If your kid is getting a tired of lockdown-based isolation, single-player gameplay and not interacting with their friends, it may be time to help them take their gaming online. To that end, I have compiled a list of my five favourite time-wasters your kid can play virtually with their pals—plus a bonus, classic pick thrown in for fun.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Since its release in March, Animal Crossing: New Horizons has pretty much taken over all of gaming. It’s the perfect lockdown game for kids (and adults, honestly). It’s impossibly gentle and adorable, totally time-consuming and you can play it online. Friends can visit your Animal Crossing island and you can visit theirs at will. Even the hooking up process is adorable: You buy a virtual ticket and ride a virtual aeroplane to your friend’s island!
When you’ve gotten tired of checking out each others’ digs and exploring, you can play games together. While there are a couple built-in mini-games, many players prefer making up their own DIY games, just as they’d do if they were together at the playground. (Here are some suggestions to get you started.)
There is literally no end to the possibilities Minecraft offers your child. The kid-friendly, endless sandbox structure makes it fun to play alone, but hooking up with your locked-down friends takes Minecraft to a deeper level of the fun-dungeon. You can work together to defeat the Ender Dragon (a longer-term goal involving careful resource gathering and teamwork), play mini-games together or just create your own virtual world where everyone gets along and there isn’t a plague.
It can be a little tricky to set up multiplayer Minecraft, though, so check out this step-by-step guide.
Houseparty is like Zoom, but fun. It’s a video-chat application for mobile phones and tablets that includes engaging mini-games alongside the video- and text chat. It’s basically the perfect app for cooped-up kiddies to connect with older relatives.
You can get together with MeeMaw or PawPaw to play any of its four games for free, including a version of Pictionary, simple trivia games and more. It’s way more fun than FaceTime, it’s totally free and it’s simple enough that even the most tech-challenged auntie should be able to get onboard for a dose of togetherness with their favourite niece or nephew.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Although hundreds of competitive first-person shooters have come out since this game was released in 2012, CS:GO is the one people keep going back to. It has a huge, rabid player base, it’s free to play and its perfectly balanced strategic, team-based gameplay never gets old.
Word of warning: Counter-Strike: GO isn’t for littler kids (it’s incredibly violent), but if digital carnage is cool with you (and your kid is old enough), download it and give it a spin. You’ll quickly see why it’s the most-played FPS ever.
Roblox is a kid-friendly 3D environment that offers countless games and digital experiences of every type for your child and their friends to explore. People from all over the world have created and shared thousands of mini-games and virtual experiences for this platform, many of which are as good or better than “real” games.
But the best part of Roblox is its programability. Anyone can use Roblox’s relatively simple coding engine to create any kind of game or experience they can imagine, from scuba diving, to breaking out of jail, to high performance car racing. And it’s free—mostly. There’s an in-app currency you can use for enhancements and to access some player-made games, but there’s a ton of totally free content to experience, too.
Honorable mention: Dungeons & Dragons
If your kid is geeky like me (god forbid), they might’ve had to cancel their bi-weekly Dungeons & Dragon sessions due to the lockdown. But geeky kids and parents can still play D&D, even if they can’t get together and roll the dice together in Tyler’s basement rec room.
It’s a little complicated, but if your budding half-orc barbarian wants to take the plunge, check out Roll20.net, a web-based platform that combines a shareable virtual tabletop, voice and video connection and digital die rollers to give players everything they need to play any “paper” role-playing game.
Dungeon masters will have all the tools they need to create maps and adventures—and if you combine Roll20 with DND Beyond (Dungeons & Dragons’ official digital toolset), you can play “official” pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons with your friends without the need for pens or paper.