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Video games to play while you're self isolating and social distancing

Distance makes the heart grow socialer

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Unless you’re in one of those international versions of Big Brother that are still going on, you’ve probably noticed that we’re in the midst of a pandemic of something called the Covid-19 virus. I can tell it’s serious because my dad’s American girlfriend isn’t allowed to visit him, which means he’s bored and phoning me in the middle of the day. Haha, I joke. But he is 70, and has a weak heart, plus he’s immunocompromised on account of catching Lyme disease from a tick once (which is exactly the sort of ridiculous thing that only happens to country dads).

If you’re anything like us, you’re now at home, staring at the walls of your living room because of this social distancing thing. But it’s not just you. In fact, all of RPS is now working from home for the foreseeable future, too. So in the spirit of camaraderie, I’ve pooled some suggestions for video games to play while we’re self-quarantining. We’ve got some multiplayer ones, some board-gamey ones, and, of course, a healthy dollop of free ones.

Multiplayer

We already have lists of our favourite multiplayer games and co-op games (which are, of course, not exactly the same thing). I would add to those, however, World Of Warcraft, which is how I kept in touch with my old school friends in the post-employment, pre-families period of our lives. Sea Of Thieves is also a good shout – we’ve put together our own pirate crew, after all – and it’s available on that there Game Pass For PC. They’re both good games for chatting, and feeling like you’re actually hanging out with people.

Puzzles and board games

Now that we can no longer indulge in our office tabletop night, Matt Clements off of EGX has rallied everyone together on Discord to organise playing games in groups, but remotely. Which is a great idea, if it’s something you and your friends are able to do.

The aforementioned group has revealed a lot of good ideas, of course. Tabletop Simulator is partly what it says on the tin, and partly a silly physics simulator, so you can play board games properly, or collaborate to build some kind of giant hellish domino sculpture in the shape of a willy. It also has a deal where if you get a family pack of four copies at once, it’s cheaper per person than buying one copy for yourself. So if you’ve got three mates, you can all save a couple of quid at the same time.

Pixel Puzzles Ultimate Jigsaw and Pixel Puzzles Traditional Jigsaws are both free-to-play jigsaw games with robust systems. The starting selection of puzzles is free, but you can buy themed packs of new puzzles if you blitz through ’em. I’m also a massive fan of Glass Masquerade 2, which is both pleasingly creepy, and a bit harder than your regular jigsaw puzzle.

You can also already play a lot of new and classic board games on PC, as noted for us by Dicebreaker’s editor Matt Jarvis, and sites like Roll20.net make it easy to play TRPGs together online too. Roll20 is, in fact, how I played my first ever D&D campaign, many years ago now, so I can vouch that it works well.

Elsewhere we have our list of best puzzle games, although it’s a bit out of date. You should definitely add Return Of The Obra Dinn to that list, for example. If you’re after more explicitly point and click goodness, check out the whole Blackwell Legacy series, as it’s a quality experience that won’t break the bank.

Miscellaneous video games


When you’re stuck inside, a key part of maintaining the fragile balance of electrical impulses that we call mental health is having a routine. It can be important to get up and have a shower and actually get dressed every day, rather than lounging about wearing the same, increasingly grim t-shirt and leggings. To pull an example from absolutely nowhere, do as I say not do as I do! Games like Ritual Of The Moon or Stardew Valley, for instance, can give you set things to do to help with structuring your day (as long as, in the case of the latter, you’re disciplined about how much you play).

I have also been playing The Longing, which takes a very long time to play, and has also given me a surprising sense of purpose. It’s an easy one to sit down and do a little bit of every day.

Free video games


Games are expensive, and people have less money than ever right now. Worth remembering in these trying times, then, is our wonderful weekly column of free games courtesy of Kat Brewster. Priceless Play pops up every Saturday, and we have our own list of Best Free Games as well. In fact, check out anything under our free PC games tag for more ideas.

Steam is holding a Game Festival with free demos for a bunch of games right through this weekend, and GOG has gathered all their free games on one handy page, as well as running their Spring sale. As I was writing this, I got an email saying that Football Manager 2020 is also free to play for the next week. And, joy of joys, Itch.io has a load of great “games to help you stay inside”, also for free, right now!

You might be surprised at how many bigger titles you can play for nothing. Perennial favourites like Team Fortress 2 or the newer space shmup Destiny 2 are free-to-play, as are some MMOs including Lord Of The Rings Online, Star Trek Online and terrifying timesinks like Dota 2 and Eve Online. PlanetSide 2 is free as well! As is Nate’s forever-favourite Dwarf Fortress (and in fact, if you were put off Dwarf Fortress by how complex it is, now is probably an ideal time to try and master it, no?)

Oh – and if you’re in a position where you can, you can help others by donating game keys to Christos “Failnaut” Reid’s drive for games for low income families, which is starting next week!

Edit: lukibus in the comments pointed out that now would be a great time to try and make your own game too! Inkle, the studio behind games like 80 Days and Heaven’s Vault, has made their scripting language free to use with Inky, and there’s the ever-popular Twine, plus Bitsy Game Maker, all free and fun tools to play around with.

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Alice Bell

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RPS's dep ed. Small person powered by tea and and enthusiasm for video game romances. Send me interesting etymological facts and cool horror games.

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