We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our lives are being changed by the lockdowns, cancelled group meetings, and mandated social distancing. I’ve always been fascinated with screen sharing apps, video chat, and video sharing experiences which require no downloading and exist solely in a web browser, and now more than ever is a perfect time to put them to use. Here’s my list of favorites which I think will make the 2020-2021 Coronavirus pandemic a little easier for staying connected with friends and family.
Rally.video was created with disdain for the average standup meeting, with the benefit seeming to be for management rather than engineering teams. A Rally is not a formal standup, it’s a collaborative get-together. Rallys consist of chatting, a game or activity, followed by a discussion of what was worked on yesterday, and the plan for today. Rally.video makes it easy to jump between team-specific tables.
Explore on your own, or bring your friends, family & co-workers to hang out.
OMG, it’s like DooM, but instead of weapons, there are webcams!
Sometimes a phone call with your friend is just what you need. I found this app especially useful for getting family members together to play tabletopia, knowing that not everyone has access to PC headset. Uberconference lets all participants connect using a traditional telephone, or a web browser. Uberconference has extended their call duration for free accounts during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is especially welcoming for those who need a short-term solution for this time of mandated social distancing.
Chris’s recommendation: Uberconference is worth using even if just to experience the hold music!
mixaba is video conferencing software with a twist. Chat groups are small, and every n minutes, the chat participants get shuffled into a new group. The shuffle timer is configurable between 2 and 15 minutes. The reason for this is simple– large groups via video conferencing are often talking over each other, or contributing to a painful collective background noise.
Chris’s Recommendation: Use this for virtual family gatherings!
Online Town is a video-calling space that lets multiple people hold separate conversations in parallel and walk in, out and around those conversations just as easily as they would in real life.
It’s like an RPG with video chat! I want to try this one with friends.
Gather is a multiplayer virtual space which gives you control of a customizable 2d avatar. You can move around the space, and see and hear other player’s webcam and microphone based on your avatar’s proximity to them.
There are games, screen sharing functionality, video integration, and website embedding. The virtual maps can be customized through the map editor, where furniture or interactive objects can be placed and repositioned.
Gather is designed with conference and workshop events in mind, with a broadcast functionality which streams the speaker’s video to all participants regardless of distance between avatars. Gather optionally integrates with Zoom, Webex, GoToMeetings, and Google Hangouts.
Kosmi is a relatively new digital hangout medium. Rooms in Kosmi can run one of several apps from Kosmi’s feature list. There are apps for watching youtube videos together, sharing screens, video chat, and games.
Chris’s recommendation: Use a Chromium-based browser such as Brave
Tabletopia is a way to play board games with friends in your browser. This isn’t a video game as you may be expecting it, Tabletopia is a little different. Tabletopia gives you the tools to play a board game, as if you were physically with the person you were with. There are no rules enforced by Tabletopia, there are no guides teaching you how to play, and there is nothing other than the other player’s vigilance to stop you from cheating!
Instead, you or the players must know how to play each game which is available. For this reason, I find it best to choose a game which at least one player already knows how to play. That way, the knowledgeable player can instruct the others, and the experience is much more enjoyable than everyone in the game being clueless and struggling to figure out what to do. If you have time and the patience and want to learn a new game, I find watching YouTube tutorials the easiest way to learn a game. Heck, you could even use another service to synchronously watch a tutorial video together!
Tabletopia offers a free (limited) option, as well as two pay options ($4.99 or $9.99 per month) which enable a larger choice of games and extra features.
Chris’s recommendation: Keep it simple and experience the nostalgia with Checkers!
This one may only apply to a small amount of people interested, but it’s rather good at what it does. Untap.in is a webapp for playing Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, YuGiOh, Weiss Schwarz.. Just about any Trading Card Game you can think of. The way Untap.in is able to support such a wide variety of games is that it doesn’t enforce how cards are placed on the table or drawn or anything. Instead, it’s up to the players to follow the rules of their chosen game.
Chris’s recommendation: Play on your laptop/desktop computer– Phone screens are too small!
Here’s a really nice guess-the-drawing game which you can play with your friends online. There is a large set of default words to play with, or if you have a creative streak, you can enter your own words! This can make for a fun time as you can tailor the drawing possibilities to inside jokes or memes that only you and your friends would know!
There are a ton of video call apps on the market, but few of them really speak to me like Team.video does. Firstly, the user interface is amazing. It’s incredibly clean, performant, aesthetically agreeable and highly usable. It is obvious that someone spent a lot of time tweaking that layout to be juuust right! The login process is fast and painless, and there is even a game to play while you wait for the rest of your team to join the call!
One of the annoying things about video meetings has to do with microphone muting. In order to keep disruptive background noise from crimping the flow of the meeting, pretty much everyone has to be muted except for the person who is speaking. This makes adding a quick acknowledgement difficult compared to in-person communication where body language is freely exchanged. Team.video has a great solution for the lack of obvious body language in the form of non-verbal emoji overlays with a hushed volume sound effect. These non-verbal communications are unobtrusive and pleasing.
Chris’s recommendation: Fill out your profile information with ice breaking personal interests!
Board Game Arena
Board game arena is a well established online tabletop games website. With Board Game Arena, you don’t need to worry about people cheating because the rules of each game are enforced by the computer. Board game arena works on all major platforms and devices, and doesn’t require a high end device to run smoothly due to the two-dimensional display of the games.
Chris’s Recommendation: Play 7 Wonders! It’s an excellent game!
This is an oldie but a goodie. Cytube is a website which allows users to create chat rooms where the host queues up a list of videos and streams them to the audience, just as if they were a TV network! Viewers can chat with each other, post emotes, and adjust their interface style.
In the case of the example screenshot above, the host was playing Men in Black: The Series for the room. Nothin’ like some Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia to bring me back to simpler times!
A playful space for online events
This one looks like a nice way to virtually hang out with friends or have desktop and video sharing conferences online.
Do you know of an app which belongs in this list? Let your opinion be known and leave a comment below!
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