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Coronavirus and you: How to game and avoid isolation while isolating

It’s been a rough start to 2020 so far, with fires, floods and now a burgeoning global pandemic interrupting our otherwise normal lives. COVID-19, a.k.a. coronavirus, is no joke, and governments and medical professionals everywhere are recommending social distancing and isolation to cut down on the virus’ spread.

For introverts this sounds like a dream come true, but the reality of isolation can leave even the most socially reclusive of us feeling lonely. To help us all keep in touch while being socially responsible, we’ve put together this handy guide so we can all be alone, together.

Chat clients

Let’s talk keeping in touch. The most obvious choice for most of us is probably something like Discord, a widely used chat client that lets you easily create servers and channels for your family or friends to slide in to. You may already have a few servers yourself (Stevivor does – come say hi!), but it could be a good idea to create a new, cleaner one for your uninitiated friends and family members. The big plus for Discord is that you can use it as a web app too, making it easy to get started. Even better, Discord’s recently expanded screen sharing and Go Live limits to make things easier in the face of the virus.

Of course, you’re not just limited to gaming-centric options, and it’s worth considering that Facebook Messenger and Skype both pose excellent alternatives for your less tech-savvy friends.

Digital board games

Now that you’ve pulled your friends and family together, it’s time to work out how to spend your isolation. Board games have long been one of the best ways to spend time with your family, and the good news is that COVID-induced isolation doesn’t have to put a stop to that. Many, many board games offer digital versions of themselves on platforms like Steam and are often much quicker to learn than their real-life counterparts.

Ticket to Ride and UNO are just two of the titles that immediately jump out on Steam, and the braver among you can even attempt a game of Scythe – though be warned that each game can often take several hours. If your loved ones already have some gaming experience then we’d also recommend checking out Armello, it’s a tabletop-like game with a surprising amount of depth that fits that easy to learn/hard to master niche just right.

Finally – and it’s a little on the nose – the Xbox Game Pass subscription program allows free access to Pandemic on both Xbox One and PC. If you feel like trying to beat down a virtual virus, this will certainly help.

If you’re looking for a real bang-for-your-buck option, then you can check out Tabletop Simulator. This one is the real catch-all option where you can set up rounds of everything from your most basic card game all the way up to tabletop war games. The only hurdle here is that you’ll need to know the rules for whatever you’re playing already.

D&D online

If you’re looking to take that tabletop experience one step further, then maybe it’s time for a real adventure. Dungeons and Dragons has long been the domain of nerds-in-basements, though thanks to cultural phenoms like Stranger Things and Critical Role it’s become socially acceptable to engage in some tabletop role play.

There are a multitude of tools available to anyone interested in getting an online adventuring group together, such as Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, but if you’ve already picked up Tabletop Simulator then that will work just fine too. It’s never easy to get that first session of a new TT-RPG under your belt, but who knows, you may even stumble on to a weekly catchup that continues long after COVID-19 has passed.

Plus, a little bit of roleplay never hurt anyone.

Party games via Steam

Of course, board games and tabletop RPGs aren’t for everyone. If you’ve got a more video game friendly social circle, then there are a multitude of great couch co-op options that don’t require a couch to play – just a few PCs and/or consoles. For a more co-operative, less competitive experience you can try the We Were Here series of co-op puzzlers, or even start a farm together in the ever popular Stardew Valley.

If competition is what you’re after though, then games such as Golf It, Crawl, Ultimate Chicken Horse or even any of the Jackbox games are great party options that are sure to offer plenty of laughs – plus they all either offer online play or Steam’s Remote Play Together feature so you can be sure you can connect easily online.

However you choose to play, it’s important that we don’t forget each other right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what the next few months will look like, so it’s more important than ever to band together. Sure, we can’t go to bars or gaming cafés any more, but we can still stay in touch. And if you’re an extrovert try not to forget about the introverts out there who may be feeling especially alone right now – a call or text can go a long way, an invite to your next gaming session? Even further.

Social distancing works, and it’s a sure-fire way to flatten the curve, but we can’t forget about each other along the way. If you’ve got any other suggestions on how to stay happy and healthy at home during this coronavirus crisis, sound off in the comments area below.

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About the author

Hamish Lindsay

Avid reader and general geek, justifying the time I spend playing games by writing about them. I try not to discriminate by genre, but I remember story more than gameplay. I’ve been playing League for longer than Akali and I’m still Silver. Fallout 3 and MGS3 may be the pinnacle of gaming.