When I think back on some of my favorite games, my mind often jumps to the obvious highlights: huge boss fights at the end of a raid, competitive victories pulled from the jaws of defeat, the Hail Mary passes, and the dramatic betrayals. These moments often come in the wake of high skill play. They're the result of you and your friends operating like a well oiled machine, or squaring off against an equally skilled opponent, or even simply defeating a tough dungeon in a single player game.
But this weekend, I remembered that some of my favorite gaming moments are actually about teaching games to people, which means playing with someone that has a really low level of skill, sometimes even someone who's never played the game in question before at all.
If you know that I used to teach this probably doesn't come as much of a surprise, but there's a unique sort of joy that I get from sharing a game with a new, interested player and helping them come to grips with it. It's not just that I'm getting one more friend to play a game with, it's that the actual process of teaching is itself deeply rewarding—and sometimes, even a challenge on par with a secret boss or a top-tier competitive match.
There's something deeply satisfying about figuring out how to teach someone a new game. Take Android: Netrunner, the cyberpunk card game that's probably my own personal favorite to teach. It's a game with a really hard to parse instruction manual, and while publisher Fantasy Flight Games did create a flashy tutorial video, it's not exactly attention-keeping work.
So when I played with Waypoint freelancer Jack de Quidt this weekend, I taught him the basics by leaning into the fictional analogies that Netrunner already supports so well. But when I taught the game to a student of economics and fan of clever design, I focused in on the clever systems of interaction and hidden information that make Netrunner such a smart game.
What's great about teaching someone a game is that you get someone to play with once you're done. But there's also simply joy in the teaching. Go back and watch this video of me showing off Crusader Kings 2 to Vinny and Alex over at Giant Bomb. Yes, I wanted to teach them the basics of the game, but I also just had an opportunity to fall back in love with one of my favorites. Or watch the first episode of our Breakfast and Battlegrounds series:
Not only was teaching Patrick a way to get to play one of the best games of the year at work every day, it was also a way to bond with my good, good son who I love dearly.
Netrunner's narrative hooks offer a strong entry point, and PUBG and CK2 are basically anecdote generators, with each session providing a "you had to be there" moment to be shared between players, but teaching other games is not such an easy task. Never ask me about the time I tried to teach a group of indifferent college friends one of the notoriously complex indie tabletop RPGs I loved. Not a great weekend.
So, what are your favorite games to teach to other folks? Or is teaching not your thing? Either way, let me know over in the forums!