So, here’s a scenario to consider: you’re a hip office manager or dynamic CEO looking for a way to promote team bonding. Suddenly it hits you: everyone in the office has a computer. Not only that, but you read in a business magazine that people can play games on computers these days.
Clearly this thought is the work of a genius and – if I’m completely honest – you probably deserve a bonus for thinking of it! However, there’s a lot of games out there and finding ones which would be suitable isn’t easy. Luckily for you, you’re in the right place! I play Skyrim so clearly I know everything about games and I’m willing to share what I know!
The office environment places a few constraints on the titles I’m going to recommend. For a start, we don’t want anything too competitive or too demanding performance wise, eliminating a lot of the big-name multiplayer games. You see, something like Call Of Duty relies exclusively on the player’s shooting reflexes, so any staff member new to First Person Shooters isn’t likely to have a good time playing against anyone who does. And some games with a more varied gameplay like GTA Online are demanding beasts the average office computer probably won’t be able to handle. The Steam Store page for each game should list system requirements, make sure to check before you buy.
There’s also the fact that current, big name multiplayer games tend to be expensive and who isn’t budget conscious in this economy?!
Alright, on with the recommendations! I haven’t provided links to any games, but these are almost all available on the Steam store; I’ve noted if they are not. It’s quite common for other retailers to have Steam game keys available for cheaper than buying on Steam itself, so do search around for deals.
Section 1: Games For Work
This is for games designed to play during work hours. There’s actually only one I know of, although I guess you could try and play browser games like Cookie Clicker competitively if you really tried.
Specifically designed by a game studio that wanted something they could play against each other over the course of a day without losing productivity, this is basically War Games: The Game (as in the 1985 film). Playing as the various nuclear powers, you have to maneouver your fleets and bombers as the DEFCON level steadily increases, eventually ending with the nukes launching. Highest remaining population wins! OK, it’s a bit grim but as I said, the mechanics are unique. The game is tuned to take around a workday to finish and will happily run in the background. Just take a glance at it every so often to update your orders if necessary and the game will flash in the system tray if it needs to notify you about something that might need an action. Like if Janice from Legal has snuck a submarine fleet up to the Arctic Circle and your radar is now detecting ICBMs raining onto your undefended north. Well played, Janice.
But what if you want to play games AFTER work hours instead?
Section 2: Post-Work Chilling
Or if you prefer, party games. Anything that involves a bunch of people around one screen, where players can drop in and out. There’s a huge amount of these out there, and many more if you’re willing to consider getting a console although I can’t really give any recommendations for console games. They’re good times for players of any level, and as a plus you’ll typically only need to buy one copy, although you may need extra controllers.
A manic co-op game. Can you and your fellow chefs keep up with a steady stream of food orders? Can you still do it if an earthquake temporarily cuts off half the kitchen, an oven’s on fire, rats keep stealing ingredients and whoever’s the blue chef keeps taking things you’re JUST about to use?
A quick-paced platformer where you madly scramble around the level to get the wacky weapon drops and take out the other players. It has a dedicated quack button.
Cartoony 3D wrestling game where you win by throwing everyone else out of the ring, although the ring is more likely to be a circular saw factory than a sports arena. You’ll be fighting the physics as much as each other, which keeps things interesting
A platformer about bringing freedom to terrorists by exploding everything. Notionally co-op, but some of those explosions can be a bit indiscriminate.
Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes
One player (with the computer) has a bomb covered with wires and switches, the rest of the team (talking to him but not looking at the screen) have a printed out bomb defusal manual. It’s simple to tell them how to defuse it…right?
Football, but with cars…cars with rocket boosters! Great fun, and can also be played in non-local multiplayer modes.
A highly regarded collection of quizzes, drawing minigames and such. You may well have physical versions of some of the games already if you’re a fun-loving office.
As I implied at the start of this section, these games are just some highlights I know about; an exhaustive list of games in this vein would take forever. If you need further ideas, check the “local multiplayer” tag on Steam for more.
But what if it’s less of a party scenario and everyone is here for some hardcore gaming fun?
Section 3: Getting Hardcore
This section has multiplayer games that need a computer per person and a bit more of a time commitment, somewhere in the ballpark of an hour long.
3A: We want to play as a team against internet strangers!
Team Fortress 2 is an obvious choice here. This is a ten year old game and honestly it’s still one of the best around. A player vs. player first person class-based shooter, it’s still popular because it is extremely well designed and after 10 years of development there’s a lot of variety in gametypes. 4 of the game’s 9 classes are suitable for people who aren’t too hot at aiming so all skill levels should be able to contribute. It’s also free. Consider Overwatch (not on Steam) if you want something similar but far more recent, or CounterStrike Source/CounterStrike GO if you want a more serious approach. If you think guns are passé then try Chivalry, which is about stabbing other players as a team, rather than shooting them.
There’s also the growing genre of Crew-based FPSs, where your team controls a vessel of some kind, one player the pilot, others manning the ship’s guns, repairing etc. You and ally vessels then fight against an equal number of enemy player-crewed ships. The two standouts here are the newly released Blackwake, where you fight it out as pirates vs the navy in sailing ships or the slightly older Guns Of Icarus, where you crew steampunk airships.
3B: We want to shoot things as a team against computers or each other!
Left 4 Dead 2. From the same studio as TF2 is this zombie survival shooter that’s also nearly as old as TF2. A co-op game, you play as a team of 4 against hordes of AI zombies, with the goal of getting to the end of the level. It also has a versus mode where the levels are the same, but now there’s 4 players on the zombie team. Consider also Payday 2, which is cops and robbers themed but doesn’t have the versus mode.
For an amount of players other than 4 or 8 is Garry’s Mod (plus CounterStrike Source for TTT). By itself GMod is a strange little sandbox physics game. You can do activities like play Pictionary by gluing props together or race karts with karts you make yourself in the sandbox gamemode, but it mostly appears in this list for the user-made gamemodes. Best of these is Trouble In Terrorist Town, a videogame version of classic social game Mafia, but also of note are Murder and Prophunt. With it’s roots as a mod rather than a full game, setting up GMod properly can get a bit arcane. While it’s well worth the effort, I caution this is for advanced gamers only.
If you want a slightly different game that emphasises tension, Dead By Daylight is a horror game where 4 victims have to escape the lair of a monster before he kills them all. It’s for 5 players so you can take turns being the monster!
Before we leave the FPS section, if you’re hugely constrained by hardware, have a look at the turn of the millennium multiplayer shooters. Classics like Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament 99/2004 were amazing at the time, they probably run on a smartphone these days and heck, you might make older employees happily nostalgic if you run a Quake LAN.
3C: We want to fight as a team from above!
If controlling a one of five heroes on a battlefield against another team of five players sounds good, you want either DOTA 2 or League Of Legends (both free, LoL is not on Steam). Hugely, hugely popular games, if there’s an exact multiple of five of you (or you don’t mind relying on internet strangers to fill out your team) then one of these MOBAs should fit the bill. Use your skills to level up and get gold to buy magic items, attempt to kill enemy players to set them back and try to take down the other team’s base before they can do the same to you. They’re hectic, demanding, high pressure games and literally millions of people love them for it.
If you like the idea of a top down action game but don’t want the pressure that comes with a Player vs Player game, the current leaders in the ARPG genre are Diablo 3 (not on Steam) and Path Of Exile, both of which will let you party up to 6 players to explode a giant amount of monsters and sort through piles of loot as a team. Path Of Exile is free, a deeper game but a bit obtuse, while Diablo 3 is not free but more polished and accessible.
Going back a bit further, Real Time Strategies have fallen out of favour recently but should still be decent for matches either teamed up against AI or against each other. The genre isn’t a specialty of mine, but try Age Of Empires, StarCraft 2, Dawn Of War or Rise Of Nations. StarCraft 2 isn’t on Steam.
3D: We want to work together but not in a structured competition way!
Lots of people think like you so there are a lot of Survival games to pick from! The basic premise of all of these is you start on a server with nothing and work your way up to a fabulous base stuffed with resources, helped by your friends and fending off hostile wildlife/zombies/other players along the way. Prominent examples include Conan:Exiles, Rust and Day Z, but there’s a lot of others out there. Be advised some of these games contain nudity and may additionally have fairly high system requirements.
The probable root cause of this trend is Minecraft, (not on Steam) a game which you’ve likely already heard of. It’s still very popular today and may well be worth a try, especially as unlike many of the other games in this section it’s very easy to set up a private server so you know no-one’s ruining your stuff while you’re offline. It’s also incredibly flexible, there’s almost literally mods for everything to change the game into anything you want, provided you have someone in the office technically minded enough to install them. If you prefer 2D to 3D then look into Terraria instead.
3E: We’re all Engineers and/or Accountants.
Get yourselves copies of Factorio or OpenTTD (OpenTTD is free and not on Steam) and enjoy optimising production chains or train networks together!
I hope this guide was useful and that you and your team enjoy lots of morale-boosting bonding with some of these recommendations!