Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Don't be a stranger - gaming with new housemates

This article can also be found at the Yorker, here.

Dealing with new housemates is difficult. They probably won't clean, they're going to keep you up all hours with music you hate, and lord help you if you let them borrow anything of yours. But unless you can bank on getting your daily dose of human interaction elsewhere, you'll probably want to get to know your housemates better.
And what better means than with video games? (Well, there are lots of better means, but I digress.)
It's very easy to default to FIFA, Call of Duty or similar when thinking about multiplayer household gaming, but those options are a rather limiting - not everyone has a taste for football or first person shooters, so here are a few suggestions to add strings to your friend-making bow.

Mario Kart - Multiple Nintendo Systems

An obvious suggestion, but a good one. Available on any and every Nintendo console post-SNES, you'll struggle to not find it in one form or another. The quality between games is variable (Mario Kart DS is the best one), but in the context of just playing with friends, it matters little. As a bonus, it's incredibly easy to turn it into a drinking game! Personally I like this rule set (should work with all incarnations, works best with Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and onwards):
  • Start a multiplayer race, with 4 tracks picked at random.
  • While racing, any time you are hit with a Red Shell or better, take a drink.
  • At the end of the race, the person who came first (out of the players, computer racers don't count) does not take a drink, 2nd and 3rd place drink once, and 4th place drinks twice.
  • Repeat for all races in the set. At the final standings, 2nd and 3rd place drink twice, 4th place finishes their drink.
  • Drink responsibly. If you end up throwing up I have lost all respect for you.

Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 – PS3 & 360 (Or just fighting games in general)

Fighting games work out to be perfect group entertainment (since it's interesting to watch as well as play), but player skill can be a problem. Two good players competing is dramatic, and two beginner players competing is a great laugh, but if a skilled player is pitted against someone new, the inevitable curbstomping is satisfying to no one (unless the skilled player is a sore winner). MvC3 is a good bet for its easily recognised cast, bright, frantic aesthetics, and a 'simple mode' control scheme for those who aren't confident in their fireball-throwing ability. If it's a game with a large cast, select characters by theme (and take suggestions from those watching to be inclusive!) Some suggestions:
  • Pick a character who went alone to the high school prom.
  • Pick a character who has less than £50 in their savings.
  • Pick a character who has a low tolerance for alcohol.

Kirby's Adventure Wii

Yep. The cutest video game mascot to ever exist is entirely made for Co-Op play, and Kirby's Adventure Wii is the most recent and splendidly made addition to the series. While not a difficult game, it's built around being played by 4 people of any skill level - so anyone can have a blast. And if you're so inclined - enough means to be an evil dick to the other players (not recommended for friend-making). Plus, Kirby is both super cute and super violent in equal measures, so everyone has something to love!

Borderlands & Borderlands 2 – PS3, 360 & PC

If you absolutely must play a game where you ventilate everyone you encounter, Borderlands is enough of an accessible and unusual choice where you can rope in those who would be less likely to play a shooter. Taking on concepts of stats and skills from RPGs, you can work your way across the wasteland with a good weapon, even if your aiming isn't up to snuff. The sequel (released September 21st, just in time for the start of the University year) even has a 'Best Friends Forever' mode that offers skills and special abilities to aid those who are new or terrible at the genre. Personally, that's a godsend.

Free-To-Play Online Games

Okay, hear me out. In situations down the line where you don't have the space at your place to host a gathering, your schedules don't often sync with your friends, or you just don't feel like getting dressed; online gaming is a great way to unwind and still connect with your friends. You need not play a game so demanding of your time and money like World of Warcraft (not that it needs saying); there are plenty of easy to download and play free titles to play in a weekend or a week of free time. The gaming service Steam has a range of free-to-play games (my personal favourite being Spiral Knights), but there's always some cheerful, freshly translated Korean title to try out; and if you can co-ordinate a few friends to join you on your safari, you're bound to have some memorable experiences. MMO Grinder does in-depth reviews on free-to-play games if you need detailed info.

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