in any way. There is even a civilopedia that will give real life information on the leaders, Wonders, units and so on.

    It’s also a game that real gamers play and love. If you want to start being one of the “in” crowd of gamers, this is a fine place to start. (Note: we’re not really all that cool…)

    Advice for the Non-Gamer

    You will need more cities than you think. In the beginning, if you city fills up to over 6 people: make a settler or a worker. I find cultural victories the easiest to get, but that’s because I tend to only have five HUGE cities that have every Wonder imaginable.

    Other Ways to Make the Game Fun

    This game is able to be played in multiplayer! That’s right, you can try to take over your buddies’ territory. Once you get the hang of the game, it’s always fun to play with people you know. The trick to on-line play, especially at first, is to play with people you actually know. The on-line gaming community is not known for being generous with new players.  If you are lost, and need a partner, post a comment and I may be able to hook you up with a Civ gaming buddy. No promises though. YellingAtPixels Favorite Pick

    Before I self-identified as a gamer, I enjoyed playing Civilization a ton. Or as I told my husband “I’m going to take over the world.” Why? I enjoyed creating the Civilization. My favorite part of the game is playing until you discover other civilizations. Then I often started a new game.

    Important Last Words

    While games can be fun in and of themselves, it’s also important to have the right atmosphere. Every non-gamer is a unique individual, and can’t be described in a monolith.  All girls do NOT like pink and cute for instance. Listen to the non-gamer, to find out what she or he really enjoys. Try something out, get feedback, try again.

    Games for Non-Gamers: Cart Racers

    Humans are wired to play.

    There is a game for every person, if you (or someone you know) hate games, it may be because that person just hasn’t found the right game OR something else made the game unpalletable. This series explores games for non-gamers. This week is Cart Racers.

    The first console games that I remember playing, enjoying AND had some measure of success were Cart Racing games. While cart racers didn’t turn me into a self identified gamer, I enjoyed playing games as cheap entertainment on a Friday night with my boyfriend.

    Who Is It For?

    Non-Gamers who have said the following:

    • Controls are too hard.
    • Games are too bloody and violent.
    • Games are too hard to learn, it will take forever to win or do well.
    • I don’t want to play on-line to have fun, BUT
    • I want the opportunity to play WITH someone.
    • I like something that is a bit fast, but not TOO fast.
    • I want something that I can pick up and play…. and then put back down.
    • I am a bit competative.

    What is it? The Game Defined for the Non-Gamer.

    Cart racing games are a genre, where you race cars (or something like it) around a track.

    Cart Racers often are more “cartoony” and less serious than their straight racing counterparts.  Players can often pick up “power ups” that will do everything from shoot the guy in front of you, to make the player temporarily faster or even make the player temporarily invincible. Tracks are often silly, and couldn’t exist in real life.

    Win games, get new tracks and cars to race.

    You can play local coop (someone in the room with you) or on your own against the computer.

    Why Would Non-Gamers Enjoy This Game?

    1. Controls are easy.

    The controls are usually extremely easy. Press “X” to go. Turn left or right to go left and right, just like a car. Triggers usually trigger your powerup. Powerups tend to work even if you don’t use them exactly when or how you wanted to.

    Yes, there are brake buttons, and sometimes even reverse… but why use “brake” if you want to go fast? Okay, you need to brake to get really good, BUT you can still play and do decently without using anything other than accelerate.

    It’s also intuitive, because we know generally how to drive a car. Go forward, try not to crash. Our eyes already know where to look, and we know what to do.

    2. Cart Racers are Somewhat Forgiving

    What separates cart racers from other racing games, is that cart racers seem to be more forgiving. Half the fun in a cart racing game is crashing, or more importantly (?) causing your friends to crash.  It’s rare to find a game where a mistake (crashing) is meant to be fun and is incorporated into the game.

    Cart Racers typically use the “rubber band” method of keeping things exciting. So instead of forcing the player to be great at the game (develop skill), the game adjusts itself so that there is enough of a challenge, but no one is getting trounced. Fall too far behind, all of the sudden your AI partners fall behind too. Get WAY out in front, lo and behold they fall in right beside you. Players can still win, but new players never feel like it’s hopeless. You can pick up a game and within 10 minutes of practice feel as though you have a shot at winning.

    3. They are Non-Violent and Just Stupid Fun

    Cart racers are meant to be fun in the giggly, sort of way. They are designed to pick up and play. They are designed so that even when (not IF) you crash, it’s still a great time. Even though you “shoot” your competitors, it’s  non-violent.

    Advice for the Non-Gamer

    Press “X” and go. Have fun.

    Other Ways to Make the Game Fun

    When I first played cart racing I could barely hold a controller. My boyfriend and I played “cooperatively.”  He would win games to unlock tracks, my job was to play spoiler. I took care of the AI that was threatening my boyfriend’s win. I am not sure if  I could have won on my own in the time that we did, but I felt like I was contributing.  It’s contributing without being condescending.

    Games that Fall in this Category

    YellingAt Pixels Favorite Pick
    I am the only person in the WORLD who loves this game, and considers it the BEST CART RACER EVAH. So take this with  a grain of salt. But I loved Chocobo Racing for the PS2.  Powerups were not random (you could choose them,) you could powerup your powerups and each character had a special ability along with power ups.

    Eventually you could make your own custom “dudes.” That I liked.

    Important Last Words

    While games can be fun in and of themselves, it’s also important to have the right atmosphere. Every non-gamer is a unique individual, and can’t be described in a monolith.  All girls do NOT like pink and cute for instance. Listen to the non-gamer, to find out what she or he really enjoys. Try something out, get feedback, try again.