Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights for you:
We asked once before what game you would recommend to someone doesn't play them at all, but this is a different kind of recommendation. This week, we want to know what your go-to game is for someone who used to play them but has drifted away for whatever reason.
It happens. Games are a time-consuming hobby, and when people have kids or start their PhDs or whatever it's easy to put them to one side. Maybe they burned out after playing one dud too many, or looking over the shelves and seeing nothing that excites them.
This week's PCG Q&A is What game would you use to tempt people back into loving games?
Jarred Walton: Into the Breach
"Hey, friend! I heard about your recent [choose one: divorce / breakup / unemployment / retirement], and I was thinking you might like to drown your sorrows by escaping back into the joys of the virtual world. Remember all the good times we had 'smoking dope' as kids? [Disclaimer: I've never smoked dope.] That joy can be yours again! All you need to do is to put together a gaming PC and you're set. Let me help you spec out a system..."
Chances are good that if I ended up tempting any of my friends back into PC gaming, I might be joining them with some extra free time as my wife would disown me. What kind of friend gives crack to a recovering addict? But if I'm throwing caution to the wind, any friend of mine is more likely to be interested in role-playing games or something with a good story rather than the latest shooter -- and competitive multiplayer is almost certainly out of the question. (Are there any 'competitive' 40-plus-year-old gamers?) Turn-based strategy games could also work, since you're not being pressured into thinking too quickly.
Actually, I think Into the Breach would be perfect for any of my former gaming friends that have moved on. It looks great and makes you feel clever, even though every enemy move is telegraphed in advance. You can play for 10 minutes or five hours, and leave and return as you will. Even better, it doesn't require an insane PC to run well, and it will work an older laptop. There's a reason it earned our Game of the Year award.
Jody Macgregor: Return of the Obra-Dinn
I'm cheating. The inspiration for this question was this tweet by Kieron Gillen, who played Return of the Obra-Dinn and asked if there were any other games that felt as genuinely new as it. And there definitely are! But it's still one of the best answers to the question. If someone used to be into games then drifted away, there's a decent chance they were put off by the flood of sequels, remakes, and nostalgic crowdfunded homages. Return of the Obra-Dinn may nod at Mac-era adventure games and old-fashioned logic grid puzzles but it's mostly its own thing in a way that's rare.
Lucas Pope's last game before Obra-Dinn was Papers Please, which also felt like its own thing. It was followed by several games by other indie developers that were like it but in a futuristic surveillance state, or retail, or post-Brexit Britain. What I'm saying is, even with the number of games coming out every week it's still hard to find ones that feel as fresh as Pope's, and if anything's going to reignite someone's passion for games it's something they can't get by replaying an old one.
Shaun Prescott: Skyrim VR
A couple of months ago my parents came to visit. I told my dad that I had a VR headset and he flipped his lid: "put me inside of it," he said. So I did, I booted up Skyrim in VR, found a nice clear field with some nice shady trees, and let him sit there for a while. I feel like games enthusiasts are a little ambivalent about VR at the moment, perhaps the early iterations of Oculus and Vive just aren't as amazing as they hoped. But for folk who haven't played video games for decades, if ever, it will blow their bloody minds. It turned my dad into a blithering dribbling idiot. Mission accomplished.
Samuel Roberts: What Remains of Edith Finch
Obra Dinn and Into the Breach are both great choices—I'd choose either of them, too, since they're small, perfectly formed and self-explanatory. Once you grasp them, they're pure magic. What Remains of Edith Finch would be a top pick, too, because I think even if you've forgotten the minutiae of how more complex games work, the short story format would dazzle you.
Even if you're not a particularly skilled player, you could explore that amazing environment and be completely surprised.
That, or Apex Legends, anyway. Imagine not playing games for years, then finding out there's an FPS that good you can play for free.
Christopher Livingston: Assassin's Creed Origins or Odyssey
If you're trying to tempt someone back to gaming, do it with a little eye-candy. There are no game worlds as vast, beautiful, and detailed as the past two Assassin's Creed games. I never stopped playing games like this hypothetical friend of mine, and I was still staggered by how incredible these open worlds are. Let someone run around in Ancient Egypt or Greece and I think they'll want to stick around a good long while, and see what other amazing open worlds have come along since they quit games.
Bo Moore: Apex Legends
I know, it's the new hotness on everyone's mind, but I think Apex is a actually a solid reentry point for a former gamer—maybe someone who played a lot of Halo or Call of Duty in their younger years, but hasn't picked up a shooter in a while. I was one of these people, and while my re-entry was with Overwatch ~2 years ago, Apex is undoubtedly the better option right now. Fortnite has become a household term while wildly popularizing the battle royale genre, but for all its cartoony graphics and fun dances, it's still a pretty intimidating game to get into, especially on your own. But the things Apex has done for streamlining communication, combined with a focus on squad-based play, makes Apex easy to pick up and feel like you're contributing—and even score a victory—even for those who might not still have the headshotting skills of their youth.
Wes Fenlon: Also Into the Breach
Into the Breach is a perfect gateway drug. It would look very simple to a lapsed gamer, even rudimentary, like something they've played before. But I think a single campaign is enough to grab most people with even a passing interest in strategy games and lure them in. Just a few sessions can reveal how many twists Into the Breach puts on the genre: Protecting the cities instead of yourself, telegraphed enemy moves removing uncertainty, simple interplay between units unfurling into deep, complex strategies. I'd have them one-more-turning through an entire weekend.