Summer is the rebirth of social life—long evenings with beautiful weather, half-day Fridays and time off school. But sometimes it can feel like you’re not taking enough advantage of summer. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the prospect of choosing one of the many possibilities the season has handed you from its overflowing bucket of social situations. For example, last week was my first week of summer break; I had three different opportunities to have a frozen margarita, and I only took one of them, and now I’m doomed to eternal regret. An evergreen option to combat the summer choice paralysis is simply chilling with a friend and playing a game that helps you get to know them.
Sunburned despite only spending about half an hour outside, I am here to help, with a list of text-based games for two* that you can play with little to no prep. Grab your summer crush, bff, the captain of your soccer team or your roommate who doesn’t want to go to the beach because it’s an hour away on the train, and play something together.
(*Some of these can be played alone, or with more than two people; define what “two-player” means in the privacy of your own heart.)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Have I Been Good? is a LARP that you play with your dog. It involves spending a whole day with your pet, whom the game imagines sees you as an immortal being, untouched by time. By the end of the day, you will be able to speak to them. But until then, you have the intervening hours together to play, go on a walk, and write two letters: one from you to your dog, and one from them to you. This game made me cry, and I don’t even have a dog to play it with. Good luck!
Photo courtesy of Pixabay
One of my best friends in high school broke their elbow roller skating. I don’t know why roller rinks are universally the site of so much pain and trauma, especially when they’re so fun. But anyway, Roller Rink Redux is about that feeling. This situational pamphlet asks you to go to a real-life place that scared you when you were in middle school, and reclaim it through a series of prompts like doing an activity you failed at then or asking for help with something. Originally made for GaymeJam2k19, it’s about asking players to reconnect with their othered younger selves, and that’s always easier to do with a friend.
This surrealist take on Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition places you in a dungeon that never ends, where death only takes you in deeper. You start off with a character sheet imported from D&D or Pathfinder and cross out your hit points, hit dice, and death saves. Over time, it becomes a game of accreted failures and losses. Roll a 1 on a skill check? That skill is gone. Roll a 1 when you use a tool? That tool is gone. Whatever story you generate by working through the grids of a never-ending dungeon will be haunted by your previous mistakes, and, if you’re playing with more than one other person, your party’s shifting trust in you.
The booklet includes two playable scenarios, both of which emphasize the themes of decay, instability, and change. As the booklet notes, frustration is likely. Maybe go get an ice cream when you’re finished.
Someone told me recently that everyone is either an ocean person or a space person. I am an ocean person, and outer space terrifies me in both existential and technical terms (it smells like metal, but if you ever smell it you die? No thanks.) My best friend is a space person, and I can’t wait to play this game with her.
is about one person guiding another back home from a planetary expedition. One person plays as the pilot, who is returning after a long journey, and the other plays as the operator who will help them get to the ground. You roll a six-sided die to determine things like your signal strength and the place where you’ll land, and you’ll ask and answer questions of each other as you do so. The act of creating a bond before you have to say goodbye is intimate and emotional, and it takes about half an hour—the length of a real atmospheric re-entry.
Text Tac Toe (Win)
describes itself as an icebreaker, a party game, and a test of two peoples’ friendship. It’s… tic tac toe, but with some nice prompts. The game was included in Indiepocalypse Bundle #28, an itch.io bundle that collects work from small developers each month.
Emily Price is a PhD Candidate in literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is also a columnist at Unwinnable Magazine writing about media objects and their relationship to the past. She can be found on Twitter @the_emilyap.