During this challenging time, when everyone is figuring out the best ways to work from home, continuing to socialize with remote colleagues is also important. In our previous guide, focused on distributed teams and best practices for remote work collaboration, we mentioned online coffee breaks (Swedish Fika) and other ways to maintain camaraderie during work hours. But what about replacing the all-important after-work get togethers? Either self-organized and impromptu among small groups, or scheduled events for the entire organization, there’s still a need to hang out “off the clock”, blow off steam and have fun with workmates — maybe now more so than ever.
Enter multiplayer online games. Whether or not you used to play video games together in the office during lunch or as part of after-work socials, there are numerous options to playing together either competitively or cooperatively online. With voice chat built into many games and with game-specific communication apps like Discord, colleagues can mingle in a very clearly non-work environment. While it might not be quite as good as the local pub, there are few things more bonding than winning a squad-based round of Fortnite together.
Here’s a guide on how to get started and some suggestions for the best online multiplayer games on all the major platforms. We’ll also dive into the world of Crossplay enabled games for colleague team-ups regardless of whether they’re playing on PC, Mac, Playstation 4, Xbox One, or even mobile.
For the uninitiated and sometimes even for online gaming veterans, figuring out how to join up with friends (and now colleagues) can be intimidating. Every game and every platform seems to have a different way of finding friends, adding friends, and finally all getting into the same games together. To reduce any confusion, especially when first setting up after-work gaming sessions, it’s highly recommended to start an online gaming hub for your company. While you might be tempted to simply create a Slack or MS Teams gaming channel since you already use those tools, a better option is to use a game-centric app like Discord.
Discord — Your Virtual After-Work Hub
Discord is built specifically to solve the problems of how to talk to each other while playing any game and how to make sure you all get into the same game in the first place. Setting up a company Discord server is a snap and will serve as a central hub for all your after-work gaming events. A few reasons to use Discord instead of Slack or MS Teams:
Separates Work from After-Work — While you might not all be able to meet up at the bar, you can all get together in Discord. It’s a mental shift from leaving Slack (or Teams), which represents the office to entering a space where you can relax and be more casual.
Voice Channels — Voice channels are brilliant and technically speaking the main benefit of Discord over more business-oriented communication tools. Once you click on a voice channel, you’re in and instantly chatting with workmates. There’s no typing, which is tough to do when you’re in the middle of an online battle, and there are no invites or waiting for someone to start an online voice or video chat. Everyone can talk at once, just like being in the same room together. If you still want to text chat or hosted video calls, Discord can also handle those types of communication. There’s even an in-game overlay, so you don’t have to toggle back and forth between Discord and your game.
Rich Presence — When in Discord, you’ll always see what colleagues are playing in real-time. Some games even support rich presence, which allows others to join another player’s game directly from Discord, making setup as hassle-free as possible.
Discord Is Free — Regardless of how many people you have in your company, Discord is free to use and has no plans of ever charging for its core features. There’s even a free mobile app.
You can download Discord here and follow this quick and easy walkthrough to set up your company’s server.
Once you have your server up and running, be sure to create at least a couple of text and voice channels before inviting colleagues to join. Here’s what Favro’s Discord server looks like:
Inviting everyone in your organization is done with a single shareable link. Send the link out in an email or post on a company-wide Slack channel. Employees click the link, and Discord walks them through the rest. It’s a nearly effortless onboarding process.
Getting Your Feet Wet
An ideal way to break the online gaming ice, especially for the non-gamers in your company, is with a platform-independent browser-based game. You won’t have to worry about hardware incompatibilities, and they’re typically very straightforward. Have everyone enter the same Discord voice channel, fire up their browsers, go to the shareable links, and you’ve got an instant game night. A couple of good choices we’ve played at Favro are Codenames.plus and Mousewars.io.
Codenames is a social word game based on a physical card game of the same name. The premise is simple: two teams (red vs. blue), each with a spymaster, compete to uncover their and only their corresponding colored cards first. Only the spymasters know which cards belong to which team. At the beginning of each turn, the spymaster gives everyone a one-word clue and a number of guesses to help his/her teammates guess the correct cards based on word association. The competing team tries to confuse the guessing team with bogus suggestions until it’s their turn. Play a round, and everyone will have it figured out in no time. It’s a blast!
MouseWars is a super fun and incredibly simple deathmatch shooter. Your mouse is your weapon. Everyone moves their mouse pointer around a starry background screen, trying to avoid being hit. Left-click to fire left. Right-click to fire right. You can switch between various weapons with your keyboard. The player with the most “kills” when the timer runs out is the winner. No instructions or complicated setup necessary, and everyone will be addicted after the first match.
The Next Level
Browser-based games are a great introduction, but you’ll probably want to take it to the next level with PC and console games. A big part of figuring out what to play next is going to depend on what hardware everyone at your company uses. Are you a Mac shop or PC shop, and does everyone have a laptop? iOS or Android? Do the majority of employees (or their kids) own PlayStation 4s or Xbox Ones? Figure it all out ahead of time with a Favro backlog. Ask everyone to suggest a few games they’d like to play and on what platform then select games based on the most over-lap, at least to start.
One of the many cool things about Discord is that it’s great for impromptu online gaming with colleagues. Hop on the company Discord server at lunch, or anytime you’re not working to see who’s online and what they’re playing for a quick match. However, you’re primarily setting this up for planned after-works. That being the case, it’s a good idea to create an agreed-upon calendar of what to play and when. Here’s what that could look like in Favro.
You’ll eventually figure out which games are a hit. From there, get creative. There’s nothing like some healthy competition. Maybe set up your own company leaderboards for the games you have on a weekly rotation.
Again, in the spirit of competition, here’s an example of a single-elimination tournament being run in Favro.
Suggested After-Work Games
To help you get started, here are some games perfect for after-work multiplayer. We’ve broken them down by platform and also provided a list of Crossplay supported titles. Crossplay games are an ideal choice because they allow colleagues to play together in the same game despite playing on different devices.
Suggested Games — Crossplay
Fortnite (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile) — One of the most popular games in the world, and the Battle Royale champ is also fully Crossplay. It’s playable across all platforms, even mobile! If you tire of Battle Royal, there are also Save the World and Creative modes to try out with your colleagues. Plus, it’s 100% free to play and easy to connect to the same game via Epic Friends.
Call of Duty: Warzone(PC, PS4, Xbox One) — Another free to play battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone is outpacing even Fortnite’s initial growth. Its real-world tactical gameplay and photorealistic graphics offer a more mature take on the genre. It supports Crossplay over PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Minecraft (PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile) — There’s something for everyone in Minecraft — survival, adventure, creative — and it’s one of the only other fully Crossplay supported titles. While not free, it’s very reasonably priced on all platforms. There’s also the ability to create your own server or your own Realms, making it easier for workmates to meetup in the same worlds.
Dauntless(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) — Dauntless bills itself as “the world’s first cross-platform hunting action RPG.” It’s free to play and just works. Finding your friends online is effortless. Traveling to new hunting grounds (islands) and battling increasingly difficult Behemoths together with colleagues is a total rush. Highly recommended!
Rocket League (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) — Rocket League is soccer (football for most of the world) with cars. This game is pure physics-based fun and supports multiple game modes from 1 vs. 1 to 4 vs. 4. Keep in mind that there is no mobile version, and the macOS version doesn’t support online multiplayer at all.
Suggested Games: Work Devices
Destiny 2— The always online, ever-expanding world of Destiny 2 is a pure SciFi first person shooter (FPS) joy to behold. It’s also a perfect game to play with colleagues as it supports the ability to play the campaign cooperatively and to team up against others via fireteams. There’s even the ability to form clans of up to 100 members.
Borderlands 3 — The ultimate looter shooter is much more fun with work friends. Join up to four players together for online co-op and battle through the game’s epic (although maybe not for every taste) story and downloadable content.
League of Legends — Arguably the biggest eSports game on the planet, League of Legends is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Choose your Champion and dive into 5 vs. 5 team fights. It’s also free to play.
Jackbox Party Packs 1–6 — All of the Jackbox Party Pack games are a blast to play with others. Each pack contains multiple games typically played by 2 to 8 players. Only the host needs to own the game. Other players participate via streams using their phones, tablets, or computers. All the games support up to 10,000 audience members!
Stardew Valley — What better way to relax after work than by running your own farm with up to 3 other players? While you might not be able to go to the real pub together, stop by Stardew Valley’s Stardrop Saloon, which features playable arcade games and a jukebox.
Tabletop Simulator— If you and your colleagues are into board and card games, there’s no better way to play them virtually than Tabletop Simulator. The base game includes 15 classics, and there are a plethora of DLC games created by the actual physical board game publishers. Up to 10 people can join online to play anything from poker to Dungeons & Dragons. If things get too frustrating, the virtual tabletop and everything on it can be flipped over into infinity.
Clash Royale (iOS, Android) — Equal parts collectible card game, tower defense, and multiplayer online battle arena, Clash Royale might be the most addictive real-time strategy experience ever created. Form a company clan to quickly join up for 2 vs. 2 battles in a large variety of modes. Fight together in Clan Wars and trade cards with your colleagues. There’s always something new to do in Clash Royale.
Butter Royale(iOS) — This one is iOS only, and you’ll need an Apple Arcade subscription to play, but if you and your workmates are looking for a casual, even family-friendly, battle royale fix on mobile this is the right choice. It supports 32 player battles with squads of up to four players.
Asphalt 9: Legends(iOS, Andriod) — If racing is your thing, this is probably the best way to experience it on mobile. Race up to 8 of your colleagues online or create a Driving Club and challenge each other through an entire league table of events.
Suggested Games: Console
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) — With over 26 million copies sold, even if your colleagues can’t join you it should be easy to find an online multiplayer race. A Nintendo Switch Online membership is required, but worth it with all the additional perks including Save Data Cloud and 70+ curated NES™ and Super NES™ classic games, many also online play enabled.
Sea of Thieves(Xbox One) — Created by legendary developer Rare, Sea of Thieves lets you and three mates team up to sail a pirate galleon in a quest for treasure and adventure. The game was designed from the ground up for cooperative play. Although not fully Crossplay, players on both Xbox One and PC can join into the swashbuckling fun together.
The Divison 2(PS4, Xbox One) — This one might hit a little too close to home, given that the story revolves around restoring order to a post-pandemic Washington DC, and now NYC with it’s recently released expansion. But, if you and three colleagues are ready to bring order to the chaos, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better cooperative rush than completing missions in The Division 2. Sorry, no real crossplay with this one.
A New Way to After-Work
Regardless of what devices your company uses for after-work gaming, there is no shortage of incredible online multiplayer titles to choose from, and the selection continues to grow. Find your favorites, but also keep it fresh by trying new games every week or so.
Online after-works will never be the same as meeting up in person, but gaming is a great way to stay social with colleagues and build camaraderie. Not to mention, since you’re all at home and nobody has to drive, feel free to share an online toast. Cheers!