Today, I had a really interesting video game experience with my girlfriend and I wanted to tell you about it.
It was a cold sunday afternoon and I wanted to show her Firewatch by Campo Santo. It is one of the few games I like to show to people who are not familiar with video games, for its contemplative mood and its narrative qualities - but above all the possibility for someone without any gamer background to get to the end of the game. I am slowly introducing her to video games (since the only experience she has is Mario Kart and The Sims), starting with Braid, FEZ and Machinarium.
I was really surprised at what I saw. I expected her to be relaxed, watching what was all around, profiting of the landscapes and the nice light effects in the trees, enjoying the dialogues between Henry and Delilah.
Instead, she seemed to be lost, stressed, frustrated at not knowing exactly what to do, losing patience very quickly.
It made me wonder the following things, since I had pretty much the same experience with my mother playing Journey and Flower : playing video games comes with a bunch of implicit prerequisite that we, gamers, are often not fully aware of : we all know since childhood that we have to push the "down" button when standing on a pipe, that 100 coins gets you an extra life, that when the alarm rings you've got only 1 heart left and you're going to die.
And in some way, people who don't play video games know it too. Thus, they consider video games as a form of stressful entertainment in which to have to be fast, efficient, able to deal with situations with great reflexes, be the best and not fail. If you don't do the right thing, you die, it's a game over and you have to do everything all over again.
These things just do not exist in such games. There's no dying, no timer, almost no UI. BUT my girlfriend still feared not to succeed in a supposed allocated time, she was disoriented by the use of the map/compass, she feared giving the wrong answers to Delilah (and even NOT answering).
She basically felt a urge to succeed where there was no need to. Maybe it was because she felt that playing a video game means being efficient, quick, successful.
She became more and more relaxed when she understood Firewatch is more of a narrative experience and that nothing could harm her, that nothing special was expected of her immediatly if she just wanted to wander around.
...And tonight, I made her play Dark Souls III. She gave up after 75 minutes :D So, what I wanted to say is : keep trying to make non-gamers play video games, make them experience cool, different, slow-paced games, be kind, and show them that there's a game for everyone. Cheers !