For many of us, these past few days have been a tense, confusing, sometimes terrifying experience, and things don’t look to be getting much better in the immediate future. For some in the states, this week marks a slightly new reality where you’ll be isolated from friends, family and even co-workers as the country works to flatten the curve on the Coronavirus by limiting social engagement, closing down public schools and having companies instill work from home/remote access for employees.
With that comes, a sensation that many of us may not be prepared to handle, I know I’m not. The “social isolation” where you aren’t really allowed to interact with others for a multitude of fantastic reasons. Keep your arse home! I’ve spent the weekend though collecting tools that would allow me to still remain in contact with friends and even engage in some of our normal activities. And wanted to share them with others.
Free to Stream Sites
At this point, many of us have access to sites like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney + and the list can go on and on, but if you don’t have access to any of these services or can’t afford adding more to your already tight budget, here’s a list of free streaming sites that you can check out.
Pluto.TV – Pluto.TV is the free streaming site that I always recommend first for a multitude of reasons. First, and most importantly, it has a scheduled airing of programs and it’s great to just turn on a channel and have something running. Secondly, it has channels specifics to my needs including a channel dedicated to James Bond movies (from Dr. No to Die Another Day), Ninja Turtles (2003 and 2012 series) and of course wrestling (TNA/Impact wrestling). If those don’t tickle your fancy, there’s dozens of other channels to check-out.
Tubi – Tubi offers a ton of content without the need to create an account (Though you can get one to add stuff to a queue and easier search). It is also available on plenty of platforms and devices. If you want some stuff to check out, the 2014 Ninja Turtles movies is up there, plenty of GI Joe and Transformers animated series are on there, Yugioh, Sonic X and classic episodes of the revival of Degrassi.
Vudu – Vudu is a solid service to have an account for in general since it’s one of the premiere digital store fronts for movies and TV shows, but in addition to that they offer a decent selection of free content with ads. Current movies include the Karate Kid remake, Hook, and Legally Blonde. But most importantly for Vudu, it also has original content including a Mr. Mom TV series.
Crackle – Crackle should have been a contender, one of the first, free streaming service that I could remember, backed by Sony and had a ton of original TV series and movies including two Dead Rising movies. In time it has taken a backseat, but it still has originals and a ton of older content. More importantly, it currently streams the entire run of one of the greatest comic book series of all-time, the Spectacular Spider-man. Other content worth checking out includes Clue, The Social Network and Starship Troopers.
YouTube TV – YouTube has a ton of original and free content as it is so there doesn’t need to be much highlighted here, but it does offer free and full classic movies on its service.
IMDB TV – I’ll be honest I’ve not used the service much to know how good it is, but it has a really solid selection of top-level movies to buoy the service including Blade Runner 2049, Stranger than Fiction, Hitch and Tekken. Listen, I like and support the Tekken movie!
Xumo – Another service I don’t have much experience with, like Pluto.TV it is broken into channels based on interests/genres and has more news options.
These are free streaming services that allows you access to their library unfettered, but a few companies are also helping relieve some of the stress by offering free 30-days of their service. Including horror-movie streaming service, Shudder, if you use code SHUTIN.
Streaming with Friends
We’ve got a host of streaming services and plenty of content to watch, but you’re still missing that social connection. The watercooler talk on Monday morning after another exciting episode of your favorite series, here are some sites that will help you all watch together!
Netflix Party – Probably the one you’ve heard the most about recently. It’s a simple Chrome extension that allows you to sync up Netflix content and insert a chat overlay so can talk to friends in real-time.
AndChill.TV – Right now it seems to be limited to YouTube and Twitch videos, but it is based off the hosts library so if you’re like me and have a Movies Anywhere account, it allows you to stream/share your digital collection with friends. And the interface of everyone picking a seat in a movie theater and it changing the angle of viewing is adorable.
Kosmi – Has thus far proven to be the most versatile of services allowing you to host local files, screenshare a streaming site or open up videos from popular destinations. The one downside so far seems to be that you can only add one thing at a time so can’t just add a ton of episodes of a TV show and binge with friends.
TwoSeven – On paper it works, a clean interface, ability to chat with mics and not interrupt the content, but getting things set-up can be a bit confusing and doesn’t seem to cooperate with everyone all at once. But once you get it working, a great service.
MetaStream – It has a lot going for it, but the one major drawback is it doesn’t stream based off host’s connection instead syncing everyone up so you all need the content/account to view together which does limit options, but works well in conjunction with the various sites listed above for free streaming!.
They all offer some functions and features for watching with friends, but if you got that one friend who is tech-savvy and has the state of the art PC/laptop there are simpler options with many chat-services. If you want to host a call on Slack, Discord, Hangouts or Zoom with the screen-sharing functionality you can get a movie night going and have instant chat. Though be reminded each may come with a price.
King of Games
Movies and TV shows are fun to watch together. Sit back, talk, laugh and have fun. But if you want something that has a bit more interaction there are options to play games together online. Video games would be the easy answer, and heaven knows I love my video games, but let’s take a look at those that are a bit more analog in nature with a digital version.
Jackbox – With an interface that has each player using their phone to enter the game, the Jackbox series has become the ultimate shut-in game for my friends. Simple enough for a host to stream the game via Twitch, Mixer, Steam, Hangouts or any service with a screen-sharing functionality. There’s 6 different games and each offers its own unique host of titles with Quiplash proving to be an early favorite.
Yucata – Hosts dozens and dozens of board games that you can play with your friends online. Even if you can’t play with friends, you are able to jump into games with strangers around the world.
Tabletopia – The site offers hundreds of games, which you can sort by number of players and playtime and is constantly adding new ones. You’re able to play quite a few with friends, but need a premium account to unlock the true potential of the site.
Boardgame Arena – Success can be a gift and a curse, as I write up this feature, the site is currently locked to only Registered Users due to the increase activity over the past few days. But when it does work, you have access to some popular Board Games to play online with friends and I guess a good time to create an account.
Happy Meeple – You are limited to a single player or 2-player game, but it’s never a bad idea to have plenty of tools in your box.
Cards Against Humanity… esque – I mean for legal reasons it’s not Cards against Humanity, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a way to play Cards Against Humanity with friends. It’s pretty fun and a simple and easy to use interface.
Dominion – I don’t know the game, but it’s free and online and willing to learn.
Board Game Geek – I can’t try these all, but Boardgame Geek has a thread where users post board games you can play online and it’s a great resource to keep tabs on.
Board games aren’t your jam or you want to flex your creative muscles? Just because you can’t be together doesn’t mean you can’t try out DND and various other RPGs with friends.
Roll20 – Will be the start of almost any of your digital RPG needs.
You have the board set-up, now you want to talk and see your friends, we’ve touched on a variety of chat-services already but just to recap once more. Google Hangouts is free and is pretty steady when it comes to video chatting. Skype has been the backbone of the community for many many years. Zoom is a new face in town that allows up to 100 people to be in a video call at once, but you are limited to 40-minute sessions on a free account. If you just want voice, Discord is a solid option. Streamyard seems like a viable option as well. Plenty of opportunities out there.
BattleMats – Currently, can get 12 maps for free. I mean if you’re gonna run a game helps to have all the tools. And who doesn’t love a good map to spring some traps.
And free free free games. I mean if you can, I would still support the creators in any way you can, but just a few samplings. Icons Superpowered RPG. Fantasy Age RuleBook. Onyx Path daily giveaway. Teenagers from Outerspace.
Reading is Fundamental
I work for a library system, how can there not be a section on reading! I would first recommend checking in with your local library system to see what their eBook and audiobook set-up looks like. If you are in the New York City region, TimeOut has you covered on how to access our vast library of books.
Plenty of authors and local libraries are doing virtual story-time for the kids. And I mean it’s a great opportunity to look into a virtual bookclub. Personally, perhaps it’s time to start that Marvel Unlimited/DC Universe subscription/trial for a month.
If nostalgia is your thing, the entire library of Animorphs books is available online for free.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least promote our site and content. With over 200 bad movie drinking games, you can fire up one of the many free streaming services to watch with friends and kick back with some delicious cold ones. I did mention that Tekken is available to stream right! 🙂
I hope you find these resources helpful in some manner, and I will continue to test and expand what can be done when you’re not near the ones you wanna hang out with!