1998 is frequently cited as being the “Best Year in Video Games”. Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy Tactics, StarCraft, Metal Gear Solid, Fallout 2, Pokemon Red and Blue, No One Can Stop Mr.Domino (Best Name of the Year), Half-Life, Ocarina of Time, Thief: The Dark Project, Rogue Squadron, Baldur’s Gate, Suikoden 2, Grim Fandango, and several others all came out that year. I was just 5 years old. Now I’ve played these games, because I’m insane and have no social life, but if a productive member of society wanted to go play the notable releases of just 1998 today not only would finding ways to play all of them very well be outside the scope of your budget, but it would be a momentous time investment. Games area hard medium to break into for a myriad of reasons.
Games on the whole require much more of a time investment than any other major media centered hobby. While there is a plethora of shorter, more focused games coming out most AAA releases include either a multiplayer component that’s actually the focus of the game or are sprawling, multi dozen hour consuming adventures such as Dragon Age: Inquisition, Fallout 4, and Metal Gear Solid V. I’ve put over 90 hours into MGSV and well past 50 into FO4 and I’m not even that fond of FO4. While the accepted length of major movies has been steadily climbing in recent years, 2 hours seems to be the average. 2 hours is short for an indie game off Steam that costs $5. And for a student or someone with a full-time job to try to get more “serious” about their gaming this immense time investment is a serious barrier to their entry.
This is to say nothing of the monetary cost of gaming. I cannot find a PS4 (original model) for under $200 USD, from a reputable source at least. If you want couch co-op be prepared to shell out about $50 to get another controller, and I hope your TV is big enough. Want online multiplayer? Fork over $60 a year. Finally, want a game to go with your new(ish) system? $40-$60 for most big name releases. $200+$60+$60= $320 for a minimum, baseline entry into current gaming, for ONE system. And that game you got, it’s probably going to take 3-5 hours of playing to figure out if you even like it. Want to go see that new movie? $10, a couple of hours of your time, and transport to and from the theater, far simpler than spending 5 hours and $60 to see if you even like a game. And while console prices do drop over time (the PS4 original prices will likely drop once the Slim and Pro release), we live in a society that highly values being up to date with their entertainment and trying to experience a multiplayer game that is not Call of Duty or Battlefield years after the fact is often a fruitless endeavour.
Dipping a Toe in the Deep End
Odds are you have a friend who you’d like to introduce to gaming, or is already interested in games. Or maybe you’re new to wanting to be introduced to games. Other than the mostly horrendous mobile market, I cannot really think of a metaphorical “shallow end” to help introduce people to games. There’s the annual, multi-million selling games like CoD and Madden, but frankly I don’t find those to be the best introductions to the medium. CoD’s heavy focus on twitch reflexes can drive away those less used to a dual joystick controller and Madden’s singular focus on American football would disinterest anyone who wasn’t already invested in that sport. That isn’t to say no one ever got into game because of CoD or Fifa, but that’s the rub, I can’t make a %100 guaranteed game recommendation that will always appeal to everyone. But the other side of this is that since we are so far into gaming’s life, most genres and interests are well represented and well evolved from their original incarnations, platformers notwithstanding (I know Super Mario 3D World was great but name one other platformer of that caliber to release recently). Best I can say is see what kind of movies or shows your friend likes and try to match that to a game. Is your friend an Indiana Jones fan? Show them Uncharted. Are they a Star Wars groupie, maybe Mass Effect will interest them. This is where sites like Giant Bomb and Let’s Players come in handy. So many games are released that keeping track of all the previews and pre-release press is impossible for one person. Giant Bomb’s Quicklooks are fantastic for getting the vibe of a game and Let’s Plays can show you an entire genre you discounted or ignored; Super Best Friends Play got me into character action. Those are not by any means the only resources for pre and post release impressions on games but they’re my go to examples. Gaming is a varied medium and there’s something for anyone who is interested, if they’re interested don’t alienate them because of their lack of knowledge, encourage them and point them to resources to help them.