Video games are a huge part of my life right now. As a technology journalist and big nerd, I write about and play them nearly every day.
But even just a few years ago, I used to refuse to have anything to do with video games. I wouldn’t even play casually at parties or with friends, because I was so intimidated by stereotypes about girl gamers and turned off by the toxic dude-bro culture that gamers are so famous for.
Since then, I’ve learned two things that have completely changed my mind about video games.
1. The video game marketplace is incredibly diverse, and there is quite literally something for everyone. Put simply, not everything is Call of Duty.
2. You don’t have to be “good”—that is, have any skill whatsoever—to have fun and enjoy video games.
So for those who are curious about games, but intimidated or turned off by the stigma around them, I’ve compiled a list of affordable and accessible games that you can experiment with! These games are designed to be low pressure, easy to pick up and super fun. They also happen to be some of the most popular games in the world right now, so trying even just one will give you an easy conversation starter with any gamer-friend.
And who knows, we might even make a gamer out of you! Here’s the list:
1. “Portal:” First-person, single-player puzzle game, perfect for people who’ve never played a game in their lives.
If you’ve ever thought, “I can’t be a gamer because I don’t know how to play video games / I’m no good at them,” I can’t recommend the Portal series enough. In ths single-player puzzle game, you play as a (not overly-sexualized) woman—equipped with only her intelligence, will to survive, and a portal gun—trying to escape the control of a a malicious artificial intelligence. The game’s relatively simple premise gives the player an abundance of space and time to experiment with the controls and progress at their own speed. There are no enemies to shoot at, no other players waiting to take your stuff…It’s just you and the increasingly difficult puzzles. At the same time, the different levels are stitched together with a funny, sometimes dark, and endlessly interesting storyline that will keep you wondering what happens next.
You can play Portal on your PC or Mac for just $0.99 right now on Steam (the most widely-used online store for PC and Mac video games). It’s normally $10, but on sale until July 5!
2. “Minecraft:” a simple and unassuming sandbox game that you can play alone or with friends for hours.
A “sandbox” style game is one that gives you all the toys and entertainment you could ever need right at the beginning, along with all the space to use them as you please. If you’re easily bored with puzzle games and are excited by the idea of having vast world to explore (and build yourself!), you’ll love Minecraft. Besides the occasional creeper, there’s nothing standing in your way of building your dream home, raising farm animals, or exploring the vast 8-bit world. With so much to do, you’ll never want to put down the controller. And maybe after you’ve built a nice neighborhood for yourself, you’ll even invite a friend over!
You can play Minecraft on just about any console, computer, or mobile device through the official website.
3. “Fortnite: Battle Royale:” Hunger Games-style shooter with quick, addicting game-play for the competitive-types.
For those with a more competitive nature, Fortnite offers a great way to get your feet wet in the world of skill-based games in a low-pressure environment. At the beginning of each round, a hundred players parachute onto an island, where they must scavenge for weapons and build forts in an effort to be the last man standing, all while avoiding the Storm, which slowly engulfs the island, pushing the remaining players ever-closer together. At first, it may seem intimidating to play online with 99 other people, but the beauty of Fortnite is when you’re eliminated, you can just jump back in to another game immediately. When I introduce friends to the game, my advice is always to start by dropping to the remote areas of the map, buying time and gathering resources as you go. You’d be surprised how long you can last by simply avoiding other players. I highly recommend everyone give this game a try or two, if for no other reason than because it is the most popular game in the world right now and I personally think everyone should get a chance to see why.
4. “Stardew Valley:” a soothing farming game, made for the perfectionist in us all.
If you ever played with Tamagotchis as a kid, you know all about virtual responsibility, and would probably love this game. As the new kid in town, who’s just inherited his grandfather’s land, you’ll build the farm of your dreams, make friends with the locals, and adopt as many animals as you have space for, all in a relatively simple, yet beautiful game. Stardew Valley’s depictions of agriculture is often described as being strangely meditative, and ideal for beginners who aren’t interested in a gaming experience with too much complication.
5. “Pokemon GO:” the first video game designed for outdoorsy people.
If the thought of playing a relaxing game at home isn’t your forte, I have good news for you, too. Pokemon GO was revolutionary for the gaming community, as it was the first time a game purposefully and skillfully incorporated the player’s real-world geographic location and augmented reality into its core mechanics. Plus, even more surprisingly, it actually rewarded players for getting out of the house and exploring far-away lands, rather than sitting still to play. And while the game has largely faded from public view since its absolutely explosive launch last year, lots of people are still playing, and the developers have made a ton of great additions (including the ability to trade Pokemon with your friends), so it’s definitely not too late to jump on the bandwagon. This light-weight game is also an incredibly un-intimidating way to introduce yourself to the greater Pokemon universe, aka one of the most beloved game franchises of all time.