Given the way the COVID-19 pandemic is trending (at least in the United States), most of us are still set to be stuck inside for the next few months. And, with winter coming, many in the U.S. probably want to stay inside anyway. As stressful as this can be, it’s a great time to pick up new hobbies, as the wealth of articles and videos about breaking into [new arts and crafts proves. While painting and cocktail-making are great hobbies, sometimes we need something that’s a little simpler and more entertaining.
For that, gaming’s a perfect fit.
Gaming isn’t all Mario brothers and cookie-cutter war Shooters. The medium has an immense amount of variety. More, maybe, than almost any other. Saying you don’t like it because one or two games rubbed you the wrong way is like watching ten minutes of Jersey Shore and deciding you don’t like TV as a whole.
Video games can offer a fun afternoon, a new way to engage with distant (or quarantined) friends, a creative outlet, a life-changing story, or just a simple way to relax and turn your brain off for the evening.
How Do I Start?
First, take stock of what you already have available. Do you have a computer? A TV? A friend or roomie with a console? You’d be surprised at what might be a simple click or question away!
Most folks already have a functional computer or laptop, and there is a broad array of games playable on even the most basic machine. Good ones, too. Mobile games are a popular option, even if it’s harder to find the good options in an app store. And, if you have roomies or relatives who are into gaming, there’s a solid chance they have a console or handheld they’ll be willing to let you try. Most gamers, after all, are happy to bring others into the fold. Even if you don’t have access to either of these, owning a simple TV already gets you halfway to where you want to go.
But what if you want something more than what’s currently available to you? Well, then you need to do some soul (and wallet) searching to figure out what you should buy.
From there, it’s best to ask yourself what sort of hobby you’re looking for. Are you looking for straight-up fun and a relaxing evening? A creative outlet? Intense, inspirational story-telling experiences? A way to connect with friends? Depending on your answer, the rundown is pretty simple.
If you want straight-up fun/relaxation or lack a TV, get a Nintendo Switch.
The Switch is an absurdly simple system, and Nintendo is known for the pure fun value of their games. Its portability means you don’t need a TV, and there’s no limit to the amazing games available on the console. What’s more, some very strong independent games are making their way to the Switch, which gives you plenty of variety.
If you want life-changing cinematic experiences and cutting-edge gameplay, get a PlayStation 4.
While the new generation of consoles is available, you’d be hard-pressed to find one, and their library is limited. Meanwhile, the PS4 gives you access to some of the best storytelling masterpieces in the medium and gameplay that will make you realize why people fell in love with gaming in the first place.
If you want variety, the “pro” gamer experience, or a creative outlet, build a PC.
Personally, I’m not very fond of this option. While building a PC is much simpler than it seems, and while they’re usually more powerful than a console for the same price point (though this recent generation looks to be changing that), it can still be a high entry bar for most people. And, while there are more options available on the PC, some feel like remixes of the same song, and many of the best titles are also (or only) available on consoles. Likewise, both the Switch and the PS4 now have their own powerful creative engines. Still, PC’s have dominated the pro scene for such a long time for a reason.
Lastly, if you’re looking for multiplayer and community…
Well, honestly, you should talk to your friends! It’s always best to start with people you already know when you’re breaking into multiplayer gaming, and not every game gives you the ability to play with people using different hardware. So, if you’re looking to play with friends, reach out and see what they have and what they’re playing. It might make your decision for you.
In any case, know that you don’t need to get all the bells and whistles. Any console you buy will come with a controller and (aside from a game to play), that’s all you need to start. No fancy headphones or chairs, no shiny odds and ends, no Star Wars t-shirts. Now that you have your console, though…
How Do I Decide What Games to Get?
Video games are, usually and unfortunately, more expensive than movies or books. That said, they also offer more hours of play, and the burgeoning indie scene is breaking the old dominion of high price tags. Even so, the sheer variety of games available makes it difficult to know where to start…and difficult to fit any realistic advice into one article. While we’ve got a primer on [story-focused games here] [link to my article on story-focused games] and [another on fighting games here] [link to my article on fighting games, as well as some [rundowns of specific games] [link to any of the articles the other writers penned], we can also give you some advice for finding games on your own.
- First, talk to any of your gamer friends, especially those who know your tastes in other mediums. They’ll be your best bet for finding a game that really suits you.
- Second, most consoles and platforms have their own online stores. If you’re on PC, download Steam. In any case, take note of interesting-looking games on the front pages of these stores and find reviews and YouTube videos of their gameplay.
- Third, find games with demos! The Switch has an enormous library of these, but there are plenty on both the PC and the PS4.
- Fourth, and finally, familiarize yourself with the genres. I’m reluctant to suggest this, as it feels like studying, and a game’s genre affects its gameplay more than the story. But, if you want to put in the time, familiarizing yourself with the available video game genres is a little like learning the difference between action movies and heartfelt romances; it can help you narrow down what you like.
Surprise, surprise, that’s it! It’s that simple to get into video games. Young or old, adrenaline-junkie or artist, there’s going to be a game out there for you. And trust me—it’s not as hard to find it as you think.