Last week, I talked a lot about how a veteran’s attitude during a tournament can really affect another player’s gaming experience, especially if it’s that player’s first one. More important than that first tournament though, is a player’s introduction to games in the first place. If you had a negative experience learning your first games, chances are you’ll never have to worry about how you’ll be treated in your first tournament because the idea of attending one won’t have any kind of appeal. I know now that when I’m teaching someone a game for the first time, I have the power to forge a bond between the player and game, if I play my cards right. There’s a pretty easy technique that can usually get someone to like a game, or at least make them willing to play the game a second time. It’s the technique my father used on me which I like to call the “let the wookie win” strategy. Beat a wookie in a game and you risk being beaten to death with your own arms. But if you let him beat you, he gets to say he won and you get to keep your arms, yay! While you might not lose life or limb by beating a new player, you could lose the opportunity of enjoying that game with the person you just beat.
Like I said before, my father used this technique on me the first time I ever played Risk. He explained how the game worked and continued to explain as we played. He helped me make good decisions and he explained why he made some of his. When I ended up victorious, I was so excited! I wasn’t so lucky the second time around, but I was able to cling to that first victory and know that it wasn’t impossible to beat him. I didn’t win that game by a large margin, he put up enough of a fight to make it challenging for me, but he did tell me a few years down the road that he let me win and why. By letting me win, he not only made me want to play again, but I wanted to try other games as well. By using this technique, my father instilled in me a love for games that I still have to this day. My introduction to Halo, on the other hand, was not so happy.
My first experience with Halo was playing multiplayer against some of my friends. I spent the entire time being sniped in the face about every five seconds. I didn’t get one kill and my friend kept bragging about how amazing he was at killing me without even using the scope. I didn’t rip anyone’s arms off (in case you’re worried) but, after that particular experience, it was years before I even considered giving Halo another shot.
If my first introduction to games had been like that, I probably wouldn’t be playing games today. Actually, if my father hadn’t been such an awesome teacher I wouldn’t have even wanted to give Halo another chance. But, he was and I did. Now, it’s one of my favorite games. By letting me win, my father might have sacrificed one game in his lifetime record, but what he gained was a willing and competent opponent for the rest of his life. I’m mainly writing this to urge all my fellow veteran gamers to evaluate the way that they treat younger and new players. The way you choose to play can and will set the precedent for the rest of their lives. I would also like to encourage anyone who’s had a rotten experience with games, anyone who had the spark but had it smothered by an inconsiderate player to give it another shot. Go to a local game store. Shop owners are some of the nicest people you’re likely to meet. They want you to come back to their shop, not only because they need your money to buy food, but because a lot of them are in the business because they love the games. They want to see that love get passed on, not hoarded. Next time you’re teaching someone how to play, consider letting the wookie win. I mean, if Han Solo recommended it, it must be a good idea!