If you’re anything like me, you’ve been cooped up in your house for weeks and the novelty of making video calls is starting to wear off. You need something else to do with your friends and loved ones, but it needs to be something everyone can do together and with minimal setup and no cost.
Forget trying to get everyone on board with Call of Duty Warzone or anything else so intense. Try these fun, free, and easy activities that just about anyone can pick up and enjoy.
AI Dungeon is a game where you collaboratively create a story with the help of an AI chatbot. Of course, this is something you could do completely on your own, but wouldn’t it be more fun to see what kinds of absurd (or maybe even impressive) adventures you could go on with friends?
AI Dungeon is available on mobile devices and can also be played in a browser, so if you can get everyone on a video call and share the screen of the game, you can each take turns trying to bend the chatbot to your will or otherwise feeding it absurd information and just enjoying whatever it ends up spitting back at you.
[NOTE: There is no actual money associated with using Saltybet.]
With sports being canceled, folks have been moving on to watching real drivers compete in virtual iRacing competitions, betting on esports, or even getting into marble racing. Amid all of this excitement for absurd-but-safe competition, Saltybet seems to have been somewhat overlooked, but now’s a great time to correct that.
For those that don’t know, Saltybet is a website where you bet on virtual fights between fictional characters that have been created in a freeware fighting game engine called MUGEN. If that’s going a bit over your head, basically what it means is that it organizes fights between Goku and Ronald McDonald in Street Fighter-style showdowns. Each character is controlled by AI, and you simply place your bet on which character you think will win before watching the chaos ensue.
If you’re still using Zoom, Facetime, or Google Hangouts for your video chats, stop what you’re doing and get Houseparty. This app makes video-based hangouts super easy, and even has its own set of built-in games you can play as you chat with friends and family.
Games included with Houseparty include Heads Up!, Chips n Guac (which is basically Apples to Apples), and Pictionary, all of which are really smartly integrated into the experience so everyone can see and control the action without having to juggle multiple devices or apps.
Secret Hitler is a social deduction board game where players are pitted against each other as liberals and facists as they fight to control the government. The game itself sounds complicated, but it’s mostly a game about bluffing and subterfuge while following a pretty straightforward voting procedure.
Anywho, the game is a riot, and that remains true even when you aren’t in the same room as the people you’re playing with. There are a few ways to play Secret Hitler online for free, but the most stress-free version I found was the one linked above. Players don’t have to make accounts to play, and it features in-game voice and text chat, though I found the best way to play Secret Hitler remotely was while using Houseparty with all of your players on a separate device.
Compared to the other options on this list, playing Subterfuge is on the more intense side of things. This mobile game is a strategy title about undersea conquest that is designed to last for about a week of real time. While the game has a decent amount of mechanical complexity, the real key to victory in Subterfuge is communication.
The game itself doubles as a chat app, where players can see who’s been online when and initiate chats with individuals or groups of other players. If you find yourself opening the app to make moves but are hearing from no one, that likely means you’re on the chopping block.
This is a great activity for anyone looking to stretch their interactions out over the course of a few days. Just make sure you start games with people who know what they’re getting into.