Festival Daily Check-Ins: Games and Hobbies (Tuesday)

For Tuesday’s Festival Daily Check-Ins and Lockdown Tips, we chatted to Abigail Rieley, who co-organises the PhD Games Night

1.What games/hobbies have you got (back) into throughout lockdown?

I’ve been crocheting loads, I’ve taken up embroidery for the first time since I was a kid, and games have been a huge part of it as well. We have regular games nights with friends of ours which usually consists of us playing Trivial Pursuit as it’s the one game both households have. I’ve been after a copy of the game Gloom for ages and we used lockdown as an excuse to get one. It’s like Happy Families but you have to have the most miserable family and make sure everyone dies a suitably mournful death. An odd choice for a pandemic perhaps but there’s a lot of story-telling as part of the game and it’s actually very funny.

I’ve also been exploring the world of journalism board games (I used to be a journalist). Yes, it is a thing. So far I’ve got a 1950s set of Scoop and a 1970s set of Newsdesk. Lockdown is not going stop being geeky, in fact it’s made me worse!


2. How have these helped you throughout lockdown/Covid-19?

Playing games has definitely helped with the domestic harmony. It gives us a focus and something to talk about that isn’t the world around us. Gloom, with its gallows humour might be a little too on the nose for some, but the dark tone has really suited our mood at times and it really is very funny. Playing with friends gives a much needed excuse to socialise and spend time with people, again without too much examination of what’s going on outside. They are a release and a refuge.


3. What would you recommend for people interested in finding out more about Games and Hobbies they can get into, and where can they access resources?

If you are living with housemates or family then you can play games the old fashioned way – face to face. Even a standard pack of cards can while away the hours and with Google at your fingertips there’s never going to be the problem of not everyone remembering the rules. Ebay is a good place to pick up copies of games and you can support small UK businesses while you’re doing so.

If you’re on your own or want to explore further afield then online is the place to go. Just doing a search for free multiplayer online games will throw up thousands of possibilities. The gaming community sometimes has a reputation for being very geeky and quite clannish but this isn’t the case with board games. When I asked for help bringing the games night online on Twitter I was getting advice and links from all over the world. 

  • Board Game Arena is a good place to start with loads of free games available.
  • If you want to try online games then downloading Steam is a good place to start. Steam is a games shop and playing environment that has loads of different options. You can get both computer games and virtual versions of board games there and the choice is vast.
  • The best option for board games is to download Tabletop Simulator. $20 gets you access to hundreds of board games even including old classics like Monopoly and four of you can play on the one $20 licence. We’ll be using Tabletop Simulator at the games night.
  • Cards Against Humanity is a perennial favourite and there are several great online versions. We’ve used this one at the game night and it worked brilliantly – it comes with all the add on decks and works almost like the physical game. You don’t even need a laptop to play games online.
  • Psych is a mobile app which allows you to play with a group of friends. The idea is that you try to bluff an answer to a question and fool your friends. It can be played on a smartphone or a computer and does need a good internet connection but it’s definitely worth a try.

We started the game night because we know from first-hand experience how isolating doing a PhD can be. You get tunnel-visioned and stressed about matching impossible ideals and it can be very hard to keep any kind of perspective. Sometimes you just need a night off to be silly and laugh for a while. That’s never been more important than in lockdown so join us tomorrow night!