Socializing from a Distance

In the midst of Corona, many of us find ourselves staying home a great deal more, and while it may seem minor compared to other concerns, it can be a real challenge to continue to socialize and connect with others while maintaining the physical distance recommended by many medical professionals.

Granted, there are many computer and console games with a strong online environment, and there are systems like Facebook and Discord, and the option to talk on the phone or text, but I think in some cases what really helps is finding ways to recreate some aspects of the activities we used to engage in regularly.

For me, three things come to mind:

  • Round table discussions
  • Watching movies & shows with friends
  • Playing board/card/dice games together

Here are my thoughts on each of them.

Round Table Discussion

Perhaps one of the most common forms of socializing, getting together with friends and just talking. In the background there might be music, TV, or what have you, but the conversation is what it’s all about. And whether it’s done via phone, text, webcam, or a group chat on a system like Facebook/Discord/Skype, it’s not hard to imagine.

Just recently I was discussing with one of my friends how I missed getting together around a fire and drinking tea while we talked. So we began brainstorming how everyone could order some tea from the same supplier, get something that smells of wood smoke, perhaps even set up a video/audio clip of a wood fire, and drink our tea while chatting in a group webcam “meeting.”

Watching Movies & Shows with Friends

Netflix recently announced a new “group viewing and discussing” feature, but even if they hadn’t, there’s no reason multiple people couldn’t choose to watch something at the same time, and (if they chose) have a phone/webcam/text based group chat during the viewing, or, if you prefer, tell everyone you are going to be watching the movie “between 7:30 and 9:30 (if it’s roughly 2 hours long) and that afterwards you’ll hop on the group chat and discuss it with everyone.

What I like about the second option is it gives everyone their own control over when the movie is paused, playing, etc. And, despite being a big fan of Mystery Science Theater, I generally favor saving the discussion until after the movie is over.

Playing Board, Card, and Dice games with Friends

This one is a bit challenging, but still very doable.

Granted, there are digital versions of many board games, and that is certainly one option. However, for those who either can’t find the game they want to play, or perhaps have some house rules they like to apply, there is (once again) the option of “setting it up in your own space” and coordinating online.

The classic example is how many play Chess long distance, sending messages that describe the move they want to make “Queen to C7” and the other player moves the game piece,  ensuring that both players have identical game boards. This of course requires that each player have their own game. Granted, many board/card/dice games are not terribly expensive, but if you are reluctant to buy, it’s not always essential.

Many games can be played with a single “game master” who shows the game (via photos or a webcam live feed) and updates it based on the moves others play. A key component here is that the game itself has very little hidden information. Examples include: Mint Works, Zombie Dice, Settlers of Catan, Stone Age, Small World, Tiny Epic Galaxies, Pandemic (or any cooperative game), Splendor, Stone Age, etc.

Let’s look at Splendor (for example).

This is a game where each player takes turns drafting stone tokens that represent gemstones, or spending those tokens to buy cards (which represent a once per turn gemstone resource).

Every token and card taken is (at least initially) revealed to every player at the table (the same way everyone knows when a player in Settlers of Catan receives a resource, and what that resource is).

Granted, drafting games like Dominion, Sushi Go, or Fluxx, are more challenging, but there are still ways of playing with only 1 copy at 1 location.

What if each player had a regular deck of playing cards, and a text document (like Word or Excel) that outlined what each playing card represented.

For example, take Dominion.

Someone starts the game with 10 basic cards and notes that the 4 “2s” and 4 “3s” represent the “1 money” cards, and 2 “4s” represent the “1 Victory Point” cards.

Someone drafts a village and makes a note that says “5 of Diamonds=Village,” and adds that card to their small deck. Now they have 11 cards.

Next player draws a 5 of diamonds, but on their chart “5 of Diamonds=Chapel,” so they play it and remove 2 cards from their deck, and remove those card assignments from their list.

Granted, this is certainly a bit more work than playing Dominion or any game around the same table, and in some cases it may be more work than using a computer program version of a game (if the game you want to play is available as a computer program).

The point is “we have options.” We may not be able to do all the things we used to do in the same way, but there are ways of recreating some aspects of our familiar social activities. It’s all a matter of getting a little creative. If you miss doing something with a friend, start imagining how you could recreate the sensory elements, and coordinate/align your experience so that it mimics that of your friends.

Separated by distance, we can still share the same experiences.

2 thoughts on “Socializing from a Distance

Leave a Reply