Self-Isolation Fosters a Different Kind of Video Gaming


I loved board games as a kid. The competition, the feel of the dice in your hands, the angry siblings turning over the Risk board after their attack on Kamchatka utterly failed … ah, good times.

Truth be told, I still love me some good old-fashioned gameplay. My family and I are gamers—board gamers, that is. Even though my kids are grown, we all enjoy stringing trains together for Ticket to Ride or building cities in Settlers of Catan. And sometimes we invite some friends over, too.

Or, at least, we used to.

In this age of coronavirus isolation, get-togethers are often prohibited or discouraged. I’ve not had my grown children over for a game night for weeks now. Even a simple game of Go Fish is filled with peril. (“Do you have any 3s? And if you do, did you disinfect them thoroughly?”)

But as fellow Plugged In writer Bob Hoose mentioned during a recent podcast, a real-life disease need not keep you from curing the fake ones in Pandemic. We can still play games with each other—even if those games take a bit of a different twist.

Bob says that he and his family have been playing video games via Zoom. And you can see how it’d be pretty simple and satisfying for many games. Say you want to play a little Monopoly with people scattered about the city or country. You set up a “home board” that can keep track of all the moves. Players, if they have their own sets of Monopoly, can roll their own dice and count their own money if they wish (and if they’re deemed trustworthy enough). Or the “home” gamer can track everything. As long as your bandwidth holds up, you can play a full game with nary a hitch—right down to the moment you land on a hotel-encrusted Boardwalk for the fourth time and mortgage all your property.

Lots of games can work just as well. Chess would be a snap. Scrabble would be splendiforous. Catan would be quite doable, as long as no one’s too concerned with keeping their cards a secret.

Then, again,  Lots of games encourage secrets. It’d be markedly more difficult to play Ticket to Ride or Clue using social chatting platforms like Zoom. But have no fear. Many popular board games also have online versions that you can play with friends and family, be they across the street or across the world. Ticket to Ride (one of my personal favorites) has loads of online “boards” you can play. Want to help your friends during the red planet a little less … deadly? Terraforming Mars can be played online, too. These games can be found and purchased online, often straight through your app store. Steam, a popular gaming platform, has scads of board games available. Tabletopia says it has more than 800 board games available—some of which you can play for free.

Clearly, even during these difficult times, a board gamer need not be a bored gamer. It’s not quite like getting together in the flesh to march your mice around the board in Mousetrap or shout “You’re 100% wrong!” in Dilbert: The Board Game. But it’s as close as some of us can get these days.

And hey, if a critical part of gameplay in your family is peevishly knocking the board over, you even have a service that allows for that, too.

Ain’t technology great?

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.