The Art of Backseat Gaming

I have a confession to make.  I am a terrible gamer.  No really, your mom is in all likelyhood a gifted player compared to me.  And yet, being the complicated and multi-layered lady I am, I LOVE video games.  I just can’t play them is all.  No big deal.  I revel in my hobby as a backseat gamer instead.

It all started in the days of young 'un Smalerie when I would be invited to my friends’ houses to play Nintendo.  Video games had been banned in the Smalerie/Tiny Doom household.  We had a computer, so eventually most of our game time would be spent in the delight of point-and-click Sierra games.  Certainly a good place to be, but a shocking lack of mustachioed brothers.


The afternoons spent at my friend’s house kinda went like this.  I would take my turn, be dead in a minute or two, and then spend the next 20 minutes or so watching her play.  She was a pro and before I knew it, my lives would be used up and she would keep plugging along until it was time for my mom to pick me up.  It might sound like my friend was being selfish, but I actually began to really enjoy watching the games.  I didn’t want to play because my learning curve would get in the way of me seeing all the different worlds, crazy items, and ultra violent finishing moves.  And as the years went by, the games got better.  I was able to develop a very refined button mashing technique, but rarely finished a game on my own.

Then in my 20s, disaster struck.  I developed carpal tunnel.  It was quite severe and at my worst, I lost about 50% strength in my right hand.  In order to avoid surgery, I had to quit a lot of hobbies cold turkey, and that included games.  If I couldn’t pick up a frying pan to cook dinner, that certainly meant no more evenings at the keyboard or with a gamepad in hand, and to add insult to injury, I had recently fallen in love with an avid gamer.

Onward my faithful bunnies!

The solution was surprisingly simple.  Choose my games carefully (you can pry my Katamari games out of my cold, dead, twisted hands) and know when to observe and when to yell suggestions from the futon.  So many of today’s games are down right cinematic and great to watch, so this solution can work pretty well, even if you need to read a book while the player runs some side missions. Or in the case of the new Deadpool game that just came out last week, take some time to write a blog post.

In the interest of sharing some of the gaming love with others like me who don’t or can’t play video games for whatever reason, I am listing a few of my favorite watched (but never played) games below - including some games that are a bit easier on your hands, wrists, joints, or whatever.

Best games for backseat gaming:

Legend of Zelda - it is hard to name just one game in this series because the stories are usually really really great.  The most recent one I “played” was Twilight Princess.  It was beautiful to watch and an engaging story.  Best of all, even the boring parts stay interesting because of all the different lands and terrains you visit. I bet the more recent games are also great, but i don’t think it would be very easy to backseat game with a 3DS...unless you and the player are REAL close.

BioShock - The grandaddy of them all. While BioShock II suffered from a less developed story, watching these games is almost better than playing them.  It gives you a great opportunity to really look around at all the painstaking detail.  Seriously, for me, there were times when I was annoyed that the action would  get in the way of me picking out all the art deco details in Rapture, or marveling at the floating city of Columbia.  An added bonus is that you are continuously getting more and more of the story through the series of recordings your character finds.  These games are the BEST.  No really, after hours of playing/watching, you will dream about BioShock, in a good way.

Kingdom Hearts - Stop rolling your eyes!!!!  You knew this was coming! Do I even need to explain this??? Added bonus, singing along with all the Disney songs while you play.  BTW - Am I the only one who prays for a Robin Hood level every time they announce a new game?  Dream mini-game:  Badminton against Lady Cluck


Tomb Raider - My guy is currently playing this game and we haven’t gotten very far, but it is really solid.  We are with Lara on her very first expedition and the story moves in such a way that there is not only action, but a progression of her character as well.

Games that won't break your wrists:

Telltale Games - Meet your new best friends.  Telltale has single-handedly brought back the point and click adventure game.  These are all about story and you spent  a lot more time discovering and problem solving than shooting or running around.  Best ones for far?  Sam and Max, and Walking Dead.  Am VERY excited for the upcoming Bigby Fables game.

Animal Crossing - It’s a lot like all those Facebook games all the kids are playing now-a-days.  You get to build your own community and the whole thing is pretty adorable.  It is easy to pick up and put down, has actual seasons, and since you already paid for the game, you don’t have to bother your friends for items and power-ups.  Then again, it IS a lot more fun with friends.

So my friendly gamers and non-gamers alike, you played anything good recently?  Tell us about it below.