Reaching Out In New Ways
Since arriving in a digital age, friendships have undeniably changed. Whether it’s keeping in contact with existing friends from afar or making new ones via social media, the web has provided new connection opportunities for decades. Gaming isn’t exempt here, connecting new players together since online multiplayer began and come in many forms, whether it’s a dedicated squad in Halo, browser titles like Club Penguin or MMORPGS such as World of Warcraft, there are many ways to keep connected.
Games have united players across the globe, many of whom would’ve never crossed paths otherwise and providing a comforting escape from day-to-day life. Sometimes though, it’s not enough and whilst you can easily join a random multiplayer team, it doesn’t beat that personal interaction. The line between online and local friends has become blurred, and amidst a pandemic, staying connected has never been so important.
Many countries remain in lockdown, and understandably, people have never felt more isolated. People turn to games for comfort, and like always, indie titles are some of gaming’s biggest innovators. Bringing unique experiences, multiplayer remains as crucial as before, and with numerous online communities present, there’s no end of ways to socialise. So if you’re looking to make new friends, here are some of the better games going right now.
It’s been four years since Tower Unite first released via Steam’s early access program and developers PixelTail games remain fully committed to its progress. Bringing us a living virtual world, this first-person MMO title takes place within an expansive hotel resort. Providing access to your own condo, it essentially acts as a hub for smaller games, allowing players to visit numerous game worlds.
Hosting six different game worlds, a fully realised arcade with over 20 playable games, a casino for card-based exploits and more, it goes beyond a pure community space, and PixelTail has given players full reigns to socialise within this world. Want to watch a film? Sure, the Theatre has you covered, and you’ll choose what to watch. Laser Tag? Not a problem, let’s get a game going. Zombie Massacre? Why not.
There’s plenty of additional plaza activities alongside these, and admittedly it looks quite daunting at first, especially on your own, but Tower Unite’s an experience meant to be shared. Individual games are fun, there’s plenty of ways to chat with new people and whilst it’s numbers have declined since launch, it still maintains an active community worth checking out.
Psyonix is part of Epic Games now, but there’s no denying Rocket League’s indie roots. Released in 2015, RL remains a huge success to this day, acting as a sequel to 2008’s wildly named Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars on PS3. Utilising a rocket-powered car, its based off Football, requiring you to hit a ball into the opposing team’s goal to score points, determining an eventual winner after 5 minutes.
So how does translate to making friends? Quite simply, Rocket League holds an active community, with segments specifically dedicated to in-game item trading. If no one can join you, 1v1 matches are an option for both casual and competitive play, but it’s designed as a team game, better suited to 3v3’s instead. If you’re alone in a larger match but get on well with teammates, you can then decide to party up.
If all goes well, players can also create in-game clubs, allowing up to 20 members to join at once. This brings a lot of personal benefits such as custom team colours, unique club names and personal club tags. Combined with cross-play multiplayer across each of its platforms, you’ll find plenty of potential friends willing to game with you. It’s a team effort after all, and when you start pulling off co-ordinated goals together, Rocket League becomes incredibly satisfying.
Depending on who you ask, responses to VRChat may vary significantly. Released back in 2017 as an early access title, this free-to-play MMO title has seen a slowly developing community since launch, fully embracing online culture. As it has become a popular streaming title, its playable across all major PC headsets but if you don’t have one, fear not. It contains a desktop mode, just with some control limitations.
It’s best described as feeling like a 3D Discord server, featuring gameplay reminiscent of 2003’s Second Life. A community-driven platform, how you experience VRChat comes down to you, allowing users to create their own worlds, avatars and custom content. You can play games like bowling, socialise through voice chat, put on shows and more; there’s plenty of fun ways to spend your time.
Its player base has witnessed a surge since lockdown began and for a free game, there’s nothing to lose by giving it a try. Like with any MMO, talking to strangers can seem daunting, and you’ll need to remain vigilant of trolling, but such players can be easily muted, allowing you to hide their avatars. Streamers cannot do it justice here; it’s something you must experience directly to appreciate.
Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)
Social media has dominated online life for the last two decades, beginning as early as GeoCities but is now widely led by Facebook and Twitter. As part of this, we’ve witnessed a rise in anonymous messaging platforms, some recreating pen pals for digital life and others, allowing you to simply express your thoughts. It’s dependent on user intention though and has undeniably had mixed results, ranging from genuine kindness to outright malice.
Outside private user conversations in-game, few titles have explored this concept until now. Released last year by Popcannibal, Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) is not a traditional game by any means and it’s entire premise revolves around writing letters. Content is entirely user-based and could be used in a variety of ways, from sharing funny stories to venting frustrations. Once sent, people can then reply and vice versa.
As with any platform, you must be mindful of what you share with others, but for those feeling lonely, it could be the pick-me-up needed. It’s been quite successful, and Popcannibal recently confirmed one million messages have been sent through Kind Words, maintaining a steady userbase with new features planned. Factoring in the low cost, it’s never been a better time to start writing some letters.
Sky: Children Of The Light
You might not recognise developers Thatgamecompany by their name, but you’d certainly be familiar with their work. Now released from their previous Sony contract, we’ve seen them develop Flow, Flower and 2012’s critically acclaimed Journey. Going quiet for a long time, it wasn’t until last year we finally saw a new release. Electing to self-publish, Sky: Children of the Light has now released across iOS and Android, with a Switch version due this summer.
An adventure game designed with mobile multiplayer in mind, Sky sees you explore a magical kingdom, allowing players to fly across it via a cape. Symbolising different stages of life, it holds seven realms you can visit, bridged together by a hub and each holds a series of scattered “Winged Lights”. Collecting these improves your cape, granting even further flight, so it pays to be thorough in your exploration.
As you progress, players will meet lots of different people, but unlike Journey, interactions are fully fleshed out. You can send gifts, chat with them, power up their flight abilities, even hug them for that personal touch. It’s playable alone, but it’s a co-operative experience at heart, and through these social features, Sky actively encourages you to meet new people. If you’ve got a good phone or are happy to wait for the Switch edition, it comes highly recommended.