My introduction to modern video games was harsh. The last console I had owned before college was a Nintendo. My grandparents had a Super-Nintendo, so I had rocked myself some super mario world, but by the time first person shooters like Halo had already been tearing up the college dorm party circuit for a couple of years I was still by all accounts, a video game ignoramus (a vidgamenoramus). Life seemed fine like that. I had NO idea.
My education was upon the release of "Halo 2" in my second year of college. I heard raucous laughter coming from my neighbour and friend's apartment next door and decided to peek my head in. Bullet sounds everywhere! People are screaming in the final gut-wrenching moments of their demise! I hit the deck! Okay, not really. I saunter in and find a small group of my guy friends, huddled around a 19" TV with pop can shrapnel and the remnants of a decimated pizza scattered about the war-zone.
"Dude, Halo 2 just came out!"
"What's Halo 2?"
"What's an Xbox?"
A few moments later I have a claymore sized controller in my hand with what seems like a billion buttons, balancing a pizza slice on my knee and screaming a war cry as I launch my character into battle! Or rather, stare straight up at the sky and spin in circles, occasionally letting out a spray of rifle fire in confusion.
But I'm a boy. I'm supposed to be naturally good at video games! An hour into lagging behind my squad and rarely confronting the enemy, it becomes apparent that no, I shouldn't, and no, I'm not.
My education wasn't gentle. After a run down of a few basic controls it was either keep up or get left behind (until the computer rather embarrassingly teleports you to be with your comrades, so you can immediately get lost again). This was made MUCH worse when the boys tired of the "Campaign" mode (where you play co-operatively with your friends to beat the missions) and decided to play "Deathmatch" (where you are unforgivingly wiped across the digital floor via your former friends, now combatants). It was horrible. No one slowed down. No one let up, unless it was to circle around me like a pack of hyena's, laughing at their [for all intents and purposes] already wounded prey. It. Was. So. FRUSTRATING! I got SOOOO mad, I started envisioning actually shooting everyone in the room with a plasma pistol. I tried to channel that anger into winning strategies but always ended up dead, rarely having seen my opponent.
It seemed the census (especially among the better players) was that you just learned by getting your ass kicked until you got better. Because of my own resilience and determination, I did stick to the game and end up getting good at it. Good enough, in the end, to beat everyone I originally played with at their own game (admittedly, they had stopped playing it long since, whilst I had religiously set myself to the task of getting better), but truth is, this is the WORST way to learn almost ANYthing. It's not instruction, it's just giving you the option to win or fail. It's reminiscent of the old saying "sink or swim", but in this case it much more often translates to "sink or swim or get out of the water and never go back".
I'm telling all this because since then I've learned to really enjoy video games. Imagine a really exciting action movie that's genuinely compelling, but where YOU get to be the main character. Henchman after henchman fall at your blade/spell/pistol/fire spit from mouth after contact with flowers, and YOU are the unstoppable wrecking force of unholy retribution. Believe it or not, I have been in games that moved me, spooked me, made me laugh. I've played games with truly great acting, achingly beautiful cinematography and plots that take you on such epic journeys, they make the Lord of the Rings movies seem a Meg Ryan flick. It's just another form of our standard entertainments - movies, books, TV shows - it just takes the immersion to a whole other level.
It bugs me to see so many people turned off them, and usually for the same reason I almost threw down my pizza slice and said "fuck that, this thing is dumb". The reasons, though seemingly numerous, usually boil down to the same thing. They tried it but the people playing it with them took two seconds to explain it, then proceeded to completely annihilate them causing immense frustration and resentment. The ones who were trying it out decided in that moment that A) to really have the time to get that good you'd have to stop having sex (TOTALLY not true, although common), or B) it's just a dumb waste of time anyway. It's not about being bad, I just don't care.
Well, denial is all well and good, but have you considered that you might have enjoyed it if people hadn't made you feel stupid when you tried it out? I know I would have! So I started something. I taught a girlfriend to play Halo. Not like, asked her to join in with me and my friends, I mean I took her into a "map" and spent 30 minutes going over how the game works. How the strategy works. What each gun does. And instead of telling her and then ripping into her, playing at her skill level while occasionally making it harder to challenge her to improve. It was really fun! That girl, not only became competent at Halo, but started to ask me to play ALL the time. Suddenly, games weren't ominous areas of frustration and anger issues. On our 'nights in' they became fun, recreational ways to chill en lieu of a movie. We'd be sitting around, yelling at each other (okay, so not "chill" per say) as we ran around our virtual planet trying to kill the covenant, or the locust, or rescue the princess or whatever.
Since then, believe it or not, I've lead three more girls down the same road, and four or five of my guy friends (who at first seemed some how ashamed that they had never conquered that rite of manhood, the Video Game). ALL were surprised that video games were A) actually a lot of fun when you weren't frustrated, and B) not that hard if you had someone actually introducing them as a teacher. A really awesome teacher with a really handsome beard.
I've often joked with friends about starting Halo Bootcamp that guys could send their girlfriends to. The tagline would be "Send them kicking and screaming, get them back just kicking… YO ASS, SUCKA!" Or some other hilarious play on words. I'm actually open. Please send your suggestions.