By: Myron Madden
Growing up, my little sister and I had an arrangement.
Every weekend, I would play make-believe with her in her Barbie dream house (don’t hate on Barbie, y’all), and in return, she would spend a couple hours playing Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros Brawl with me.
It was the perfect business transaction. There was just one problem.
After mercilessly flaunting my superiority on the Rainbow Bridge and Smashville arena one too many times, my sister quickly became disinterested in video games as a whole, putting my invitation to Barbie and Ken’s oceanfront wedding in jeopardy and, more importantly, leaving me without a Player Two.
If you’ve been a gamer long enough, you’ve likely seen that same look of disinterest on a sibling, friend, or significant other’s face at the mention of wielding your console’s neglected second controller.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are a few tricks I’ve developed over the years to keep co-workers, lady friends, and even my sister coming back for more screen time so I never have to game alone.
STEP 1: Pick the perfect game.
While there are plenty of co-op and PvP games to choose from, I typically lean towards brawlers when attempting to seduce my captives to the way of the console. The novelty of testing out each fighter paired with a sense of friendly competition typically makes for a memorable experience.
I recommend choosing a game like Injustice 2, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, or Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, whose rosters include characters any non-geek may be able to recognize, making the gaming experience feel a little less foreign.
STEP 2: Don’t mansplain the controls.
You may think you’re being helpful by listing all the combos before (and during) each match, but all you’re doing is stressing your companion out and perpetuating the idea that all video games are unmanageably complex.
If your opponent prefers to button mash or cheese on that one kick move, don’t discourage or berate. Half the fun is figuring out how the game works, anyhow.
Instead of backseat gaming, offer a quick overview of the basics and wait for your opponent to ask for further advice. Eventually, he or she will accidentally trigger a special move and turn to you with an awe-struck “How did I do that?” That’s how you know you got ’em hooked.
STEP 3: Make each match hella close.
You may consider going easy on your opponent blasphemy of the highest caliber, but consider this: Every time you start a new video game, the developers are taking it easy on you to avoid scaring you off.
Show your opponent the same courtesy by switching on a handicap or:
Evading - Toy with your opponent by taking evasive maneuvers to stay just out of reach of their attacks. Between chasing you around the screen and figuring out the controls, your opponent will be less likely to notice that you aren’t on the offense.
Jabbing - Stick to light attacks that will send your opponent into panic mode without actually doing too much damage. The only downside to this approach is that it’ll leave you with fewer opportunities to show off the more impressive feats of your chosen character.
Countering - Let your opponent shave down your health bar about 80% before you get serious. If they see that they were this close to beating you, they’ll feel as if they’re improving, making them all the more motivated to play until they win.
STEP 4: Fall on your sword—but with finesse.
After a few rounds, let your opponent win, then get ready to do a bit of acting. Instead of feigning surprise or applauding them on their achievement, try to brush off their win as beginner’s luck or tell them you’ve been taking it easy on them.
When they don’t believe you, put on your best look of determination and tell them that you’re playing for real now — that you’re not taking it easy on them anymore. This is where it really gets interesting.
Start off the next match strong, then hold back until you’re both down to your last 10-20% of health. Then, with the competition at its most intense, lose as flashily as possible.
As your opponent begins to gloat, you can either throw your hands up in defeat and humbly admit to their superiority… or you can put on a look of playful indignation, demand a rematch, and relish the hours of friendly competition that follow.