7 Free Online Games That Have Amused My Friends And I For Hours

One really really good thing that has happened to me in this pandemic is that I’ve reconnected with some people I knew in university, and now I’m on Google Hangouts with some of them almost every night. We’re just looking to have a good time, and over the past several months, we’ve found some fun and creative games to amuse us, and all for the low, low price of free. If you and your socially distanced friends are looking for new games to play, here’s what I and several others can wholeheartedly recommend.

you'll thank me later gif.

  1. Crossword Puzzles
    The site this is on is called Backyard, which technically has several games, and we’ve played many of them, but our most-played one is actually just crossword puzzles. It’s fun to use our combined knowledge to complete a puzzle together (especially because I’m bad at crosswords on my own). I think we’ve done all the Easy ones and a good chunk of the Hard ones.
  2. Codenames
    There is a good version of this game on Backyard too (though it’s called Codewords there), but Codenames is the legit one, and it’s free and easy. Essentially a clue-giver has their team identify team words by giving a word associated. It’s ideal for 6+ people so the teams can have many brains, but I’ve played with 4 or 5 total. It’s fun to really sync my brain up with others to understand the clues. We’ve even added a layer of challenge by just giving the clue word and not the associated number, which is a spicy way to play.
  3. Among Us
    You’ve probably heard of this mobile game as it got very popular last fall. Little aliens complete tasks on a ship while avoiding one person who is a secret killer. It’s very fun, and playing over a video call allows us to a) not use the game’s crappy chat feature and b) use body language and voice inflections to identify the imposter. We played the game in the standard way a lot, but there was also a stint where we’d play the Hide And Seek version more because it worked well with smaller numbers and familiar maps.
  4. Jigsaw Puzzles
    This is a new addition to our gaming roster, but it’s amusing us a lot, even though it’s not really a game as it is a hobby. There are plenty of puzzle images to choose from, and you can even pick the number of pieces to ramp up the difficulty if you want more of a challenge (we did one that took us over 7 hours once). Plus, the sound the pieces make when they click together is very satisfying.
    puzzle pieces coming together
  5. Uno
    Uno is great because it’s not a huge time commitment. You can easily play a few rounds in 20 minutes. This version can only handle 4 people and it limits your autonomy a bit in terms of what cards you can and can’t play, but it’s very visually nice and keeps score for you and all that fun stuff. I doubt there’s a better one out there.
  6. Scattergories
    This is just like the physical tabletop version, but online! A letter and categories are given and players come up with a word for each, and then there’s a nice voting system where everyone can decide if all the answers are good or not. This site also keeps score for you nicely. Again, video calls aid in this game as you can argue your side faster than typing it out.
  7. Skribbl.io aka Pictionary
    No matter how good you are at art, this game is very fun. It’s basically Pictionary but instead of being on teams, it’s every man for themselves. My friends and I have added a twist to it by doing rounds where we have to draw the hardest option no matter what.
    Pictionary GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

Bonus: Guess The Knees
Soooo there’s not a website for this because it’s kind of an original game, but it’s still quality. We just opened a Google Slideshow and started finding and cropping pictures of celebrity knees, and then we all just took turns guessing who it is by asking questions. “Have they won an Emmy?” “Are they in the MCU?” There are some surprising knees out there! If you’re reading this right now and thinking that this sounds so stupid, you’d be right, but I need you to know that my friends and I, all in our mid-twenties, played this on two separate nights and we had a good time. I think it speaks to the creativity people can have when they’re bored and silly.

If you play any other free online games, let me know as we’re always looking for more fun games to play when we hang out, so leave a comment if you know of any!

I may not be able to hug my friends, but I sure can beat them at games, which is perhaps just as good in this era.

Peace out, gamers!

 

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Our Duck Adventures 2021

Apparently some of the video embeds in this post are acting up. Try opening them in different platforms/browsers if they’re not working for you. Sorry!

A bit of history to start: last year in April, we found a duck nest in the backyard. A camera was set up and eventually a duck showed up. My parents named her Corina (as we were fresh into the Corona pandemic). Over the following month, we sheltered this duck, saved her from raccoon attacks, and literally carried her babies to the creek (here’s a blog post about all that). We figured it was a one-time experience, and hoped it would be too, as we only had time to manage it all because we were newly in a pandemic and none of us had work. So imagine our surprise a few weeks ago when our neighbour tells my father that she noticed a duck poking around the bushes at the front of the house only a few days after one was spotted near the old nesting spot (which we purposely made inhabitable). Yep, there were eggs again. This is that story.

14 eggs in the rest
We found the nest when there were 2 eggs, and the final count ended up being 14!

We don’t actually know if it was the same duck again laying eggs. But based on the fact that one was spotted near the old area days earlier, we assumed it was. Besides, what were we going to do, come up with a whole new duck name? No. We called her Corina still and set up the motion sensor camera again. A highlight of my days was watching her do simple duck things like scratch her face and wiggle and more.

And this year, she was in a much safer spot. Tucked away in bushes in the front of the house, she had a bit of a roof (which was good as it snowed one day) and was hidden even from people walking up the front steps like the newspaper deliverers. That being said, we were not free from middle-of-the-night panics. She was attacked by a skunk one night, though she fought back well (footage here if you can bear to watch) and there was no skunk spraying. We set up another camera that next day, and were treated to a scary close call that night when a coyote(!) walked right up our steps and got very close to her. I cannot stress enough how insane a coyote sighting is given our very safe residential and forest-free neighbourhood. My parents and neighbours were shook when they saw the footage. So we also set up a motion-sensor sprinkler, and on the night the ducklings were there, we put up chicken wire so they were very protected.

She laid 14 eggs, and hatching happened basically right on time, 38 days into the process, on May 2nd. Last year, she and the ducklings were ready to leave the nest at 6am, so after a very sleepless night this year (the babies kept moving around and triggering the camera, which notified me and woke me up constantly) we were ready at 6am again. She didn’t actually start moving out until 9am, though, and luckily my boss was very cool about me pushing our meeting back so I could attend to it. However, as she and 11 babies were on her way to the neighbour’s pool again (insert deep sigh here), I peeked into the nest, and saw three unhatched eggs. Some failures are normal, but what’s not normal is that one of the eggs was slightly moving! Not wanting to leave this late bloomer behind, we corralled her and the 11 ducklings back to the nest, hoping she’d notice the egg and help it out. But after a few more hours, still nothing happened and she was ready to leave again, so we moved on.

 

Again we had to stop her from going to the neighbour’s pool, and in that process, a duckling got stuck in a fence unbeknownst to us, slowing down the trip as Corina was adamant about not leaving. I eventually located it and pulled it free, and after gathering the babies into a box yet again, we began the walk to the creek. Because it was a lot later in the day than last year, we did have more of an audience. We had to stop traffic to get her across a busy road, we crossed paths with a mom and four young kids on a walk who were delighted to see such a thing, and shoutout to the guy who was about to walk his dog but hung back once he saw us.

a box of ducklings.Showing Corina her babies on the journey.

Eventually we got to the creek and let them all go, and just like last year, they all happily swam away. Then we went home, and I went back to work while my dad cleaned out what was left of the nest. The fact that Corina was willing to leave that egg twice means it probably wasn’t ever going to be viable, so I’m glad we tried, but there wasn’t much else we could do.

Corina and the babies swimming away.

And that’s it, really. Aside from not sleeping a full night for the three weeks she was there all day and night, she was pretty manageable this year, but I think it’s because we knew what to expect. I think we’ve resigned to our fate of being the Duck House every spring now, so see ya next year, I suppose! I hope Corina and the ducklings are doing okay in the wild, and I’m glad we got to be a part of their life.

That’s all for now!

 

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Monthly Look Ahead: May 2021

May! Warm weather! And a bunch of other things! Would you believe there’s more than three bullets on this Monthly Look Ahead? Exciting. And if you also have a mildly exciting month coming, feel free to make your own MLA post!

monthly look ahead logo

  • Legends Of Tomorrow, the best show from the Arrowverse, is finally back on the 2nd. I love these characters and the goofy plots.
  • If you follow me on social media, you may have seen me mention it, but there’s another mother duck nesting on our property this spring! (Or perhaps it’s the same duck, but we can’t be sure). We’re keeping very close watch on her, and if all goes well, the eggs are due to hatch sometime in the first week of May. On that note, I did a huge blog post about that process last year; are you guys interested in another one about this year’s events even if there won’t be a ton of new info? Here’s a poll to gauge interest.
  • I’m still co-running virtual quidditch almost every night. We’ve done 5 tournaments, but as we approach our 1-year, we’ve decided to shake things up a do an Olympics-style event that starts this month, and I’m super excited for that to begin because I know it’s going to be so fun and a fresh change of play.
  • Curling is still on TV! While a lot of events this spring took place in Calgary, the Mixed Doubles tournament at the end of the month is in Scotland. I’m excited to watch and cheer for Canada, and I like watching Mixed as the games are shorter and more action-packed.
    Kerri Einarson/Brad Gushue.
  • There’s no official date, but to celebrate Pokemon’s 25th anniversary, they’ve gotten some singers to ‘collab’ and do little mini Pokemon concerts throughout the year. Post Malone performed in February, and Katy Perry is up next, but as I said, there’s no date yet. They’ve just been teasing things recently. I like a lot of Katy’s old music and I was a huge Pokemon fan as a kid, so I’m interested to see her perform, so hopefully that will happen this month.
  • Will there be TV Upfronts this month? Who knows. I want to see some fun TV trailers as there were none out in May last year. Filming has gone on as far as I know so I’m hopeful.

May-be other fun things will pop up as the month goes on, but for now that’s what I’ve got going on.

That’s all for now!

 

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Adam Levine Is Right About Bands

This post topic is like two months old, so sorry if you’re reading this and getting old news vibes. But I remember seeing this online discourse when it happened and thinking it was interesting but only now am I thinking about it enough to make it a blog post.

just go with it gif.

So way back in early March, Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5 and previous coach of The Voice (and also one of the stars of my favourite movie Begin Again, but that’s not important, I just wanted y’all to know) did an interview where he says that bands are a dying breed. It was in a podcast interview but his quotes are:

“It’s funny, when the first Maroon 5 album came out there were still other bands. I feel like there aren’t any bands anymore,” he said. “That’s the thing that makes me kind of sad, is that there were just bands. There’s no bands anymore, and I feel like they’re a dying breed. And so I kind of, in a weird way, as far as I mean, there still are plenty of bands, and maybe they’re not in the limelight quite as much, or in the pop limelight, but I wish there could be more of those around.”

Adam Levine and Maroon 5 get clowned on a lot online, and this comment was no exception. Twitter had a lot to say.

But here’s the thing: he’s right. Bands are not nearly as prevalent as they once were, and I think he of all people is allowed to speak on this given that he is in a band currently. He knows what it’s like.

he's not wrong gif.

Take a look at the top artists of 2020. How many of them are bands? 14 of them include more than one person (3 of them are duos), and of those 14, 6 are groups whose heydays were decades ago (eg. Fleetwood Mac, U2, Queen…). Compare that to the list in 2010, where there are 21, and none of them were from decades past. Billboard does not have data from 2000, but I’d imagine the number is higher than 14.

Another thing that was brought up a lot in this online discussion was K-pop, which is a hugely successful area of music in the last few years, and places like Twitter are heavily populated with passionate fans of this genre. One of the biggest groups is BTS, which ranks 18 on the 2020 list. Here’s the thing about BTS: they’re a group, yes, but they’re not a band. At least, not in the traditional sense. If the likes of NSYNC and One Direction can’t be called bands, neither can all these K-pop groups. They’re boybands for the same reason, which is that they don’t play instruments. This isn’t my definition, this is the classic line separating these types of groups. One is not less than the other and does not define talent or value, it’s just something to note in the context of a discussion on bands.

Something To Think About GIF.

With all this said, even if we include boybands and whatnot, Adam Levine is right to say that mainstream media does not focus on bands as much. Heck, most of the time we even hear about bands/groups is when someone leaves to go solo. He even acknowledged that there are still bands out there, they just simply aren’t as popular or valued as they might have been a decade or two ago. I just don’t know if that’s the fault of the industry and record labels or the consumers (or both, perhaps).

A lot of the tweets I saw from bands being like “Hi, we still exist, Adam!” or from people sharing images of their favourite bands were of bands I’ve never heard of, and that’s not just because I don’t have a good grasp of mainstream music.

Anyway, Adam Levine is right, and I can’t believe people got so mad about his correct statement.

I Said What I Needed To Say GIF.

If anyone wants to know, Neon Trees is my favourite still active and together band. I’d love to know yours in the comments below.

 

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Online Privacy: To Care Or Not To Care

At work once we were talking about online privacy and trust. It shouldn’t be a surprise that if you’re on the internet, you’ve agreed to give some large companies continuous info about you, whether you know it or not.

As a person in marketing, I know that this data is what is used to market things to people, so I can’t be totally against it, but it’s still kind of scary to think about how many strangers or unauthorized companies can know far too much about you, even if you are a safe, responsible person online.

that's just a little bit creepy gif.

There’s the argument that since we’re using Facebook and Gmail and stuff like that for free, our data is allowed to be collected (and used for marketing) as a trade-off, and while I guess that makes sense, it’s still kind of gross. Especially because that privacy doesn’t kick in once you do pay for an upgraded account or something. And with more and more companies just monopolizing everything like Amazon does for example, I think some have way too much info. If they get hacked, you could be screwed.

It’s about sacrifice and what you’re comfortable with, I guess. As a young person very connected and reliant on the internet, I’ve kind of made peace with the fact that my data is taken and out there. It’s just kind of how it is, and I don’t care enough to fight it. My boss, when we were talking about this, was like “every app you have is tracking you!” and he’s right, but like, okay, I hope Mario Kart and McDonalds enjoy me. I want those apps because they’re fun/easy/useful/whatever, and I don’t care if they know my general location or age.

i don't care right now gif.

Not that I ever really use my browser history, but I like having it, so I stick with Chrome as a browser though I know that some Google rivals like Duck Duck Go don’t save that stuff in the name of privacy. I guess it’s unfortunate that I have to choose to give Google my whole self in order to use a fairly basic feature, but that’s what the internet has come to.

On the flip side, my I-don’t-care attitude has limits. I have a little webcam cover on my laptop that I can slide over the lens. I keep it covered unless I’m using the camera, though I don’t really have anything to hide. If someone hacked my webcam, they’d see me lipsyncing to songs overenthusiastically or frowning at my screen because I think I have a slight resting frown face when I focus on things. I don’t really care if anyone sees that in general, but no one should. The fact of the matter is humanity and computers and whatnot can not be trusted, so my little webcam cover must protect me, and that’s an extra step I’m willing to take to make that happen. For the same reason, I don’t like Alexa or any of those in-home assistant robots. I don’t trust them. It’s too much.

I Don't Trust You gif.

It’s worth it to think about your comfort levels and the things you can do to protect yourself or fight back through alternative apps/software that don’t read/steal your data if you want (because there are genuinely good companies and systems out there if you look for them!), but at the end of the day, if you’re online, you’re probably being tracked to some extent, and that’ll probably never change. And as long as we don’t reach creepy robot wars or Alexa takeovers or something, it’s probably fine and just another example of some predatory, money-hungry businesses being the worst.

If it makes you feel any better, though WordPress at large probably does track stuff, the only info on you that I can see as this blog owner is what countries visit the site and what posts get views. It’s thrilling data.

 

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