I never had anyone ask me how to get into gaming before. I assumed everyone who wanted to be into gaming was already into gaming, but I didn’t consider the possibility that some people who love stories in other media might be curious about the great stories they hear about from gamers.
It’s difficult for me to give a how-to guide on entering the world of story-based gaming, because I was effectively born into it. (Thank the original Zork, circa 1980.) But I can consolidate a few ideas that might help ease the transition for non-gamers.
First of all, the greatest aid to entry into the world of gaming is knowing someone who’s already enjoying it. The new gamer will have someone to discuss the various aspects of their games with, someone who may point out things they might otherwise miss, someone with whom to share likes and dislikes, tips and tricks.
BioWare According to Mom is a good example. While she is not the most eloquent of gamers, she would likely never have tried gaming without the influence of her son. Someone to share games with enhances the desire to play and discuss various outcomes and tactics.
I’ll be focusing on offline games, but if a new gamer has someone to not only share with but also play with, MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online games) are a possibility. Most MMOs have at least some story. The second largest wiki in the world next to Wikipedia is the World of Warcraft wiki, a large portion of which is dedicated to the game’s lore. The most attractive possibility in MMOs, though, is to create your own stories with your constructed character, which makes it an entirely different medium.
There are several different platforms on which to play video games. The most convenient for most people is the PC (personal computer) because even non-gamers usually have computers. The three main gaming consoles currently on the market are Microsoft’s XBox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii. All of these platforms will offer some story-based gaming. Consoles usually require specialized discs, but the newest consoles also have online marketplaces to download games directly to the console, and some of them also play DVDs, so it’s a good idea to investigate what other qualities might be available from an interesting console. Unless a new gamer is planning to invest enough time in gaming to get the value out of a console purchase, the PC is generally most convenient.
Gaming on a PC requires a certain grade of hardware. Once you have chosen a game to try, make sure to check online for the game’s minimum system requirements. Generally, only the newest games will require anything particularly high end, but the quality of video cards, sound cards, memory space, power supplies, or processors significantly impacts the ability of a machine to run games. The better quality hardware allows higher graphical settings. If you do decide to invest in gaming hardware, NewEgg and TigerDirect are popular online stores.
PCs can still run disc based games, but almost all new games are purchased online through download services. The most popular of these is Steam (run by the game company Valve). As a new gamer, you can download Steam for free and spend some time looking at games and categories that interest you without having spend any money. Other than the newest, most popular games, Steam’s prices are very reasonable.
One of Steam‘s greatest qualities is the game library. If a gamer buys a new computer or wants to play games on someone else’s machine, they can log in to their Steam account and download their games from anywhere with internet access. Some of BioWare‘s older games are available on Steam. Most of their newer games are available through a similar service called Origin run by BioWare’s parent company, Electronic Arts.
BioWare has made their reputation on the stories in their games, but there are a variety of other game developers and game series with award-winning stories for both consoles and PC. I can personally recommend Bethesda‘s Elder Scrolls and Fallout series, and most of Rockstar‘s games (yes, the makers of the infamous Grand Theft Auto). I have been instructed that I must play Eidos‘s Deus Ex series, and Valve‘s Portal and Half-Life series. A brief search of the internet reveals many, many more. Complex Gaming’s Top 25 list is a good place to start.
Or you can always start where I started: Zork.