Many gamers have stories about trying to teach someone to play video games for the first time. Generally you are trying to teach someone who is unfamiliar with the controls and the conventions of the genre, and lacking in the kind of hand/eye coordination required. It’s often a frustrating experience for all involved.

However the thing that we neglect to mention is that part of what they are going through is what we go through everytime we get a new game. We spend the first half hour or so stumbling about pressing the wrong buttons and over-steering as we learn the assumptions of this new game. I don’t think we mention that because it is so obvious to us, we’ve been through it so many times that it is just part of playing a game. But for new people it is a source of frustration which probably forces many of them to just say “nope I suck at computer games” and give up.

This fantastic standup act by Dara O Briain perfectly captures this confusion, specifically at 4:40. The whole clip is worth a watch for general gamer hilarity because we all remember these moments.

This almost inevitable state of disorientation is sometimes covered up in a game by putting it in context. It is not uncommon for a game to start with the player in some kind of situation where they have been disorientated and need to be “reaquainted” with the basic physical tasks.

“Ok, you’ve had some serious head trauma, you really need to be in a hospital … possibly with a few months of physical therapy to learn to walk again properly. But we are in a hurry, can you look up and down? Er, well, I’m sure it will pass. Here’s a gun, off you go.” And then we stagger off down the hallway accidentally reloading when we mean to fire and opening menus instead of crouching.

Several of the Halo games begin with the player being awoken from hibernation and needing to do a “systems check”. Personally I think Portal 2 did a fantastic job, with Wheatley’s “say Apple”.

So when teaching a new person to play their first video game, you might be well served to remember to let them know that the confusion and frustration they are feeling is only temporary, and that you go through it yourself to some degree every time you get a new game. Every game is a new learning experience.