Since the Jetsons, I have been waiting for video chat. It’s been a long wait. When Skype arrived on the scene, it was like fulfillment of a childhood promise (though I am still waiting for my flying car)! Skype is great for one-on-one video chatting, but group video chat is a premium feature and not everyone wants to pay for it. Then Google+ arrived, and I discovered the Hangout. It’s totally free, and has some great collaboration features. Since I started using Hangout, I have found a few different ways to use this group video chat to enhance my campaign, allowing me to have that face-to-face interaction without always being in the same place.
Here are three ways I have put Google Hangout into action for my All For One  campaign.
This one is obvious, so lets get it out of the way. Group video chat allows players and GM’s to play remotely. Google+ is full of start up games being run via Hangout. It has given me the opportunity to have some of my friends who do not live in Buffalo game with me, which is great. In the past, I have had a remote player join my games via Skype. It works fine. We would have a camera pointed at the GM, and then have to pick up the camera and move it around to show the battlemat or the dry erase board behind the GM.
Where Hangout really shines is through group chat. I am not talking about adding more players, but rather we have set up two webcams in our gaming area (connected to two laptops). The first is aimed at the GM so that the remote players can see him. The second camera is mounted either over the table, so that the remote players can see the battle mat, or on a shelf, so that the remote player can see the whiteboard behind the GM. We then have both computers join the Hangout.
The remote player gets to switch from one camera to the other during the game, so that they can always see what is going on. It has allowed us to easily run more tactical style games, since the player can easily see the battlemat.
Post Game Discussion
My group plays late on Sunday’s, with our normal game ending about midnight. All of us are due into work in the morning, so there is little post game chat. In the past we would conduct a lot of our gaming business via email, during the day while we were working. As we have gotten older, frequent emails during the workday is just not possible, and with family commitments, emailing all evening is not that feasible either.
Enter the Hangout. A week after my game, I host a one hour hangout with my players. We use the time to discuss the past game and the session coming up. We discuss any rulings and review any new material that has come out. I find that it really helps to have everyone face to face, and the face-to-face discussions are faster than sending around emails.
My current campaign runs every three weeks. When I start a new campaign, I don’t like to take the first session making characters, nor do I like players to make characters in a vacuum. When I started my recent All For One campaign, we did our character creation via Hangout. We used the Hangout With Extras feature to have a shared Google Document, which was the Group Template (from Fear The Boot [LINK]). We were able to discuss the questions in the Group Template, and take turns filling out the template. In addition we were able to talk about character concepts, and discuss questions about the rules.
It was a great way to be able to utilize a little time during the week, without making it a production to drive out to one location. Everyone was able to connect, have our hangout, and then disconnect and go back to their evenings. The video chat made discussion easy, and the group document sharing really made for a truly collaborative session.
How’s It Hangin’?
The Google+ Hangout is a great resource for your gaming group, even if you all live in the same town. It is a collaborative platform that is free to use.
Have you hungout yet? If so, what are you using Hangout for? Are you running games with it? Are you using it to collaborate and communicate to your players?