I host a video game podcast called "The Indoor Kids," and without a doubt, the number one question I'm asked is "How can I get my girlfriend to be into video games like you?"
I plan to answer this question by addressing the ladies themselves, but first, an aside:
1) Many women are into video games.
2).Being into video games and female doesn't make you awesome or not awesome. There's this urban legend-ish belief that when girls are into sports, horror movies, video games or other "dude" stuff, they're the best girlfriends in the world, like dudes with ladyparts.
While it's fun to have my ego stroked, just because I was raised by Nintendo and kept the habit going doesn't make me a better life partner than anyone else. I can still be selfish and prone to long bouts of girly behavior like shopping.
Plus, I like to think I'm awesome without the gaming. So girls who are into video games, don't rest on your button-pushing laurels, and girls who aren't into video games, that doesn't mean you're not the coolest girlfriend around.
Okay! End digression. But, it's an important preface to this post, which I've written specifically for girls who aren't into video games, who have boyfriends/husbands who are, who want to dip a toe into the world of console gaming, or used to play "Sonic" way back in '91 and have gotten way out of the loop.
The first step of getting into gaming is removing any stigma you have about it. People will decry how unproductive of a hobby gaming is, usually while they're on their second marathon of "Law & Order"/"Tabitha's Salon Takeover"/"Amazing Race" of the day.
We all have our hobbies that aren't changing the world -- at least gamers are moving their fingers, you know?
Video games have been elevated to a near art form at this point, with gorgeous graphics, mind-bending puzzles and storylines that could be movie scripts. Dismissing the entire industry as pointless or childish when you haven't seen the gigantic, open world of Skyrim (it's like real life, but with DRAGONS!) is doing gaming a disservice.
You want to watch?
If you want to just be more involved in your partner's gaming, allow me to suggest a few games that are as fun to watch as they are to play.
-Uncharted 2 and 3: These games pick up where Indiana Jones left off. In the series, you follow Nathan Drake, an adventurer and history buff, as he and his partner Sully travel the world to find lost and stolen artifacts and beat the shit out of people. Nathan Drake is the video game equivalent of Nathan Fillion, and these games are charming, intense, easy to follow and gorgeous. (PlayStation)
-Skyrim: This is the hottest game out right now. It is an infinitely customizable, infinitely playable game of two main quests (Civil War! Dragons!) and hundreds of side quests (Take a ring to this guy! Fight some vampires!). The graphics are the best in the industry, and the most fun thing about playing with others is having the spectator pick a point on the map and the player just walking there. You can walk anywhere, and you'll run across witches, bears, weird stories, books you can read and vistas that are truly breathtaking. (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3)
-Shadows of the Damned: This feels a bit like an "Evil Dead" movie as a video game. You play a badass Mexican demon hunter, Garcia Hotspur, who goes to hell to rescue his girlfriend, and hell is basically a creepy abandoned version of Vegas. The game is clever, dirty and dark, in just the right combination. (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3)
-Fable III: The Fable games are fairly open worlds, meaning that you have tasks to do, but rarely are they pressing, so you can explore. The third installment is smarter and funnier than most TV shows on right now. You're a guy with big destiny shoes to fill just trying to make your way through the world, and the actions you do (kicking chickens, flirting with grownups) follow you through your life and affect how people treat you. You can fall in love, marry and break up, you can buy stores and sell groceries, or you can kill things across the countryside. Best of all, the writing is phenomenal, and the vocal talent includes Michael Fassbender, John Cleese, Simon Pegg and more. (XBox 360)
You want to play?
I hear what you're saying: You've never been the type of girl to just watch, and you've also never been the type of girl to get into something just because a boy is into it (what are you, Marcia Brady?).
So for you girls who have never touched a controller, or haven't touched one since 1987 but want to, I offer you these games that you can either play with your lovah, or play on your own as your reintroduction into video gaming in the 21st century.
-Portal 1 and 2: Portal is a puzzle game with a storyline, but it's so much more than that. You have a gun that shoots two portals -- one you can enter, and one you can exit. With this gun, you have to navigate through a testing facility where the robots in charge want you dead. These games have spawned more memes, songs and adoration than most games on the market, and with good reason -- they are challenging without being impossible, clever as hell, and feature the vocal talents of JK Simmons and Stephen Merchant. Plus the controls are terribly simple to pick up. Available in single player and co-op mode. (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3)
-Joe Danger: This lesser-known title follows an Evel Knievel type as he (you) tries to complete bike courses laced with obstacles and opportunities for tricks. There's no story, just you and your bike, functioning as one. The controls are uber-responsive and easy to learn, and pulling tricks is exhilarating enough to keep you glued to the controller for hours. Single player only. (XBox Live Arcade)
-Little Big Planet 1 and 2: If you played Mario as a child, welcome to "Little Big Planet," the artsy Mario. You are a little guy made of button eyes and burlap, and your task is to make it through a fever dream-like world that somehow looks like arts and crafts even though you know it's technology. The puzzles are fun to solve, the music is fantastic and the world never ceases to amaze. Plus, once you finish the game you can go on to play user-created levels, or make some for yourself! Available in single player and co-op mode. (PlayStation 3)
-The LEGO games: These are ostensibly children's games, but in the same way that "Ratatouille" was a children's movie -- kids can handle it, but adults will truly enjoy it. These games recreate popular movie franchises ("Star Wars," "Harry Potter," "Pirate of the Caribbean," "Indiana Jones") using LEGOs. Play through the movies, earn characters with new powers, use those powers to unlock secrets, and when you die, you break into LEGO pieces -- what more could you want? The games get more complex the more you play them, the stories will be familiar, and if you have OCD tendencies, you'll be obsessed with finding every secret in every level. Available in single player and co-op mode.
(XBox 360 and PlayStation 3)
One final note. Think about the thing you do when you've had a long, stressful day and just want to zone out and shut your brain off. Your boyfriend/husband may play video games sometimes for that purpose, and if so, that's probably not the game to hunker down and get involved with.
"Call of Duty" matches online don't hold much excitement for spectators. But other than that, it's a world that is too much fun to ignore. I'm not asking you to throw your life away for video games, but if you've been scorning your boyfriend for playing them, maybe it's time to woman up and give them a try. You may find a new hobby you can share, or you may find that you have to buy two consoles, because you're level 35 in Skyrim and can burn dragons with magic.