How to play local games with friends during the lockdown

Written by Alex Maidment (nSanity Beach)

As the Covid-19 outbreak lock down continues and we look towards up to a year of social distancing, we have to continue to find ways to socialise and have fun with our friends and family who we can’t see right now and might see less than usual in the near future.

For gamers, many of us can continue our hobby as usual, possibly even with an increase of gaming time with less options of things to do in the evenings and on weekends. However, one thing that most people can’t do, is play local games that don’t require everyone needing a console or decent PC to play. This might be party games or even physical board games.

Luckily, due to the advancements in business applications and social applications, there are ways of continuing to play some of your favourite local games, even from a distance!

Here’s how to go about it!

Firstly, start by choosing a few games that allow people to interact through their own devices, such as phones, tablets or computers. If the game of choice is a board game, then it’ll take a bit more work from the host, but if everyone’s up for it, then it can still work!

We chose to play a few different games from Jackbox Games – namely, Drawful 2 (an old favourite of ours for local gaming) and the Jackbox Party Pack 4 (there are 6 to choose from!). The reason we chose Jackbox Games is because the games can be played through a mobile phone or tablet browser, meaning everyone could join the games from their own home. They are also great fun!

If you’re going down the boardgame route, you may want to choose a co-operative game, such as the Forbidden series (Forbidden Island, Desert, Sky) or Pandemic (relevant right now!) or something like this, as it’ll be easier to play over a video stream with one person acting as the host of the game and moving the pieces according to the players instructions.

Once you’ve got the game decided and you’ve agreed with friends and family when to play and who’s hosting (ideally someone with decent internet), you have to consider the technological part – how do you stream the games?

Well, this bit is interesting – there are actually a lot of different options available! If you’re looking to just do video, then any of the well-known video sharing apps (Skype, Facebook Messenger, Facetime, Zoom) that you can access on a PC or tablet will do the job.

For the host, they might actually need two devices to run the gaming night – one to show the game (either a physical game through video, or virtual game through screen sharing < we’ll get to that bit in a moment) and one to show their own face and see everyone else playing.

With the game visible to everyone involved, you can then attempt a semi-normal local gaming session over video!

If you’re like us and want to play a game where the screen needs to be shared, then most of set-up is the same as above, but instead of having video on the screen, you need a platform that allows screen sharing and a way for everyone else playing to access it.

Some of the programs listed above work with screen sharing but each has it’s caveats. We actually used a paid version of Zoom for the host and then each player downloaded the Zoom app or accessed the stream via the browser. It worked fairly well and meant we could all talk through the same system that we were using to share the screen.

We did also look at using Facebook Messenger, but it required a Chrome plug-in and people to use desktop and laptop devices for the screen sharing to work. Skype also allows screen sharing and for Discord is also a good alternative as it’s free and allows people to access the screen share from a web browser.

Once you’ve got a screen sharing tool sorted, it’s fairly easy to set up – you just need to invite everyone into the session, have the game running on the same device and when ready, share the screen, which should then show the game to everyone.

As mentioned, the beauty of something like Jackbox Games, is that each player can then use their phones to actually interact with the game that they can see on the screen share.

And there you have it – that’s how you can continue to play local games while on lock down, at least somewhat successfully. Good luck, stay safe and have fun!

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