When I was growing up, game consoles were the best way to play games. Nintendo, SEGA, and PlayStation dominated the gaming scene and my friends and I would laugh and shout with each other playing Mario Kart, Sonic Adventure, and Final Fantasy. Today, people play games on their phones. Just as Chase Jarvis said “The best camera is the one that’s with you”, it seems the masses have judged that the best console is the one in your pocket. Gamers now prefer phones over PCs and consoles: this year, mobile game revenue is expected to surpass PC and console revenue for the first time.
We’ve lost something in the process. Mobile games tend to be solitary. Although there are bright exceptions like Pokémon Go and Spaceteam, it’s unusual that games bring us physically together like Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart used to. And indeed, Nintendo is and has always been the king of in-person multiplayer video games. I think this is part of the reason for the resurgence in board game popularity. It’s not enough to talk to someone over a headset. We need that face to face interaction. It’s especially in games like Mafia, where our personalities intermingle, that gets me excited. In these cases, we’re not just staring at playing cards, we’re actively trying to read our opponents, understand who they are, and use all of our faculties to compete with them.
A few months ago, my friends and I realized that we can replicate the multiplayer console experience using our phones and laptops. The phones become the controllers and the laptop is the console. While the core experience can be the same as 20 years ago, we can ditch the wires, support any number of players, and play anywhere. We can once again laugh and shout with each other.
On a laptop, visit https://webtendo.herokuapp.com and select a game as the host. On an Android phone, visit the same site and select the same game as a player, or on iOS, download Webtendo from iTunes. If on the same wifi network, the server automatically determines the room name. After a few seconds everyone connects and can start playing.
Please try it out and raise issues, and together let’s bring back in-person gaming!
For a technical deep dive, check out my Github post.