Explain it to me like I'm...
April 27, 2013 12:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting to feel like I'm missing out on an important part of pop culture by not being much of a video gamer. Where do I even start?

I have not grown up completely without video games. I play casual games on my phone, and I've battled addictions to Civilization and Sim City (The Sims, too, when it first came out). I played through all the quirky LucasArts games like Monkey Island and Sam & Max as a preteen. I've also enjoyed web-based indie games over the years.

When I was a kid, my family had a Nintendo, but it was mostly my brother's thing. I'd play Tetris or Dr. Mario or occasionally Mortal Kombat, but I sucked royally at Mario Brothers and similar "jump and run through different screens killing bad guys and racking up coins" type games. Usually my brother would push me out of the way on the first level, saying, "UGH let me just play for you, OK?"

So I never got into any kind of console gaming.

In college I sucked equally bad at the perennial favorite Goldeneye or 007 or WHATEVER the cool kids call it, to the point that being mocked over my shit FPS skills became a point of contention in my relationship. I pretty much gave up on mainstream video game culture at that point.

15 years later, video games are AWESOME. I really wish this was just a seamless part of my media consumption. Not knowing how to play the interesting games feels like not being able to follow a TV series from week to week, or not understanding how to download an album. When I read about video games, I often have no idea what people are even talking about. It's like a fan of ragtime in 1915 trying to read Pitchfork.

So, where do I even start with this?

I don't own a television set.

I obviously don't own a video game console.

I do have a MacBook laptop, a Kindle Fire, and an iPhone. I am open to picking up a cheap DS or something.

I have no idea what the "entry level" games are, or where/how one obtains them (uhhh, Game Stop?), or how to follow what new games are coming out and which ones I might like.

What's the best way for me to at least get with the times on video games, and potentially start to feel comfortable with a controller in my hands? Is this something I can start from basically zero, as an adult?
posted by Sara C. to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (42 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You need Steam. It's an online store with a wide range of options for excellent prices that magics the games right onto your computer (yes, even Macs now!). You can see what's popular in genres that seem interesting to you, buy based on art, cheapness, or whatever you want. They also have sales that are a great time to stock up on games that have caught your eye!
posted by Pwoink at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: Steam is an excellent idea. Good Old Games is also a good place to "catch up" and play some classics that you might not have encountered.

I will also recommend Portal, because I always recommend Portal, because it's awesome. It has the control scheme of a shooter but is a puzzle game, and requires very, very few reflexes of any kind.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

One place to start: Rock, Paper, Shotgun is a respected gaming review site that is known for reviewing AAA games made for millions of dollars, as well as independently developed games by smaller studios, and they give them all equal time. They have a reputation for not selling out for advertisting dollars and as such have gotten a reputation for being pretty honest. If you are looking to play games on your Mac, you would enjoy spending a lot of time at Steam. They have games for both Windows and MAC and tend to promote their games (again, big productions as well as smaller indie games) based on what people find popular or are selling well. Each game page on Steam will often include a link to MetaCritic, which is an independent review sight that compiles review scores that the game is receiving around the web. So, with these few tools you can get a good sense of what PC games are doing well and what people find enjoyable, and also access discussion on the particular merits or setbacks of those games. If you want to go console, there are also good resources out there.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: Do you want to play on a console or your computer? My answer leans heavily towards the computer side of things, so take it with that in mind. Without a TV, gaming on a computer you already own seems to make a lot of sense.

For some perspective, my wife got into computer gaming in her 30's after last having played console games as a teenager. It took her a little while to get up to speed, but now she plays like a natural. She had watched me play some and heard the fun I was having with a good gaming community I was part of. Sadly, that group no longer exists...

I don't know Mac specs, so I don't know how yours would perform, but there are more and more games becoming available for the Mac on Steam all the time. My wife started with Team Fortress 2 which now has the added benefit of being free. There's a MeFi TF2 group, I believe.

For PC/Mac gaming, one of the best sources of information on what's new and hip that all the cool kids will soon be playing is Rock, Paper, Shotgun. That might be a good place to start getting an idea of what people are talking about, but it will be foreign and unintelligible for a while, I'd imagine.

All that to say, my advice to you would be to install Steam, download TF2, and check out the in-game tutorials. That will at least get you started and see if there's any appeal along those lines.

One last note... there are quite a few "girl gamers" in the groups I've played with over the years and if you end up on Steam and would like to talk with some of them for a bit of perspective, hit me up with a memail and I'll see if we can't get on a server for some playing and learning and other assorted fun-having.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2013

Steam indeed. I've also found that the Humble Bundle is generally a good way to check out quality indie games super-cheaply, so I'd suggest subscribing to their mailing list to keep abreast of the sales.

GameAgent will tell you what games you can run on your Mac, which I've found immeasurably useful.
posted by tealsocks at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2013

What's going to be hard is figuring out what kind of games you like to play. Most of the games people talk about in the real world fall roughly into two buckets: high budget 3D first person shooters (the action movies of the videogame world) and smart, high concept indie titles. It's going to be hard to play the former without some investment, but you could play the latter through Steam on your laptop.

I'd try a few 2D games to start; maybe try a simple game like Thomas Was Alone first and see what you like about that game. The platforming (jumping)? The story and narration? The puzzle solving?

From there you can decide how you want to progress.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: A caveat about Portal: Portal has a couple of points where you need speed-twitch skillz. Portal 2 does not have these, as far as I can tell. Just FYI.

And, yeah, the tutorials on Team Fortress 2 are a good intro to standard FPS movement and such. Also, Black Mesa is a free and beautiful port of most of Valve's original "Half Life" game (from 1998) into the modern game engine that Valve uses now for its big games.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2013

Editing disasters ate a good chunk of thought from my previous post... sorry for the jumping around.

So... What everyone else said. Plus:

OH YES PORTAL! YES! THIS! Play the first one... don't be tempted to start with Portal 2. Play all the way through the original, love it, soak up its goodness, then play the sequel.

You will not regret it. I promise. :-)
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 12:53 PM on April 27, 2013

Response by poster: Just to give this some direction (great answers already, though, guys!), I'll say that the games I wish I could play are things like Assassin's Creed and LA Noire. Those are the games where I watch other people playing them and feel like I missed out on an entire art form.

But in general, keep the answers coming!

I already have a feeling Steam is going to kill the rest of my weekend...
posted by Sara C. at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: Agreed with the recommendation for Steam. I use a Mac laptop as well, and am presently stuck without a TV or console, and I enjoy dipping into games via Steam. Granted, we don't get as many choices as those using PCs, but still, there are plenty! That's how I played Portal and Portal 2 (looooooove them), Limbo, Amnesia: the Dark Descent, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Civilization IV, and a bunch of others. (Including Half-Life 2, a very famous game indeed, but I'm having surprising and unexpected problems with motion-sickness there, which I really ought to spend an AskMe on...)

You can put games on your wishlist within Steam, and you'll get an email when the price drops. And some of their sales are extraordinarily cheap!

Also, I recommend you keep an eye out for things like the MacHeist bundle--I bought one not too long ago for an excellent price that included both Bioshock 1 and 2, games which have been discussed a lot over on the blue.

I don't consider myself a skilled player in general, but I have a great time. I cut myself slack, give myself plenty of time to get the hang of any game, and I'm never ashamed to set it on the absolute lowest difficulty if necessary.
posted by theatro at 12:54 PM on April 27, 2013

I like LA Noire, because it's the most like a movie, to me, anyway, and my obsessive game days are long past.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:55 PM on April 27, 2013

Seeing your response--Assassin's Creed (including for Mac!) was on sale on Steam for super-cheap around the holidays, and I would've snapped it up if I had seen the email in time. Next time, I'll be more observant.
posted by theatro at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: If you want to keep up-to-date with gaming culture, reading Penny Arcade could give you the insight you want without, you know, the time sink of actually playing these games.

If you want to become OK at first-person-shooter games, playing through the single-player campaign for any one game would get you there. If you just want to play with friends, and your friends mostly play it on consoles, then play on a console.

Any game will have an "easy mode" and tutorials if you want an entry-level experience. Just pick one that has excellent reviews that your friends enjoy. Portal and Team Fortress 2 are both solid, and I hear good things about Assassin's Creed and LA Noire. None of them take any special skills to start playing-- just start the tutorial or easy mode and the game will make it very do-able.

I'm projecting a bit, but if you have an addictive personality, "social gaming" can very easily turn into a "gaming problem" that takes time away from more enjoyable things.
posted by sninctown at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: One last note... my wife thinks she has a "gift" copy of either Portal or Portal 2. We'll check on that later and I'll post back.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2013

Some questions to consider when deciding:
1. Do you want to play just you and the computer/console, or would you like to play with other people? and if you do want to play with other people, do you want to do it in person (like Wii) or online like FPS and other real time games?
2. Are there specific games that your friends are playing? Having a friend teach you a game is a great way to play; it makes learning much easier and more fun.
3. Would you mind playing a game that required a monthly subscription, like World of Warcraft?
4. How invested do you want to be? For example The Sims was a big time investment for me with all the expansion packs and downloads - you could play it forever, and it did become kind of personal, not at all a Words With Friends type of game, ya know?
5. Do you want something with a plot-line that follows a story arc that ends (until the next expansion of course) or a continuous game like Tetris that doesn't really tell a story or end, you just keep doing the same thing but at harder levels?

I think if you ask yourself some of those questions, you might be able to figure out what types of games would be good for you. Also, don't discount the salespeople at Game Stop. That is one store where the employees really do know their merchandise and can guide you pretty well.

Good luck and happy gaming!
posted by NoraCharles at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2013

Some places you can 'catch up' on video game references and be entertained while discovering games you might like: the Let's Play Archive and Zero Punctuation Reviews.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:59 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We have a pretty similar gaming history it seems, but I have access to more platforms and games by virtue of living with a pretty hardcore gamer who is happy to share.

I suck at FPSs and have no desire to play them. Luckily, games have diversified wildly since the 80s and there's plenty out there for you to dig into. I think what might help you somewhat is knowing genre terms.

Sim City, for example, is a "simulation" game. Mario Bros, and anything that involves jumping and dying, are called "platformers" and I tend to avoid them like the plague because I, too, was shoved out of the way by my brother and never attained the reflexes for them. Tetris is a "puzzle" game. Monkey Island and Sam & Max are "adventure" games, so is Zelda. RPGs are rather self explanatory. And of course all of these genres can overlap to help categorize things.

The big newer genre, that I love the most, it seems, is "casual" games. They are by no means actually casual, however. Casual games tend to come in all flavors of subgenre, but are oriented for touchscreen devices and people who weren't raised to kill from birth - er, I mean, haven't always played video games. A game I'm playing right now, from Steam, on my macbook, is called Triple Town. I would call it a casual puzzle game, but it is adorable, fun, and holds surprising depth. I do not have to aim and shoot or leap over chasms. I am slowly developing a totally badass capital city and defeating bears by turning them into churches. Whee!

I think that, even if you don't install Steam on your computer, it's a great idea to go to http://store.steampowered.com/ and just browse through the games available, watch some of the videos, and kind of learn your way around the current terminology. See what appeals to you visually.

Upon preview, you say you like things like Assassin's Creed? Check out adventure games, then, which can often be visual novels with some gameplay thrown in. In my experience I straight up sucked at that game, but perhaps I do not have your persistence. I did, however, watch it and its sequels as my gamer roomie played through them. I watch people play games a lot, actually, because I know just what you mean by the artform thing. Protip: the Let's Play Archive is a collection of people playing video games, sometimes with narration, that you can watch. Seriously consider giving it a try for things like RPGs that you don't have the consoles for, or weird indie games that are PC only, or FPS classics.

And oh, here is my old AskMe where I was like "I suck at video games but I like to play them! Suggestions please?" in case that is of interest to you.

No gaming question goes by without about ten thousand people exclaiming the virtues of Portal at anybody who breathes. I hated it, while understanding its appeal completely. But god, it was awful.
posted by Mizu at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2013

Another thing to consider is that all of Blizzard's games run on Windows and Mac, including the Starcraft, Diablo, Warcraft, and World of Warcraft franchises (if you are into any of those things). You can download all of these games online. If your Mac is a bit older, Blizzard does a great job optimizing performance to a wide range of computers. They have been getting some flack with their "always-online" requirement these days, but those games have made a major mark on the industry in recent years and have a very large player base.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2013

Seconding sninctown's recommendation of Penny Arcade. I hardly play video games at all (lack of time rather than lack of desire), but both the comic and the accompanying newspost are great, entertaining windows into that world. Frequently the comic will reference something I don't have a clue about, then I go off and google it and discover something interesting.
posted by pont at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2013

Do you know what type of games you'd like?

I would spend some time on GameFAQs and other such review sites to maybe suss out what types of games you'd be into - RPGs, action-adventure, strategy, MMO, whether you like real-time or turn-based. It would also give you an idea of whether you need/want to get any consoles (and TV), or whether the games you like have been ported onto the computer. I also nth the Steam suggestion; they have a lot of sales, which equals to a lot of types of games to try out on the cheap.

If you have a second-hand game shop near you, the employees can also give you good recs.

And an off-beat suggestion: if you just want to get into gaming because you want to be part of the culture and knowledge of video games, but don't want to/don't necessarily enjoy the actual playing part, you can always watch others. I derive an obscene amount of enjoyment shouting at the TV and watching others play games; they get the stress of actually beating the boss while I'm enjoying the plot, art, world-building, etc.
posted by Zelos at 1:23 PM on April 27, 2013

I think if you want to do this you should look around for some entertaining Let's Plays on youtube because then you won't have to worry about being too crap at the games themselves to get anywhere. I'm in the same boat as you regarding FPS games and Let's Plays are how I know, for example, how Portal ends. An additional benefit to this approach is that Let's Plays don't really demand your full attention and you can have them playing off in another window while you mostly focus on something else.
posted by furiousthought at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: For me it's been about finding what kind of games are "me". My entire childhood, I felt like I sucked at video games, but as an adult, I've realized that was because almost all of the games I owned/rented were platformers or shooters. Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart 64 were literally the ONLY games I was any good at.

At age 23, in a bout of grad-school depression, I bought a PS2 on a whim for $80 or so. OH MY GOSH WHAT I HAD BEEN MISSING! There is this whole magical genre called RPGs, which are totally my thing and which I had completely missed out on during my childhood! If you're willing to make the small investment in a PS2, it has a fantastic game library with the benefit that since it's so old, games are mostly pretty cheap. I'd recommend trying Persona 3, Okami, Kingdom Hearts, and the Katamari games for starters, to get a sense of what you might like. I also inexplicably LOVE playing the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games, despite not giving one cent about the world of golf.

The Nintendo DS has a good library as well - the Professor Layton series, Pheonix Wright series, and the Mario & Luigi games (Partners in Time, Bowser's Inside Story), are series I love, none of which are platformers. I also was surprised at how much I enjoyed Retro Game Challenge - it takes the classic games I was always terrible at, and breaks them up into tiny achievable pieces. If you do get a PS3 at any point, Valkryia Chronicles is an AMAZING game that's beautiful, fun, and challenging in a way that's interesting rather than frustrating. People disparage the Wii a lot for its game library, but there are SO many great Wii games, in my opinion. Kirby's Dream Collection, Muramasa the Demon Blade, Xenoblade Chronicles, and Sakura Wars So Long My Love are all great, unique, and fun games that I found totally accessible to my level of gaming skill.

For myself, I've had to get past the idea that disliking/not being good at shooters or platformers makes me less of a gamer somehow. I play games, I am a gamer! The biggest thing I'd suggest is not buying too much into which games the game sites/articles/blogs say you HAVE to play. Try them out, but if they're not your thing, so what! Work on finding the genres/games you enjoy. I'm excited for you - just writing this, I want to go play all the games! Have tons of fun exploring video games for yourself!
posted by augustimagination at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm confused by your post. Do you like playing video games or are you wanting to give them a try? If you like them, what kind? I'm a girl who isn't much of a gamer, but my memories growing up are definitely filled with various games.

In all honesty, my favorite game ever is Civilization IV. I am not alone, since it frequently ranks as one of the greatest computer games of all time. It's a PC game but I believe available for Mac as well. The problem is, I played Civilization 1-3 growing up. Diving straight into Civilization 4 can be a little overwhelming because there is so much to the game. But, if you have any interest in history or world cultures, and you aren't interested in fast-paced real-time games that test hand-eye coordination, you may find Civilization 4 is a great fit. It's a turn-based strategy game that emphasizes careful planning and decision-making, not pressing buttons quickly. There's a lot of concepts and themes -- from war and diplomacy to religion and culture to money and science. The expansion packs make it even better too. I remember sitting down to play on a Sunday morning in my pajamas and -- oops -- finding it was getting dark out and I was still in my pajamas playing. (I do not recommend Civilization 5 -- big step back.)

Most of my gaming experience is like 10 years ago when I was in high school-ish. If you can find them compatible with your Mac, I have fond memories of SimCity 4, Rollercoaster Tycoon and if you can get your hands on a Nintendo 64, I think Mario 64 is easily one of the greatest video game console games ever created. It literally changed video games from 2D left-to-right places to a 3D universe. And what can I say -- I like cute games. (Mario Bros 3 is another cute classic.)

The Grand Theft Auto series is great -- my favorite was Vice City. But I found by San Andreas and GTA4, it got a bit formulaic for me. But definitely would recommend Vice City. As for current games? No clue. But World of Warcraft is addicting so... probably best to stay away. I've left and come back several times, haha. I just like player-vs-player battles where you're not competiing against AI, but other players. Makes every battle a new experience. I find questing (aka "grinding") boring.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: I think you might really enjoy some modern RPGs, like Skyrim. Definitely give Assassins Creed a try. I recommend that *everyone*, regardless of preferred genres, plays Journey, but that requires a PS3 and a TV. Do you have any friends with consoles?
posted by Joh at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: I've always been a bigger console gamer than a PC gamer. Most of that comes from having to own a pretty powerful computer to get the best gaming experience when I got into gaming - but from everyone that's posted about Steam, maybe that's not much of an issue these days. Granted, there are still huge gaming laptops (oh, $7,000 Samsung laptop, how I want you), but it sounds like there's a lot you can do with your current setup.

Even though you don't own a console or TV currently, I wouldn't totally discount that playing experience. Do you have any friends that own consoles? I started playing games on my boyfriend's consoles. And if you do decide to buy one of your own, try to get one used from GameStop or your local independent video game store. Same goes with any games you might purchase - I've never had trouble with any used discs or cartridges. Have you thought about a Nintendo DS or 3DS since you don't have a TV?

You could also go into your local store and talk with the employees there. In my experience, they're usually more than willing to talk about games and give recommendations, especially since you're a girl. It's kinda sad to say that, but it's still true. On one hand I like that guys think it's cool or unusual for girls to be gamers and on the other I hate that it's such a guys club.

Whatever route you decide to go, don't let anyone like your ex (?) get you down about your skills. That's a really crappy thing for them to do. It can be hard to ignore sometimes - I've encountered some really cruel jerks in the gaming community - but please don't let that discourage you. Video games are awesome!
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:24 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: I think the first thing to do in order to achieve video game literacy is to get a handle on FPS controls. Yes, I know, you said that you hated Goldeneye... but it's a standard control scheme, and you rob yourself of the ability to play all sorts of interesting and artistic games by not learning the language. What I'd do is download Steam and then get Portal 1 and Portal 2. There is no fighting in these games, so you can take your time to get acquainted with the controls (keyboard and mouse), and you can progress through the game at your own speed. There are some puzzles that might be tricky if you're not comfortable with the controls, but I think it'll be fairly forgiving. You'll also get to play the single best and most lauded game of the past decade. The games are universally accepted as pinnacles of the medium.

Another game that'll let you get used to FPS controls without having to worry about twitchy fights is Dear Esther. This is more of a visual novel than a game, but there's absolutely no jumping or shooting... you just walk around. Use it as training wheels.

The most recent game to tear through all the video game awards is Telltale's The Walking Dead. It's genuinely significant and a huge step for the medium, I think. It shouldn't be too hard to pick up, given that you have experience with adventure games. It'll also expose you to controlling a 3D character.

I think you also might want to try listening to some video game podcasts. There a lot out of podcasts out there recorded by adults who are interested in video game aesthetics, design, and history. You could try Idle Thumbs, Gamers With Jobs, Watch Out For Fireballs, and Video Games Hot Dog; see what you like. You can learn a lot about video games without actually playing them.
posted by painquale at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can also just watch Let's Plays on YouTube. I do that all the time with games I don't want to buy or play for whatever reason.
posted by empath at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is one of the best 'One more turn, what happened to Tuesday?' strategy games ever. Also, Civilization 4. Some of the best Games As Art games are: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy 6 (Super NES, maybe available on DS or emulators)

Some of the current ones: Journey, probably a must play, period. Bioshock, and Bioshock Infinite. Portal, obviously :D The Walking Dead, for sure.

Theres a good solid bunch of weirder games... Suda 52 games, some of the Silent Hills, etc that may or may not be fantastic games, depending, but are defiantly contenders for Art.

And, of course, Indy games are cheap to free... Braid. Try Braid.
posted by Jacen at 3:37 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: I was in exactly the same place as you a couple of years ago--played Tetris as a kid, the last games I got really into were Civ and Alpha Centauri, then nothing. I remember seeing an ad for Assassin's Creed and thinking it looked really cool, which led to me getting an xbox a while later. I popped in AC and quickly got really frustrated with how terrible I was at controlling the guy! Walking into walls, falling into water, etc. I put it away and figured it was just something I was too old to 'get'.

Until I discovered Dragon Age: Origins. Man, I love that game. The story and characters made me force myself to learn the controls. I've played it many times over. Then I discovered many of the basic skills translate to other games, and went back to AC--no more falling into water! AC2 is one of my favorite games now.

Dragon Age led to Mass Effect, which I adore. Good story and characters, fun gameplay, loads of replayability. I went from easy level dying all the time to beating all three on Insanity. Don't let anyone give you crap for sucking at first--everyone sucks at first.

I also love the Fallout games and Skyrim. They're first person, rather than third person over-the-shoulder, so it does take a little getting used to. The camera made me queasy at first, but it got better. Some games let you control how 'bouncy' the first person view is, and that can help with the queasiness.

I've played LA Noire and wasn't too impressed. It looks beautiful, but I wish they'd done more work on the gameplay. Red Dead Redemption however, is awesome.
posted by lovecrafty at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2013

Response by poster: Soooooo I might have downloaded Steam and then I might have immediately bought GTA: Vice City because it was only $2.50 and why not and then after that I might have blown 2 hours playing video games like a 14 year old boy

(What have you people done to me?)

FWIW I wishlisted both Portals and will probably buy them soon.
posted by Sara C. at 4:42 PM on April 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Oh another suggestion, try Minecraft! If you enjoy building things or Legos, or exploring, it's fantastic. I got utterly addicted to it for a few months.
posted by Joh at 4:45 PM on April 27, 2013

Welcome back to gaming! :)
posted by Joh at 4:46 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: My story is similar to yours and yeah, I love Portal and Portal 2, but Borderlands and Borderlands 2 are my video game obsessions.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:02 PM on April 27, 2013

On the more Japanese game front there are two franchises that I'd recommend that have become huge over the last decade and a half: Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. These both are going to have a little more twitch control than many other games listed here but they also have a lot going for them with item management, strategy, puzzle solving, and story lines. They both also have "easy" modes or, at least, "easy" ways of playing them that are less difficult but yield less rewards.

If you wanted to check these out, depending on where you live, go ahead and pick up a PS1 or PS2 for 20-30 dollars on Craigs List. Also, go to the "free" section of CL and pick up someones TV that they are giving away (make sure it has the RCA inputs at least). I can whole heartedly recommend the first installments of both these series (with Resident Evil try to get the original and not the "Directors Cut" or the remake, which is for the Gamecube anyway).

One more suggestion: I never really liked casual games when I was younger but Flash gaming on the web has really changed my opinion of them. You should peruse the games at sites like Kongregate and New Grounds for easy-to-pick-up, simple, awesome fun (caution: some are total time-sinks).
posted by coolxcool=rad at 6:08 PM on April 27, 2013

Memail sent regarding a copy of Portal... let me know. :-)
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 6:50 PM on April 27, 2013

Best answer: Odd that no one else has mentioned it yet but I'm happy to be the first - I would highly recommend joining MeFightClub, the MetaFilter-based gaming forums. If you post a version of this question in the Introduce Yourself thread you'll get the best answers you could imagine and you'll be introduced to a forum full of players who try to treat other players like rational adults and who don't tolerate sexist, racist, or otherwise uncool comments in online play.
posted by komara at 10:08 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey everyone, I am in basically the same situation as the OP. I have a 13" MacBook Pro, early 2011 edition -- i.e., the kind with the integrated (not discrete) graphics processor.

I see that Portal is a popular recommendation. Would I be able to play that on my computer?
posted by Alaska Jack at 1:31 AM on April 28, 2013

Best answer: Hello, I grew up playing console games and also have a Mac. I wanted to second Steam and GameAgent, and reassure you that nowadays there is not a lot of console-only games; most of the big games are for computers too, even Macs. We have a PS3 but usually buy a PC version if it exists because our desktop PC has way better specs than a console. Also, FPS games are way easier to play with a mouse imo. I have always been terrible at console FPS because the controls seem so awkward.

Also, LA Noire was on sale for $5 on Steam the other day.

Assassin's Creed has a million games in the series and the early ones are dirt cheap and great on Steam.

You can get Bioshock for Mac, but not on Steam last time I checked. Some weird stuff with a different company making the Mac version and they couldn't bundle it or something. But I think the sequels are available for Mac.
posted by Nattie at 2:14 AM on April 28, 2013

Best answer: Alaska, I'm pretty sure you could play Portal. I played it on a 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Also, anyone considering Portal... it IS a fun, great, hilarious game. I managed to finish the first one, but I had SEVERE nausea even after tweaking the settings. It took me over a year to finish. So like... if that happens, just know that yeah, it's a thing that effects some people. But the fact that I finished a game that nearly made me vomit several times, and once made me have cold sweats and lie down for eight hours, is really a good thing if you think about it
posted by Nattie at 2:17 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first "modern generation" game I played was Bioshock, and it was a great introduction to the whiz-bang spectacle and show-not-tell possibilities of the video game form. You're getting a lot of people pushing you to the indie side of things, and that's perfectly fine, but for my money I'd say a great introduction would be to jump right into the present moment and current mainstream zeitgeist with Bioshock Infinite. I've never played another game where every single moment, and every single nook and cranny was filled with eye-popping idiosyncratic beauty and attention to detail, all in the service of an interesting world and story that unfolds only in the way a game can allow. Watch some youtube videos to make sure you're not put off by the violence, but if not, definitely play this one.
posted by naju at 12:25 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bioshock Infinite is gorgeous all right, but I wouldn't play it until you're comfortable with FPS controls. Otherwise, you might get a couple hours in and suddenly be thrown into combat that you just can't deal with.
posted by painquale at 12:27 PM on April 28, 2013

I'd also nominate Bastion as a good modern example of the top-down style of control/display (That it has gorgeously drawn visuals, amazing sound/music, and a fascinating story also helps).
posted by CrystalDave at 3:32 PM on April 28, 2013

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