Adventures of a Non-Gamer


by Shawnie Kelly (@DearShawnie)

Two weeks ago I woke up feeling happy and fulfilled, which my brain interprets 100% of the time as the signal to jump into something stressful and ridiculous. Enter video games.

I am not a video game nerd by any stretch of the imagination. I am a book nerd. I am a word nerd. (Thesaurus party anyone?) But, no, not a gaming nerd. Nintendo 64 circa 1998 is the extent of my experience and I played only one game… GoldenEye 007. I was ten years old and my three brothers and I would play for literally hours on end. Four player was vital in helping establish those healthy family dynamics like first-borns always getting to be first player, last-borns crying when their players are killed (he was five), and middle children fighting over who gets to be the bad guy. I lost this battle often as bad guys are usually “guys” — a minor flaw in my otherwise rock solid argument.

My limited resume didn’t stop me from moving forward with the plan: joining the modern day world of gaming.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect to pick it up and be fully immersed into this seemingly complex culture immediately. All the different consoles and different games and different gadgets are enough to make this book nerd cry like a scared, confused baby. Or a five year old playing GoldenEye. So, I decided to enlist the people who I knew would be down for some quality educational video game sessions. Turns out those brothers are good for something after all — specifically little brothers Peter and Jordan. I texted them separately and hoped they wouldn’t have time to discuss amongst themselves what a terrible idea this truly was. For some reason, they both agreed.

Okay, video games are different now. I expected this of course, but really not to the extent that it’s true. Every game has approximately six and a half hours worth of background information to familiarize yourself with. (Slight exaggeration). I wasn’t allowed to skip the narrative scenes as this is apparently the cardinal sin. I like how you’re supposed to absorb the information without actually getting bogged down in the details. The brothers didn’t like it when I asked specific plot questions like: “Wait, why is the princess wandering around alone in a dark forest? Does she want to die?” or “Wait, wait, this is 5,000 years later? Is that large of a time lapse necessary to the story’s progression?”

Did you know that “sshhhhh” is the most annoying sound a human is capable of making?

Another interesting discovery — you play video games in complete darkness? People, this is all
kinds of unnecessary! I mean I totally get why you do it, the ambiance factor and whatnot. But,
that controller is the Millennium Falcon motherboard and I am a mere mortal… in complete
darkness. I made a mental note to speak with the manufacturer of all things controller and ask
why their logical ordering sequence is “Y, X, A, B.” Those letters are out of order, you guys.

Jordan suggested easing me into the situation rather than throwing me to the wolves, so they started with Fable III because — and I quote — it was “pretty.” I told myself not to be insulted that this was their sole criteria for choosing my game. I played for a little while, but soon wanted to get in on some action. I meandered over to Peter’s collection and randomly chose Splinter Cell: Conviction. I liked the name and hello, anything endorsed by Tom Clancy gets this book nerd’s automatic stamp of approval.

Oh man.

First of all, I know that I’m directionally challenged in real life, but if this game were reality…I would be what we refer to as a “barely functioning human.” One joystick is for movement, the other is a camera — this caused some probs.

“HIT B! HIT B!!” This is Peter’s favorite thing to yell in the midst of an attack from every direction.

“You mean C?!” I squealed.

“There is no C!!” They screamed in unison.

“Stop yelling at me!”

Boys are so scary. I cried a little, but it’s okay. I asked for this. I wanted this. Tough love, right?

I thought my lack of skill was maybe just a girl thing. But, girls do many things that go against our nature, like parallel parking and believing men when they say they’re listening, No, this wasn’t a girl problem. This was a me problem. After several absolute massacres on my virtual mind, body, and soul, I started to get the hang of moving my guy around. This was a total confidence booster.

Then it happened. My first kill. I heard the Hallelujah Chorus which, now that I’m thinking about it, might seem out of place. But it totally worked in the situation. Trust this. I’m now on level three and have been at the same checkpoint approximately 12 times, but I’m loving it. Moving on to other games is the eventual plan. For now though, this is about all my fragile mental gaming state can handle.

My next hurdle is learning some lingo. I personally believe that this would be best accomplished by throwing on one of those cute little head sets and connecting with those monster children that say really horrific things. I don’t know what “pwning noobs” means, but I have every intention of finding out. Jordo and Pete, however, are not down with this plan.

“Do you love mom?” Jordan asked.

“Yes, very much. She’s lovely.” I replied.

“Then don’t ever put on one of those headsets.”

We’ll see. Wish me luck.

Photo Credit Caleb Paullus


  1. NatalieJuly 30th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Haha this article basically explains my intro to gaming also. HUGE fan of Golden Eye, and to this day still believe its the BEST EVER console game. When i moved to the Xbox, the only game i owned was Halo. One day a mate suggested i broaden my gaming library. He gave me a huge list of games that i ‘must buy’ and so it began.

    and i never looked back. Though i must say, being the newbie and being dragged into Call of Duty mulitplayer with all of my mates, was absolutely terriflying. but amazing fun!

  2. WintorzJuly 30th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Haha I want to hear more about this little adventure!! Also something I’ve noticed (and you bring it up) is non-gamers tend to be all about the action of a game (like skipping the cut-scenes). What is so frustrating about it is that immediately after the next section of “action” starts, they ask me what’s going on….
    ….And I revel in not telling them, muhahaha!!

  3. VanessaAugust 1st, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Love this article! My “gaming” journey ended at Contra. This year at NERD HQ I had nothing to do for a few minutes, so I picked up an Xbox controller and tried to play some game. I don’t even know what it was. Assassin? No clue… Cut to 10 minutes later. I was sweating and being yelled at for not pushing the right buttons. That controller had waaaaaaaay too many buttons. And triggers. And joysticks. And arrows. And colors.

    I put down my controller and stepped away. 🙂

  4. FranciscoAugust 1st, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Great article. I could remember when I tried my first shooter, the good old days of Wolfenstein 3D. Although the transition from golden eye to something like splinter cell is very logical, FPS (First Person Shooters) are games that demand a lot of hand-eye coordination and pressing a lot of buttons at the same time, because of this, I would recommend simpler games to ease you into the situation, as you mentioned. I think platformers (like Mario or Sonic) are a great way to do that. Two recent titles that are amazing and available in the xbox store are Limbo and Super Meat Boy. You only need to use one joystick and in the case of Limbo, you just use one button, B if I’m not mistaken. Also I would love to read your continuing advances in this mad world of gaming.

    ps. The X Y A B “standard” was created by Nintendo in the days of the Super NES, and they chose those letters to mark that there are two diagonal groups from bottom to top. I guess Microsoft saw that it was a good format. Sony on the other hand uses another convention for the PlayStation: circle, triangle, square and X.

  5. ShawnAugust 1st, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Thanks guys!!

    Wintorz – “What’s going on?” is my favorite question, mostly in gaming but also just in life. And yes, I am continuing this journey. Perhaps you’ll see more!

    Natalie – We can all agree that Call of Duty multiplayer is the newbie gamer equivalent of a blind toddler running with bulls. But it’s super fun. Also, we obviously need to start a Golden Eye fan club. OBVIOUSLY!

    Vanessa – The yelling is so hardcore, right? Sweaty palms to the max. Controllers really are so high maintenance. Don’t give up. Show that controller who’s bawsss! 😉

  6. MZAugust 2nd, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Holy cow!! As a non-gamer I too share these similar experiences as you. With my
    Sibling being practically a ‘gamer-addict’, it is nice to read and know I am not the only one who can’t run in a straight line while attempting gaming!!

  7. LirdAugust 9th, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I can so relate to this, but with my husband being the gamer & trying to teach me, but I unfortunately I suck miserably. I remember my brother’s friends teaching me to play Goldeneye too when I was a teenager. But my only success at gaming was with my original gameboy as a kid (am I giving my age away?), it all went down hill after that though! Like you, I know full well it’s a me problem not a girl problem, as I have plenty of girl friends who are brilliant gamers.

  8. Angle PolterNovember 7th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Hey there, this is actually a nice posting. You have my vote for » Adventures of a Non-Gamer The Nerd Machine and I am going to bookmark this blog right now.

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