If life is beginning to feel increasingly ‘samey’, it might be time to switch things up and learn something new. Of course, you might feel that you are reeling from too much change already, and that is also fine. In that case, just browse these ideas for anything you might want to add to your ‘bucket list’ of things you want to try sometime.
I have ordered the list from least to most time investment, although if you just want to jump into a virtual tabletop game with people who know what they are doing already, you can be assured of a good time with a minimum of effort.
Coming up with an original setting, establishing a backstory with memorable characters and tying them together in a satisfactory fashion is hard. Hard and boring. What is much easier and often more satisfying is to pick your favourite (series of) novels, computer games or films and write a story exploring what happens next, or what happened in the background that was glossed over, or the adventures of someone else set against the backdrop of the same world. You can attract a keen fan base for your writing and get feedback from your adoring fans and even more adoring critics if you post as you write on FanFiction.net.
Another fond memory from my youth are ‘choose your own adventure’ novels – a format that has continued in the form of some mobile apps. If you want to write adventures that offer your reader a choice of how to proceed as the protagonist, want to see them overcome obstacles and even manage resources as they progress, you can write and share interactive text adventures using Twine or Text Adventures.
This free adventure writing platform allows you to create stories with simple branching choices to sophisticated adventures with events occurring on timers, inventories, expendable resources, and more. The best bit is when your friends and others tell you what surprised and engaged them. Nothing beats the look on someone’s face when they come across your devious plot twists but at least they can tell you about them afterwards.
It is possible to play roleplay games on your own, as the Iron Sworn RPG demonstrates. Of course, you can play it with others but if you want to get up to speed without your friends getting distracted as you try to learn the game system together, this might just be what you are looking for. Download the core rulebook for free through DriveThruRPG.
Of course, if you really want to see your friends go slack-jawed in amazement at the big reveal in your story, you could invite them to join you for a game of online roleplaying (it’s finally cool, I promise!). From gothic Lovecraftian horror stories that only lucky player characters will survive to high fantasy medieval fantasy tropes like Dungeons & Dragons, optimistic and dystopic futurescapes, and magical realism set in an alternative modern world, you can play with friends online.
If you are all familiar with a gaming system, you can meet for free over Google Meet (available as part of your student Google Apps suite) with the assistance of free tools such as D&D Beyond (for Dungeons & Dragons, 5th ed.). If you prefer something a bit more glitzy than opening a shared document with the battle map and describing in-game events and actions, you can subscribe to Roll20, Fantasy Grounds or the less expensive Astral Tabletop.
Play virtual boardgames
A generous handful of board games are available to play online for free at Pogo or Board Game Arena against a computer opponent, with friends, or with other players around the world. There is an inexpensive subscription option if you want to play more mainstream games)
Because there are not nearly enough computer games in existence, you might be interested in learning how to code. While you are at university, you have access to the BBC Micro emulator (search AppsAnywhere for “BBC Basic for Windows”). This might excite mature students more than the rest of you because those in their 30s and older might well remember this computer from their school days, or have even have owned one in the distant days of yore. Designed to make learning coding simple, BBC Basic is still one of the most intuitive programming languages ever, and you might still find some great games you can code in and make work.
This is not to mention all the computer games with multiplayer and versus modes, creative writing and journaling with pen and paper, and all the low-tech games you can discover. Perhaps you can think of other things we have overlooked entirely that people can pick up and do in the comfort of their own homes cheaply or for free? If so, please let us know in the comments below.