There's a special circle of hell reserved for backseat gamers. We all know the type. Gamers who are convinced that they know everything and that there's only one way to play a game: their way. They'll sit on the sidelines blasting out advice, spoilers and commentary, criticising the way you play while browbeating you into following their way of thinking, dominate your multiplayer session and perhaps even try to snatch the controller because you're playing it 'wrong.' Backseat gamers suck all the joy and fun out of this wonderful hobby, and more to the point, they just suck generally.
It's easy to point fingers, but harder to look in the mirror.
They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so here goes. My name is Jonathan Lester... and I'm a backseat gamer.
I came to this realisation over the weekend, which I completely booked off to spend with my long-suffering girlfriend who usually plays second fiddle to my review workload. We've been together six years now, but she's only ever had a casual interest in videogames, so naturally I wanted to include her in my passion with a selection of co-op games a couple of years back. We played a few, yet just sort of stopped, as she made polite excuses or changed the suspect. It never bothered me at the time, but it crossed my mind and I asked her why out of sheer curiosity.
"Because you were really bossy," she explained, recalling a fateful LEGO Harry Potter session. "You made me feel stupid and took the controller out of my hand. I just didn't enjoy it."
Me, a backseat gamer? Surely it wasn't possible. I hate those guys. I opened my mouth in protest...
...and the words never came. Instead a dozen shameful memories came flooding back, a backseat gaming highlight reel like the montage at the end of a Saw film complete with the music.
I saw myself snatching the mouse from my Dad, who wasn't playing Walker 'properly.'
I browbeat my sister into using my favourite Final Fantasy IX party.
I told a mate to 'just follow me and let me handle it' while playing Serious Sam, even though he'd never played it before.
I badgered my roommate into playing Fallout 3 'my way' while sitting on the couch in the background, constantly telling him where to go or how to find 'the best' weapons. He stopped playing co-op with me and frankly I understand why.
On and on it went, culminating in some of the Game Nights I spent with Carl and Matt, in which I transformed into a weird fussy mother hen.
So... I'm sorry. Genuinely and completely sorry. It's bad enough that I spoiled the fun for fellow gamers, but utterly unforgivable that newcomers like my girlfriend may never want to fully understand the joy that we all glean from this fantastic pastime and enjoy the best that this medium has to offer, all because of my own impatience and arrogance.
I'll try to change even if it may be too late for me, but it may not be too late for you. Whether you're playing with friends, randomers, family or loved ones, remember that people enjoy gaming at their own pace and in their own way. Offer advice only when it's asked for and never, ever, reach for the controller.
Though it can sometimes be infuriating to watch an inexperienced gamer, be mindful that the things we consider second nature were learned through years of practice, and that nothing can put someone off an incredible new passion faster than being patronised, browbeaten or made to feel stupid. I personally know many 'gamer dads,' who got their kids into the hobby by being understanding, patient and considerate, and frankly that's exactly the way to go.
But perhaps, after reading this, you recognise the signs. If so... the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I'd encourage you to use the comments for that very purpose.
Are you a backseat gamer, or have you been on the receiving end? Want to give me a deserved dressing down? Sound off in the comments!