Steam winter sales: Simple ways to get into gaming
Christmas is upon us! What does that mean? It's the time when all the games ever go on sale. All of them. No exceptions. Insanely low prices also mean that this is the perfect time to experiment, try out new things... and maybe even try out what all the fuss is about with gaming in general? Like any hobby, games are something to be shared. And if you were at least the slightest bit interested in the world of games, you might find a decent starting point here.
In this article, I've taken some of the more popular genres and picked entry points that are both interesting and easy to learn. I wanted to make this as accessible as possible. If you're interested in the games, you'll find several digital distributors that 'll stock them Easiest to use, would be gog.com, which requires no client or copyright protection. The biggest one Steam. You're more than welcome to try other online retailers, such as GamersGate or the HumbleStore, but unfortunately, these will also require Steam's client the majority of the time. If you've never used Steam, you'll need to download said client, where all your games will be managed. With that in mind, lets start!
I'd like to go on an adventure! (Nightmares of the Deep: The Cursed Heart)
Point-and-click adventure games are from a reality of their own. A reality, where logic works in very obscure ways sometimes. Putting a coin on the ground, so you can give a wedgie your greatest enemy and thus create a voodoo doll to save your life is not unheard of as a perfectly legitimate solution to every day problems. Still, adventure games have a lot to offer in terms of story, lore and characters. For an entry point into this vast genre, we turn to Artifex Mundi, a publisher that largely specialises in one thing: hidden object games. A special kind of adventure game, that relies on minigames, where you have to find certain hidden objects on a screen. There's tons of these. The concept is simple – find all items in a minigame, get one useful item in return, use that on an obstacle. The static images of Artifex Mundi games are really gorgeous and you'll get to see some beautiful, haunting locations. The dynamic images are really really cheesy though, complemented with some wonky voice acting. So you usually get a decent story that you don't really have to take too seriously, complemented with a game mechanic, that offers a lot of hints should you feel overwhelmed. Also, Nightmares of the Deep: The Cursed Heart features zombie pirates. You can't go wrong with zombie pirates.
But I'd rather just explore stuff... (The Stanley Parable)
Exploration has always been a major part of games for as long as they existed. However, for the longest time, it's been more of a complimentary element to other game mechanics, like fighting or solving puzzles. Enter a new, emerging genre: the walking simulator. Seriously, you just walk and look around. That's it. No monsters, no puzzles. You explore a given area, while the environment and a narrator are trying to tell you a story. The Stanley Parable is lauded to use this mechanic to become both one of the best commentaries on games and one of the funniest to boot. It makes the player go and challenge perceptions that are presented in not just in gaming, but also social media, storytelling and even existence itself. With a great narrator and dozens of endings, The Stanley Parable will have you exploring for quite a while.
What's a tower defence? (Unholy Heights)
Another genre that recently became popular, especially on mobile devices and tablets. The basic goal is to prevent an advancing force to reach their goal, by setting up various types of defenses. Unholy Heights, gives the whole concept an interesting spin. You're the Devil. You build up an apartment complex that various monsters can rent rooms in and fight off invaders that want to steal treasure from you. The tenants include such fearsome creatures as Werewolves, Vampires, Succubi and... uhh... Chickens. The game is not only easy to get into, it has a very engaging personal element. All your tenant have preferences, personal lives. They get jobs, find partners, get kids. Kids move out, find loved ones... It won't take long before you start impressing personalities on the little creatures and genuinely care for them. Like that one time, when both parents of a flying-egg-thing child die to a hero and then instead of kicking the child out you let him stay and fight through life, going to school, growing up and then find someone and start a family and...what? No, there's just something in my eye.... leave me alone, damn you!
I hear two dudes fighting each other is popular? (Divekick)
Fighting games are a very complex beast. It takes years of practice and dedication to not only understand how various concepts implemented in various games work, but also master the move sets that come with your favourite characters and perfect a delicate play of rock, paper, scissors as you test your opponent's attack and defences... And after all that effort, all that hard work, you are free to watch it all go for naught, when you lose to someone, who just desperately mashes all the buttons at random. Fighting games are a cruel mistress, but still a lot of fun. To understand the adrenaline that comes with the genre though, let's dumb the whole concept down to its barest essentials. Jumping and subsequently kicking. Divekick is part game, part parody of the jumping and kicking strategy employed ad nauseam as one of the most effective beginner moves. If you kick your opponent, you instantly win the round. While a very simple concept, the mechanics are very responsive, the characters nicely varied and well worth learning to maneuver. The instant death attacks and the short rounds raise the stakes high and prevent any button mashing from being effective. Best played with a couple of friends for added hilarity.
What if I wanna beat up more than one guy though? (One Finger Death Punch)
Beat 'em up is a genre that pits one guy against hordes of incoming enemies. And the weapons against such unfair odds? His MANLY FISTS OF MANLINES (TM) and the occasional baseball bat lying around. While very popular in the past and to some extent in arcades still, the beat 'em up genre could really use a bit more love from developers these days. Then we could get a few more games like One Finger Death Punch. The game has a very simple concept: you're a stickman. There's other stickmen coming at your from left and right. If they get close enough, you press either the left or right mouse button to attack in the respective direction. If you miss, you give your enemies time to attack you. Fast paced, easy to learn, and ridiculously visceral in its presentation, One Finger Death Punch is an exceptional example of simplified game mechanics done right.
This concludes our little foray into gaming for now. We've had action, drama, adventure and comedy neatly packed into small packages that are ready to be discovered by anyone ready to try something different. Or perhaps more of the same, if you're already a fan of said genres. I'm hoping I piqued your at least a bit and will perhaps look at other genres some other time.