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How to game safely with friends and family this holiday season

If you usually spend your holidays playing board games with your loved ones by the fire, this year might look a little different. But that doesn’t mean it’s game over for your traditions — you can use video games to connect with family and friends remotely instead.

hands holding a game controler, with cursors, text bubbles and Wi-Fi symbols in the background

If you’re not a gamer, the world of video games might seem tough to navigate.

But there are lots of entry-level, family-friendly games out there. Some of them might even be digital versions of the board games you’re missing this season.
Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or a first-time player, take these steps to ensure you’re gaming safely this season.

Step one: Setting up

Whether you’re using a console, phone or tablet, finding games is easy — just check the official store on your device. Before purchasing or downloading, double check that you’re buying the official game and not a knock-off, especially on mobile devices. Reading the reviews will give you a good sense of this. You can also buy physical copies of games for your console, through an online store or in-person wherever electronics are sold.

If you’re on a computer, getting games is a bit trickier. You’ll have to download a launcher first, if you don’t already have one. This is used to buy, download and launch games. Avoid sites selling “game keys”. These are often obtained illegally and are not guaranteed to work once you buy them.

If you’re using a game launcher for the first time, you’ll need to make an account. Make sure you choose a complex password to protect your account from hackers. Remember to use a different password for each of your accounts. Avoid using a username that includes personal information, such as your full name, since other users will be able to see it.

Step two: Getting into the game

Before launching your new game, double-check that it’s updated to the latest version. Check for updates in the app store on your phone or tablet or on the game on your console or computer. You should also update the device you’re playing on. Updates can include security patches and fix programming vulnerabilities that could put you at risk. And if you’re playing on the computer, it’s best to have an updated anti-virus program and firewall installed too.

On mobile devices, some games might ask for access to your social media accounts or for additional permissions from your device. It’s important to go over each of these requests carefully and disable any permissions the game doesn’t really need, like access to your camera or contacts.

Step three: Making connections

Once you’re securely in your game, you can finally connect with family and friends to play. There are lots of options available for in-game communication: on a console, these features are built right in, so you just need to add your friends to get started. On a phone or computer, though, you have options.
Some games come with an in-game chat feature. Alternatively, you might also choose to use a third-party voice or messaging platform while you play the game. If you’re on a computer, some game launchers also have their own chat features available — you would just need to add your family and friends to the launcher account.

Some games are better in numbers. If you decide to open the game up to other players outside your family and friends while you’re gaming, be careful: game chats are a common place for sketchy links or phishing messages offering free in-game currency or items for money or personal information. Always be on the lookout for signs of phishing when you’re chatting with other users.

No matter how you choose to chat, be careful not to share any sensitive information, especially if you’re playing with users you don’t know.

Conclusion

There’s never been a better time to add new traditions to the holiday season — especially virtual ones. If you’re spending this holiday gaming, make sure you’re playing it safe by securing your accounts and keeping an eye out for signs of a scam.

 

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