Of all the platforms to recommend, this is the best place to go to for the widest selection of games, free or otherwise. Although PC gaming didn’t begin with Steam, you’d be forgiven if you thought it did, as the past 10 years has seen explosive growth for the site from both AAA companies and indie developers. If you know a PC gamer, chances are they traded their CD-Roms in for Steam keys over a decade ago, their library a testament to the creativity video game craftsman possess.
Steam requires players to set up an account and download the launcher to their computer, and most games are set up for PC, not Mac, so Apple users may find themselves locked out of many titles available here; however, those able to take advantage of this platform are plugging into one of the biggest collections of mainstream gaming titles on the planet. Of course, most of those are paid, so that’s a topic for other articles; for this one, you’ll want to head over to the “free-to-play” section and surf what’s available.
What’s nice about Steam is their filtering system is head and shoulders above Itch.io’s — not only can you set up your account to filter out adult-only content, there are age-restrictions put in place to protect kids from seeing content not suitable for children. Additionally, a decade’s worth of games on the world’s biggest gaming platform means tons of gamers have reviewed each and every title, meaning it’s extremely simple to scan reviews by real players right on the store page to understand the general gist of the game. If you’re looking for specific recommendations to start off with, you can’t go wrong with MANDAGON, Coloring Game: Little City, Cheeky Chooks, or Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt. There are also free weekends on occasion where players can play games that normally cost money for free for a limited time, as a trial run. You’re under no obligation to purchase the game afterwards — it merely becomes unavailable after the weekend ends. If you’re ready to get serious about PC gaming, Steam is hands down the route to take.
For more information, go here.
6. Mobile Gaming
The first non-PC suggestion on the list, mobile gaming is perhaps the single-most accessible type of video gaming in the world. Not everyone has a computer, but over half the world’s population has a smartphone. It’s no surprise, then, that phones and tablets have quickly become one of the most popular ways to play video games.
While many games are either paid apps or “free-to-play,” there are plenty of apps that are legitimately free, age-appropriate, and/or aren’t merciless cash grabs. The PBS Kids Games app boasts over 100+ free games with no ads or in-app purchases with new content added all the time. Additionally, educational games, like TerraGenesis, teach gamers of all ages the hot topic of terraforming and other life sciences and are worth checking out for that content alone. Although TerraGenesis offers in-app purchases and features ads, the developer, Alexander Winn, has divulged the secret to never seeing ads on any mobile game — turn your device on airplane mode. “To block all ads completely,” he tells players via the game’s FAQ, “put your phone in airplane mode or disconnect from the internet and you won’t see any ads whatsoever.”
For more information, check your device’s app store.
7. Dungeons and Dragons
It’s pretty criminal how unrecognized Dungeons and Dragons is when it comes to gaming — fans of Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Final Fantasy have the traditional tabletop experience to thank for their favorite titles. The granddaddy of all RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons is probably my favorite suggestion on the entire list.
For one, it’s pretty versatile; NFL fans already play a similar version of the game when they participate in Fantasy Football, so this shouldn’t be foreign to even the most diehard jock. It encourages an insane amount of creativity and doesn’t require any money to play — you don’t even need to buy dice these days, as there are websites that will generate rolls for you. The best part is that it can be completely catered not only to the age group but to the individual players — if your kids want to go on an adventure to find an island full of kittens, you can totally do that. It’s all within the control of the Game Master, who can adjust to a person’s needs as seen fit.
One thing you do need, however, is a group, as this is a social experience. If you think it’s weird for me to suggest a social game during a time of social distancing, you’d be right under normal circumstances; what’s cool about 2020, though, is that D&D fans from all over the world have pooled together to create online D&D experiences through the Discord server called The Guild of Scribes, so you can play with your party while in your jammies in the seclusion of your own home. All you’ll need is a Discord account (free) and they’ll help you with the rest.
For more information, go here.
BONUS: Your Backlog
You thought you could just get away with playing completely new games for weeks without even touching your backlog, huh?
I get it — DOOM and Animal Crossing are on their way, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to spend my time socializing as the mayor of my town in New Horizons. But with literally hundreds of video games in my backlog, it’s really time I should focus on what I already own in an attempt to save money, and honestly, it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world if you did, too.
My advice? First, if you haven’t already, create an inventory of your games that you already own (I use backloggery for mine). When choosing your first games, avoid platforms you know you can easily spend money on. Try to pick games you know you can complete in a few hours for the first few titles, then expand to bigger ones. Make a real attempt to finish the games once started (or keep playing until they stop being fun), and continuously update your backlog as necessary. To hold yourself accountable in finishing games, keep a detailed record of what you play (I talked about each game on my instagram stories). Finally, some more personal advice — sleep. If you’re gonna keep your immune system up, you’ll need it.
For more information on making a dent in your backlog, go here.
While we’re all cooped up in our houses for the next few weeks with little to do, we shouldn’t feel like we have to spend a lot of money to get great gaming experiences; in fact, since money’s going to be tight for awhile, it’s probably best to spend nothing at all. Here’s to hoping these gaming tips help you get the most out of your time spent socially distancing yourself from others — good luck out there, and game on!