Introduction: Video Games for the Absolute Beginner

Video games, as a form of media, represent a burgeoning field in the modern entertainment industry and can provide a great deal of enjoyment for your dollar.

This instructable will specifically cover computer, or "PC" gaming, but it should be noted that there are other ways of enjoying video games, such as mobile phones, or consoles like the Microsoft Xbox or Nintendo Wii, which you may or may not have seen advertised on television or in magazines. As this is a basic, technical introduction intended to give first-timers a grasp on how everything works, I won't get into specifics of particular games.

Step 1: What You'll Need to Get Started

In order to dive into the world of computer games, you will first need a few key things. Some of the following you may already have, but others will need to be purchased from a store that sells computer-related products.

Essentials:
(1)     A consumer computer of the desktop or laptop variety

(2)     A keyboard (most laptops already have one built in) for entering text and sending commands to the computer

(3)     A computer mouse for pointing, aiming, directing, clicking, and a whole range of other movements

(4)     A monitor for viewing the image that the computer is outputting

(5)     A game that is compatible with your particular computer

If you own and have used a computer before, you likely won't need to buy much more than the game itself.

Step 2: Setting Up the Computer to Play

Assuming you've already turned on the computer, insert the CD or run the installer for the game. The installation process shouldn't take long, but you will need to wait until it has finished. Make sure all your peripherals are plugged in and set up in a configuration that is comfortable. 

At this point, after the program has finished installing or downloading, you can double click on the executable file to run it. Usually, this will be an icon that has some kind of resemblance or significance to the program itself. Login and registration instructions vary widely from program to program, so it may be necessary to consult a user manual or company website if one is available.

Step 3: What to Do Once You're in the Game

Usually, the first thing you will see once the game is in operation is a GUI, or "graphical user interface." This plays the part of a menu system to help you navigate around the various options and parts of a game. In these menus you can find graphics and visual settings, control settings to configure how your peripherals function, and accessibility settings that help make the game playable for everyone, like language selection, colorblindness support, or text size and subtitles.

Navigate around the menu system for a while and look at what different options you have available to you. Make note of any boxes or buttons that say something like "Play, Start, Begin, Join Game, Start Match" and so on.

Once you're finished looking around, find those options you took note of and click on them. If everything goes well, you should wind up playing the game.

In most 3D video games today, you are placed in a computer-generated environment meant to simulate some kind of version of reality. Unsurprisingly, this is referred to as "virtual reality."

The peripherals you have plugged in allow for human-computer interaction. It is through these devices that you will provide input to the computer enabling you to control what various parts of the game. It is important to remember that your keyboard and mouse are not purpose-built devices designed for games and that their functions have only been adapted to work with said games. You will notice that some normal keyboard functions will be disabled, such as individual letters used for typing, while you are playing the game.

You can use the keys on your keyboard to navigate around (typically with the W, A, S, and D keys indicating forward, left, back, and right movement respectively). Many games use onscreen prompts or pictures to tell you when you need to press certain keys. Be sure to pay attention to these if they come up. Grab hold of your computer mouse as well. You will use this to change your view and to look around in a virtual space. Your mouse may also be needed to click on things using the left and right mouse buttons.

You may notice a character or figure onscreen as well, either directly controllable by you or possibly interact-able. These are typically known as "avatars" and serve to create the illusion that there is a living entity within the game. In reality, they are nothing more than complex parts of the program itself.

Step 4: Things to Consider When Playing

While playing just about any game, you will be pressing a lot of buttons in rapid succession. There is really no way to avoid pressing keys on the keyboard or clicking your mouse if you intend to interact with the computer in any way. Unfortunately, these actions may be very unnatural movements for many people and prolonged use of a computer for this purpose can result in repetitive strain injuries. 

Repetitive strain injuries can come in a range of forms from mild aches and pains or muscle fatigue to sprained wrists and swelling or inflammation. If you begin to feel slight soreness in your wrists, arms, or hands, it might be a good idea to take a break for ten minutes or more to let your muscles, joints, and tendons relax sufficiently before returning to your computer.

If you develop long-lasting pain or experience fatigue faster than normal after using a computer, it would be wise to consult a physician.

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