Casual online games bring people together

When Alex Bennett, a network programmer in Seattle, created JigsawPuzzles.io in 2018, he couldn’t have imagined the impact the multiplayer puzzle website would have during COVID-19.

“It was a bit of a sleepy little game,” Bennett said. “There were players, but he had 200 or 400 a day.”

However, after people started quarantining themselves in March 2020, the website received up to around 10,000 visitors per day.

During the pandemic, casual online multiplayer games have been a way for people to connect and enjoy activities that were once in person.

Emma Khazzam, a fifth year food science student at Carleton, hosted game nights for the Carleton Science Student Society and the Food Science Student Society.

“We had to really think about what kind of activities we could do to bring the students together and feel more connected. Being online kind of limits the opportunities, ”she said.

“Gambling has been happening online for a long time, so we just took that idea and brought it to corporations.”

Khazzam said using online games at events makes it easier for students to participate.

“I really think online gambling, with companies like this, will continue in the future,” she said.

Hassan Hashmi is a second year computer science and business administration student at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. He often plays Skribbl.io, a website where players take turns drawing a word or phrase while other players guess what it is.

“When I want to chill out, I play Skribbl or those chill-out, laid-back games,” Hashmi said. “It kind of replaced hanging out in person.”

Online gambling has also made its way into the professional world, according to Hashmi.

Hashmi is doing a co-op internship at Medchart, a healthcare start-up, where Skribbl.io has become a way for employees to connect. “It’s about 100 people, and everyone is playing the game at some point during their week,” he said.

At Hubdoc, a document management company in Toronto, software developer Ryan Dotsikas helps run weekly gaming sessions at work with websites such as Skribbl.io and online adaptations of board games such as Code names and Secret hitler.

“While we were in the office we were pretty sociable and people would play board games at lunch and maybe stick around and hang out on Fridays for a bit,” Dotsikas said. “When switching to working from home, we always wanted to capture that kind of environment. “

For many, casual online games are more accessible than other video games because people can play them without creating an account, purchasing the game, or downloading any software.

During the pandemic, Kenmore, WA-based software engineer Evan Bailey designed Long wave, an online adaptation of the Wavelength board game. One player gives a point-based hint along a spectrum such as “regular” to “fancy,” and others have to guess where the hint is on the spectrum.

“Typically, before now, online games were marketed to a specific demographic of people who already enjoy playing video games,” Bailey said. “The increase in the number of games that try to attract people who would not normally play games online is good for the industry. “

After the success of JigsawPuzzles.io, Bennett reflected on the future of his projects and games during the pandemic.

“People send me letters regularly, and they tell a story that they couldn’t see their grandparents, so they taught them how to use this game,” he said.

He added that he had not received this kind of feedback for the action games he had created in the past.

“I wonder, ‘Are these things going to become our traditions? “, Said Bennett. “Are we going to take them forward? Or is it just us doing our own thing, and is it all okay if people can meet more? “


Graphic presented by Cara Garneau.