Game Design

How to use this time to play games in 4 new ways

We’re living in a time where it’s increasingly more difficult to play games with our friends, family, and gaming groups.

We’re all practicing social distancing. Some of us are self-isolating. And some of us may even be quarantined.

But that doesn’t mean that the gaming has to end. In fact, it can be the start of an entirely different way to play new games you’ve never played before and in some cases, playing games with other people you’ve never played with before. You might even be able to bring some new people into the hobby, which is always a great thing!

Play games with your family

Playing games with your family is the most obvious method. If you’re stuck at home together, then board games are a great activity you can do. They give us a distraction, bring us joy, and can even bring us all closer together.

But what if your family isn’t into board games?

Maybe they just haven’t played the right one. Maybe they’re looking for something a little less complicated or with a quick playtime. They may just not find certain themes interesting.

Look through your collection and try to find something that might appeal to those you live with. Try to think from their perspective and introduce them to something they might enjoy.

But if you just can’t get your family members interested or don’t have anyone else to play with, have no fear, there are other options…

Play board games online

It may seem counterintuitive, but there are ways to play board games online as well. Most of us far prefer the face-to-face social nature of board games, but sometimes, especially in times like these, that’s not always a possibility. But there are alternatives.

One of the better platforms is Steam. There are lots of games you can play here, from videogames to board games (and hybrids like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes), but you can also create your own games, play other prototypes, classic games and some more recently published games on Tabletop Simulator as well.

This is just one of many options for playing games online, but I love it for the community and especially for Tabletop Simulator, the best platform for creating digital versions of your game in my opinion.

Check out some print and play games

If you have a printer at home and can obtain some common components from your prototypes, parts collection, and published games already on your shelves, you can also find some pretty amazing print and play (PnP) games online.

You can find lots of games either for free or for a small cost (usually only a few dollars) that you can put together yourself. They can be as simple and straightforward as card games, or much more complex, with many boards, tokens, and other components. You can get pretty creative here, mounting things on foam board, stickering dice and tokens, etc. or just print off the cards and other components and play as is.

This also allows you to try out a game for a minimal cost before you buy it. If you really love it and want to get the full version and support the designer and publisher, you can later look for the game online for purchase.

Here are a few great print and play websites:

Go solo

In case you’re not aware of this, solo games and games with a solid solo mode are very popular right now. This was the case well before the current pandemic, but with more people at home and unable to get together with their gaming friends, even more people are turning to solo games (as well as PnPs, which I mentioned in the previous section).

It’s a great time right now to try out some solo games, whether you try published games, PnPs, or digital games. This will help you better understand how to create a great solo experience so that you can apply these same lessons and learnings to your own game designs.

If you’re working on a game right now, consider how you might able to create a solo experience as well. One thing you should keep in mind is that most solo gamers are more interested in objectives or win/lose conditions than beating their high score. So, rather than just creating a version where players are trying to score lots of points, try to come up with something a bit more compelling.

Take action

If you’re finding yourself with a bit more time right now than normal, this is a great opportunity to explore the worlds of digital board games, print and play games, and solo games/modes. You can also introduce others to a great hobby, expanding the reach of board games.

This could also put you in an even better position as a game designer, as you’ll be able to adapt more quickly to the changing landscape.

What has your experience been with these alternate approaches (digital games, PnPs, and solo games)?

Please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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    Thank you Joe for taking the time to reach out to me. I recently designed a solo card game with only 12 cards and have sent it off to 11 friends and family. I gave one to my nephew as a present for his birthday a few weeks back. He was stoked. He had played the game a week or so prior to his birthday. A friend of mine, Tommy and his family, who I sent the game to loved it so much that Tommy had put up 2 videos on his TikTok account and he received 148 views. He sent me a picture of it last night. I was speechless. Of course, I thanked him. I am also working on putting together a new game. It’s a co-op fighting card game. This will be my 29th game design. In the future, I’ll get all of these games out to show more people. I’m in no rush at this moment. Keep up the great work and be safe. Bows respectively.

    Creator of Dymino Monsters;
    Jesse