What does gaming look like from the “other side?” For most of us, grabbing a controller and turning on our consoles is second nature, and the mechanics required to move, jump, shoot, or interact with objects seems natural. But there are people – crazy people – who have never played video games. It seems hard to believe, but it’s true, and this familiarity with games we take for granted can be something of a shock to an outsider looking in.
Which brings me to this article by Nicholson Baker, written in 2010 for The New Yorker called Painkiller Deathstreak. In it he details his journey picking up a controller for the first time and attempting to play some of this generation’s bigger titles (of the time) while describing games and hardware that, when read by a seasoned gamer, sounds as though he might be an ambassador detailing our entertainment devices to aliens.
To begin, you must master the controller. On the Xbox 360 controller, which looks like a catamaran, there are seventeen possible points of contact. There’s the left trigger and the right trigger, the left bumper and the right bumper, two mushroom-shaped joysticks, a circular four-way pad, two small white buttons, each with triangles molded into them, and a silver dome in the middle that glows green when you press it. Then, there are the very important colored buttons: the blue X, the green A, the red B, and the yellow Y. On the slightly smaller Sony PlayStation 3’s controller, the buttons are similar, except that in place of the colored letters you’ve got the green triangle, the pink square, the red O, and the blue X. (The PlayStation 3’s blue X button is in a different place than the Xbox 360’s blue X button—madness.)
The article goes on from there to discuss his time with Halo: ODST, Uncharted 2, CoD: MW2, and Assassin’s Creed II, among a few others. Take some time and see what games might look like if your desensitized self had never played them.