The Dos and Don’ts Of Selling Your Friend On Your Favorite Game

Gaming

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Alphinaud wielding his Sage weapons in combat

We all have that one game we love so much, we want to share with as many people as possible. Unless you’re a gatekeeper of the things that bring you joy, you’ve probably tried to get a friend, family member, partner, or stranger on the street to play a game you love in hopes that it will similarly enrich their lives. The sad truth, however, is that it doesn’t always work out. But how can this be? I know how good [insert game here] is! Why are they not immediately jumping on it as I’m telling them it will change their life?

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Friends, I’ll tell you this: If I’ve learned anything from talking about video games for decades, it’s that selling people on something you love is a skill not everyone has. You can give the most passionate reasoning as to why someone should play a video game and there’s a non-zero chance that you could actually make them want to play it less. Here are a few tips on the dos and don’ts of selling people on playing the games you love.

Joker sits bloody and bruised at a table.

The biggest hurdle you have to overcome in getting people to do something you want them to do is time investment. There are many games I will never play just because I don’t want to spend hundreds of hours on something when I’m busy enough and still gotta get my Overwatch 2 dailies in. So one of the quickest ways to lose the attention of your prospective game player is to tell them that they’re going to have to slog through several fairly dull opening hours to get to the good shit. Unfortunately, this is a trap many games fall into, but you don’t need to start dragging the game from the get-go when delivering your pitch. It’s better to bring attention to the parts of those opening hours that are actually worth seeing, while also giving tips on how they can expedite or avoid some of the less exciting stuff. Think of it like when you give a dog a pill but you cover it in cheese or peanut butter. You can’t lead by undermining your argument.

Sora and Kairi stand in a world made up of mostly sky.

So this one’s complicated. Telling people that a video game series has an overarching story that is worth seeing through may sound like a plus after you’ve been on that ride and seen it to the end for yourself. But think of the person who has never played Kingdom Hearts or Mass Effect being told, “You’ve gotta play several hundred hours of multiple games to see what the hype is about.” Sometimes that can be an easier sell thanks to collections like Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, but the point is: never forget that time investment is the biggest obstacle you’re trying to overcome here. Let someone start off by seeing if they even like the thing before you start making them commit to several games.

A group of Street Fighter 6 players in a lobby.

If the game you’re trying to sell someone on has a multiplayer component, the easiest way to get someone to play it is to make it a group activity. That way you’re not just throwing them a recommendation they have to sort through by themselves. Multiplayer games are meant to be played with friends, after all, so if you’re a relative expert, help them get past the early learning curve by offering to teach or learn alongside them. Approaching a fighting game or hero shooter on your own and trying to learn all its intricacies yourself is intimidating. Hop into the training room and show them the ropes.

Characters from Midnight Suns stand on a roof.

If you’re recommending something to a friend, it’s because you assume they, specifically, are going to like it. I’d hope so, at least. People know not to try and get me to play Madden because I don’t play sports games. But if you’re trying to get someone to play something similar to other games they like, make those comparisons with specificity. Telling a BioWare fan that Marvel’s Midnight Suns has party member relationships is the kind of hook that will get someone to try a new type of RPG they might not be familiar with. You can’t just tell them, “It’s like Mass Effect,” though. That’s vague, and won’t actually pan out when they boot it up and find it’s not a role-playing shooter. Lean into their favorite things so they have something to latch onto, but be thoughtful and specific about how you make those comparisons.

The Ferryman sits on his boat.

Do you know how many people I’ve gotten to play GoodbyeWorld Games’ incredible, eye-tracking adventure game Before Your Eyes by telling them it’s just 90 minutes long? More than I can count on two hands. As we’ve said, time is your biggest hurdle to jump when selling someone on a game, but it can also be your greatest asset. Getting someone to try something they can beat in a sitting or two is much easier than trying to get them to commit to something like a second job. Speaking of which…

Final Fantasy XIV characters pose for a photo.

Final Fantasy XIV fans love to tell people that Square Enix’s critically acclaimed MMORPG has a free trial up to the Stormblood expansion. But that’s still a lot of video game. And then you’ve got three more expansions and all the patch quests to get through, on top of all the other capital C Content the fourteenth Final Fantasy has to offer. Trying to sell someone on something that will devour their life when they don’t even know if they’re going to like it is like telling someone that if they go on a specific date with this person they’ve never met they are definitively going to get married and settle down. Sure, that sounds like an exciting prospect to you, but lay off the gas for a second. Telling someone they’ve got to add another live-service game to their schedule is asking them to make a big commitment. Let them test the waters and maybe offer to play it with them, instead of making them feel like they have to sign their life away.

An image shows the covers of different games on sale during the Steam Summer Sale.

Time is one barrier, but money is another. An important part of getting someone into a game is making it easy on their wallet. Strike when the iron’s hot, and by that I mean when a game is in a Steam sale or has landed on a subscription service like Game Pass. If you really want to help get things moving, buy it for them when it’s on sale. Everyone’s struggling right now. Spare them a few bucks and they might be more inclined to play a game (or obligated, if you surprise them with it as a Steam gift.)

A character in Final Fantasy 14 wears a hood with ears as colorful effects spark to life behind them.

People play video games for different reasons. Some people want tight mechanics. Others want a story they can immerse themselves in that lets them make big, impactful decisions. Selling someone on the game you like is about recognizing the audience you’re pitching, and the difference between them deciding to play it or not may come down to you knowing how your tastes and priorities differ. If the only way you know how to talk about something is by focusing on how it aligns with your favorite things about video games, you’re not speaking the right language for people who might gravitate toward something else entirely. If, for instance, you’re a graphics sicko but your friend doesn’t give a fuck about how many polygons make up a character’s face, don’t even bring it up. Cater to their tastes above your own.

An L.A. Noire investigation

Sometimes people might have questions about a game and you might consider the answer a spoiler. But if they’re earnestly asking for something as a hook to get into the game, give them a warning, but don’t gatekeep that information. Mystery is good, but if you’re already operating with someone who needs convincing to play your favorite game, those questions are extending an olive branch that you should accept. Would you rather keep them in the dark and have them not feel the drive to play the game, or give them something to grab their attention so they actually see it through?

Hajime counters a false statement.

I started playing the Yakuza series in exchange for a friend starting the Danganronpa games. I didn’t have much interest in the crime drama games, but when a friend offered to play one of my favorite games in exchange for me starting Yakuza 0, that felt like a perfect way to get into the series. He stopped playing after one chapter, so I took a blood oath to never play any of the Yakuza games until he got back to it. But you could be better and follow through on any such deal with your friend.

Kiryu crying and shit.

All of that being said, sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Maybe you’re never gonna get that person to hop into your Halo custom game or join your Final Fantasy XIV free company. Stop trying to make fetch happen if it’s not going to happen. Find a different game to play together, or see if there’s another favorite on your list that might jive with them. But don’t harp on it for years on end if you don’t feel like you’re making any progress. That’s just a waste of everyone’s time that could be better spent actually playing something.

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