Quarantine hangouts

STORY BY HEATHER MACLEAN, GABE HONORIDEZ, KIYOUNG LEE, MARK SCOLIERI

As public health trends continue to decline and quarantine measures across the Greater Toronto Area revert back to gray, it’s beginning to look a lot like we’ll be home for the holidays.

Although mandated isolation is sure to affect the quality of Christmas parties worldwide, that doesn’t mean being with loved ones this year has to go on hiatus: like everything else in this era of ever-changing conditions, there’s a digital alternative to keep your festivities on track. 

Here’s the Sheridan Sun’s list of online games and hangouts your group can play this winter to keep things merry and bright. (**These also come with the benefit of avoiding comments from that one distant relative.)

Uno
Price: Free
Developer: UnoFreak (United Arab Emirates)

The game that everyone knows and loves, but no one seems to properly play. The baseline for family party games next to titans like Monopoly, Uno’s strength has always been in its simplicity. Its accessibility leads to moments of genuine ire when a small child and elderly woman team up to make you the victim of a +8 chain reaction. The game is mostly luck – but the satisfaction that comes with acting like it isn’t is always sure to bring out emotions.

Unlike other free online versions of Uno, Unofreak’s browser version supports widely recognized house rules such as stacking draw cards or playing dupes, integrated into an easy-to-navigate 2010s interface. Although the game features a chat client, it – like most of the games on this list – is definitely best played through a group voice call. While Uno isn’t going to offer the opportunity for deep strategy or thoughtful analysis, sometimes all a game needs to be is to be a backdrop for a conversation. Just don’t be a sore winner.

Animal Crossing
Price: $79.99 + A Nintendo Switch with an online subscription
Developer: Nintendo EPD

To fans of Animal Crossing, it might be a difficult task to describe the game to curious outsiders. Clearly, there are animals involved, but what’s the objective? Are you building a community? Are you socializing? Are you collecting things? Are you trying to make money? It’s all these things, technically – but more than anything else, it’s a take-at-your-own-pace game about living.

Its carefree nature is an ensemble best experienced firsthand. With its relaxing soundtrack that changes hourly and a charming cast of hundreds of virtual villagers, the game (like most of Nintendo’s library) exudes an energy similar to that of Disney films: although the art style may seem childish, its content should be universally appreciated.

With all the variables built into the game and differing approach in how each person might play it, Animal Crossing’s strength comes through its freedom of player expression. The game’s social nature (allowing for up to 8 online players on a single island) has organically become a substitute for many events over quarantine: birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, and even political campaigns have all used the game as a space for connecting people in a virtual world.

However, in a game with no real objective, it’s a little easy to exhaust the game when playing with others. Sadly, many of the game’s customization features are put at a standstill when playing with others online, making group play more of a presentation of each others’ progress than a co-operative community building game. With the game updating seasonally, longtime players and party planners can see this limitation as a challenge to make their virtual hangouts accommodating for the holidays.

Minecraft
Price: $35.00 + Server Fee
Developer: Mojang Studios

Minecraft is an open world game that you can play with friends on a server. The game generates a random world, and you start with nothing. Start by gathering raw materials, crafting tools, and building a foundation. As you gather resources you can begin to explore the world and discover new places or better resources. and build anything your mind can imagine! There are lots of enemies that can ruin your plans, and some boss fights to test your skills. You can even build circuits to gather resources for you. The game really allows you to do whatever you want if you are creative enough.

Unfortunately, this game does come with a hefty upfront cost and also additionally costs money to play on a server with your friends, unless you know how to host one yourself. A video on how to do so can be found here or you can pay a monthly cost for someone to host a server for you.

Codenames
Price: Free
Developer: CGE

Codenames is an easily accessible online game that requires a minimum of four players. The game starts with teams deciding which player is the spymaster and the rest are operatives. Then 25 cards are face down on the screen. Each card has a word on it that is secret to the operatives. These 25 cards can be of four different variants. They can belong to the red team, blue team, neutral cards, or can be the assassin card. The spymaster then says a one-word hint followed by a number. The hint refers to a word that is face down, and the number refers to how many different cards the hint could possibly refer to. The goal of the spymaster is to get his team to correctly guess all of their own cards, without revealing the other three types of cards. If an assassin card is revealed that team immediately loses. If a neutral card is revealed that teams turn ends. If a team reveals an opponent’s card, their turn ends, and their opponent gets a point. The game is over once one team reveals all of their own cards!

To play Codenames with friends simply have one person host a game. They will generate a URL which should be handed out to all players involved. Once you enter the room, join a team as an operative or a spymaster and you are all set!

Among Us
Price: Free on mobile devices or $5.69 on Steam
Developer: InnerSloth

Among Us is a multiplayer game that involves crewmates and imposters.  The imposters goal is not to get caught, while the rest of the crew must oust the imposters and vote them out. Crewmates attempt to complete tasks while also keeping an eye out for dead bodies that imposters have killed. The game mainly revolves around the discussion section of the game. In this portion of the game, all players discuss on who they think the imposter is. The imposter must try to blend in with the crewmates and not get caught. A discussion commences with plenty of accusations and deflections. At the end of the round everyone gets to vote on who they think the imposter is. The person with the most votes gets voted off the ship and their true identity is revealed. If there are imposters remaining, the game continues. If the imposter is the last one alive, they win!

This game is easily downloadable and it simple to host a party with your friends within the app. Have one person host the party. They will get a code that they should give out to all players who want to play. Once you get the code, you will join the game and you have your own private room! The host can then start the game once all players have entered.

There are also plenty of other games to enjoy over the break. Ask some friends for their suggestions! Having fun with your friends over the holiday season is easily accessible even while social distancing. Get in touch with a platform of your choice and experience these fantastic online games for yourself!

There are plenty of platforms to choose from. Here is another list to find which one is right for you. Analyzing the pros and cons of each, take a look as to which one fits your virtual hangout specifications!

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