Since my early days I’ve been a fan of games. Besides having fun and exploring fantasy worlds, they have basically taught me English, and I bet they improved my rational thinking and hand-eye coordination, amongst other things.
My passion for games didn’t just stop at playing them. Before joining SendGrid I was developing games for a living. I made some games for Windows Phone (I loved my HTC Ultimate), a couple Flash prototypes, and an iOS game. So, as soon as I started on this job I was thinking, how can I put together my passion for games together with email? Before jumping in and starting to develop a game, I decided to look further into what people have done, and how email can be used as a tool for playing games. My obvious thoughts went immediately into Board Games that are easily playable through turns.
To my surprise, I found out that there’s a special term for games played by email. They’re called “PBeM” which stands for “Play By Email” and came from “PBM” which stands for “Play by mail.” Apparently, and that makes a lot of sense, people have been playing chess by mail for centuries (also called correspondence chess–I find it to be amazing the fact that people could be playing a match of chess for years). And in the 1980s there were three magazines called Gaming Universal, Paper Mayhem and Flagship Magazine that were solely devoted to play-by-mail games. After computer and Internet games became more popular, PBMs lost momentum and are now something of the past. But if this type game was ever so popular, why are not PBeM more popular nowadays, or why are games not taking advantage of this medium?
Before diving deeper into these questions, for this blog post today I wanted to share a few games that you can play with your friends through email. The interesting part is that I couldn’t really find an email-only-game, they’re usually games running on a server that notify you through email when it’s your turn, you access the website, make your move, and so forth:
This is “Email Chess” but I was really looking into something that could be played solely with email. Still, it’s something and it works.
Oh, and there’s also an International Email Chess Club.
Dune is a science fiction series written by Frank Herbert which I love. Looking for PBeM games I stumbled upon this Dune game, which apparently started during 2007 and ended around 2010, but I still thought it was great.
Dominions 3 is a fantasy turn-based strategy game that was mainly designed to be multiplayer. That’s easily notices by the lack of a campaign, common in other turn-based strategy games. It has a really big variety of strategies since it counts with 1500+ units.
You can watch a small video of the game on its Desura page or embedded above.
Frozen Synapse is a really good strategy game where you control a squad in a top-down 3D perspective. You and your opponent give orders to each one of your units individually, and then when both are ready, the game plays out and mayhem happens. It’s really fun, has a somewhat steep learning curve as you get into it, but the matches are really quick, and I 100% recommend it.
Here’s a link to the game trailer for those interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVGu_ydmwm8
There’s a larger list on this website to play with your friends.
Do/Did you play or know of any good PBeM games? Please let me know and I’ll update this blog post with it. And if you ever want to play a match one of these games with me, just hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Flickr user sburke2478