It's 11:59pm and I'm cry-laughing as my friend bets his theoretical life savings to try and claw his way back into a game of poker. None of us can believe that he doesn't even have one pair, and as we're giggling so hard none of us can make a full sentence as he's chucked out of the game. I wipe away tears as I try to even my breathing, pressing check on the next round. Discord's delve into party games is so far a success.
Discord is extending its reach. I'm not sure what to call the app these days as it's like a social media, forums, chatroom, business thing that just exists as a catchall for any sort of communication you need. I use it for business and pleasure, and that change happened for many during lockdown. Many gathered on Discord as a place to socialise and all loaded up Among Us, Jackbox, or Pico Park individually making lobbies, sharing room passwords, and hoping the servers didn't break under the weight of people stuck indoors. Discord has obviously taken note of so many people playing these fun relatively small games and developed some of their own. And actually they might just be the worth the cost of entry.
Discord Nitro isn't a service I know a lot of people pay for. Actually, I mostly see people mention Nitro as a joke on TikTok about what Discord server mods pay for it for Discord 'kittens'. Don't ask—if you know, you know. I come up against Nitro annoyingly when I want to send screenshots and my images are too big for free Discord. To send my memes I have to pay Discord a little money which I've never gotten around to doing.
You can pay a monthly fee of $3 for basic Nitro, or $10 for the regular. The former allows you to use custom emojis and means you can upload things up to 20 mb. The latter gives you 500 mb uploads, custom emoji freedom, HD video stream, server boosts, custom profiles, and the new Activities feature.
These Activities are mostly on games you can play in Discord without having to load up anything else. Ideally this would have appeared during the height of lockdown but right now it's still pretty neat. Though mainly for games right now, there is also an option to watch YouTube together. I expect Discord is trying to work out a way to use this service with other streaming platforms in the future, like who Twitch has a watch-along feature for those with Amazon Prime.
The games in Activities are currently as follows Putt Party (mini golf), Poker Night, Sketch Heads (a drawing game), Chess in the Park, Land-io (a sort of Slither.io-like), Blazing 8s (Uno), Letter League (Scrabble), and Checkers in the Park. Poker Night's background image is also in a park. Discord really likes parks.
I played a few last night and I could only do so because my friend had a Nitro subscription. Conveniently, only one person needs a subscription to allow others to play the game too. And suddenly while playing with friends, Nitro made sense to me. I've paid for games I can play with friends on Steam, why wouldn't I do the same on Discord? With an outlook of Discord adding more games to the party down the line, it doesn't seem like a terrible idea.
Of course, it's a monthly payment rather than a one time purchase, but I'm impressed that Discord has finally made me think about paying for its services. It's taken years of advertisements but here I am, hovering over that subscribe button like a bug over a venus fly trap.
"But Imogen!" I hear you cry. "You could just play chess or Uno online without Nitro". True, very true. The internet is right there and some of those games are free elsewhere. However having games built into Discord feels like that little bit easier to get everyone involved. Join the call, see a game, press it, and everyone piles in with ease whether they want to play or spectate. Not only that but we were coming and going, with Discord's natural expectation that people have real lives to attend to. We may need to hop out of a call to answer the door, answer another call, or just get bored. Life happens, and Discord's activities acknowledge that by making it easy to dip in or out of the play sessions.
I played a little of the mini golf, the poker, and a brief little bit of the Sliterh.io-like and watched a round of two of the off-brand Uno, and all of Nitro's offerings so far look well made, well presented, and genuinely fun. What my friends and I agreed was it was actually strange to get used to Discord's streaming window be interactable. You're playing games in Discord. Quite the novelty! And yet it felt pretty brilliant.
My group and I spent an hour or two messing about in poker. Messing with the modes, changing the dealer from a wholesome robot to a mischievous cat, and spamming emotes to annoy one another. What started as us playing poker just to see if the new features worked, ended with a proper three buy-ins and then you're out sort of game. I'm very happy to report I lost all but $200 of my money, before turning it all around on a four-of-a-kind round, eventually winning $15,000, dwarfing the banks of everyone else.
The rules got messy as we goaded each other, told each other our hands, bet low to keep each other in the game, and lost and gained value at a rate that makes the British Pound look pretty stable. The boards and the interface felt intuitive as long as you knew the basics of poker. I only knew the type of poker Super Mario mini games taught me as a kid on the Nintendo DS, and hey, I won out, so take that for what you will.
Essentially, I'm pleased that I want to pay for something from Discord. That particular service became a lifeline for me for about two years, and I still spend most evenings there. Nitro never felt worth it, and while I shouted in annoyance at folding too early on what would have been a straight, or laughed at bluffs of others, Nitro finally seemed like it was going somewhere. So find your friend with a Nitro membership and get them in a game, see what you think. I feel like there is a great basis for something wonderful there.