In my post about the Metaverse, I mentioned that one of my favourite ways to hang out with friends and family in different countries is by playing video games together, specifically, adorable-creepy survival game Don't Starve Together. A reader sent me a very cute response:
Sam. WTF is ‘’don’t starve together’’ and how can I play it with my far-flung family? You can’t suck up to Gen Z with pictures of old computers and then abandon the older generation to the icy wilderness of gaming. Where/what/how ????? I’m reporting you to the Human Rights Commission for ageism. UNLESS you tell me all I need to know (Google and Wikapedia only increased my bafflement so don’t even try).
So in the interest of avoiding being reported to the Ageism Police, here's how to get started playing video games online, for absolute beginners!
Typically, you need three things to be able to play video games together with people who aren't in the same place as you:
- An internet-connected device to play games on. There are good game options for smartphones, tablets, or computers. There's no need to buy a gaming console (like a Playstation or Nintendo Switch) right away, until you know for sure that you'll be playing games regularly. You do need a pretty good internet connection, though.
- The game you're going to play. Every player will usually need to download and install their own copy of the game. Luckily, many of my suggestions here are free.
- A way to chat while you play. You don't really need video because you'll be looking at the game, not each other, so just call the person you're playing with in whatever way you usually do (Google Hangouts, Zoom, a Whatsapp call on speakerphone, Discord, whatever you like).
Some great beginner games for phones and tablets
- Mario Kart Tour. It's a racing game that you can download for Apple and Android phones, and you can play with your family on the other side of the world.
- The classic Uno, available for both Android or Apple mobile phones.
- Boggle on Apple or Android.
- Terraria, this one's a bit like Minecraft where you build and explore a world, but it's a bit easier to learn. It's available for a lot of platforms, including phones and tablets.
Some great beginner games for your computer or laptop
If you have a laptop and want to try a slightly more involved game, the best thing to do is sign up for an account on Steam. Steam is an online shop that sells computer games that you download directly. It sells all sorts of games for all sorts of budgets, including many easy-to-learn games for beginners.
Don't Starve Together is my favourite. It's a computer game where you and your friends are try to survive in a hostile wilderness where everything's trying to kill you, i.e. it's basically like driving through Springs. To play, you each need to buy a copy of the game from Steam. It's a bit of a hassle to set up the first time, but it's SUCH good fun when you get into it.
You could also try:
- Among Us, a bit like the old kids' game "Murder in the Dark" or "Werewolf", but in a spaceship.
- Minecraft, like an infinite Lego world where you can create anything you can imagine. You don't need a Steam account for this one.
- Rocket League, like soccer, but with cars? Instead of Steam, this is on a different online games store called Epic Games. Very fun.
- Stardew Valley, a peaceful game where you build a virtual farm.
Or, try a quiz!
Another really fun way to hang out with your far-flung family is by joining an online pub quiz. My buddy Jon Keevy hosts one every Wednesday at 7pm SAST and it's one of the highlights of my week.
I hope that helps! I LOVE playing games online with my family. It's such a great way to connect.
Have you found a great beginner-friendly game that lets you stay in touch with friends and family on the other side of the world? I'd love to hear about it!