Bring the newbs into the fold.
Anyone who possesses considerable knowledge about an area of general interest will inevitably be asked about it. When that interest is something like video games, people will ask for recommendations. As someone who has fielded a hefty number of video game requests (or offered them up), I’ve got a few useful questions for those who want to help others interested in this wonderful medium.
What do you play?
Just about everyone plays a video game of some kind these days. Whether it’s a 100 hour JPRG epic or Sudoku, video games have conquered the world. The value of asking this question is two fold: First, you can identify what kind of games they like. Presumably, if a game already draws their interest, than a similar game would do the same thing. Start thinking of recommendations that do something different or refine a concept that the target audience already likes. Second, the games they mention give the recommender an idea of the type of gameplay the person is used to. If they’re primarily sticking to phone games, than recommending Dark Souls or Hearts of Iron is probably a bad idea. Conversely, a Dark Souls player probably isn’t interested in the generic Match-3 style game that would act as a good introduction for less experienced players. Knowing what they play also leads to the very revealing next question:
Why do you play X game?
The obvious answer to this question might sound like a typical game review: “I like the story and graphics” or “the gameplay is really fun.” These are valuable answers in trying to deduce what to recommend, but the best answers get to the heart of why the person plays video games at all. Of all the available mediums out there, this person chose video games for a specific reason that speaks to their approach to games and what games to recommend. A player who plays games to waste time while traveling isn’t going to be interested in the latest Call of Duty and nor will the player who uses puzzle games to keep their mind sharp. Link your game recommendation to why a player picks up a controller in the first place and they’re far more likely to try it out.
What are their other interests?
Particularly for new gamers, associating a game with something they already love is a great way to get them interested. Taping an existing interest allows the newer gamer to approach a foreign activity (gaming) with something familiar (the associated interest). I recently recommended a cricket game to a colleague who watched the sport. While he didn’t really play video games generally, his favorable view of cricket gave him extra incentive to try the game and his existing knowledge made it easier for him to play. For more experienced players, plumbing their interests is still an excellent source of gaming innovation. Looking at what they love may help them try games they’ve never thought of and break them out of a rut. The basic idea is simple: if they like it in the real world, there’s a good chance they’ll like it in a game.
What game machine(s) do they possess?
This is a simple question, but an important one. One of the biggest hurdles any gamer will face is finding a machine to play their games on. Smartphones are ubiquitous these days so that’s a good start for any newer gamer. More experienced gamers may have several gaming machines. In this case, don’t limit yourself to just the most recent generation. Plenty of players missed excellent games on their older systems. Look back and see if you can’t get them to revisit a dusty console in search of gaming gold.
These are starter questions, but the real key is to let the other person guide your response. By tailoring your recommendation to their words, you’ll have a much better chance of recommending something they’ll enjoy playing. Avoid trying to force your preferences. For many gamers, if it doesn’t sound like fun to them, they won’t even try it. In the end, remember the best recommendations focus on what the target audience likes. Explore their interests, and you’ll find something they’ll enjoy.