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Thinking Out Loud

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Hype About Skype >> As Good As It Sounds

I recently read a post on BoardGameGeek discussing something called "Skype." I had never heard of it before, and had no idea what it was, but I am so glad I asked! Skype is a free download software package that allows for voice conversation over your standard internet connection -- think if it as internet phone service, but instead of dialing a phone number, you're "dialing" another user via their online connection.

I was skeptical at first, after having shaky results from voice chat over AIM, MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. But after trying it out, I have to say, the sound quality on Skype is incredible. It's better than our cell phones, better than our land line -- the best online voice chat I've used.

And Skype is incredibly easy to use. It took less than five minutes to download, and installed quickly -- you don't need to fill out any technical information about your computer settings to set it up. Once installed, just plug in a microphone or headset/microphone combo and you're ready to go. There's a quick "test" call you can use to make sure everything is set up properly -- then you're ready to roll!

It sounds so simple, but given the fact that Skype works so well and is completely free (both to download and to use) it offers some delicious gaming applications.

I've already used Skype to chat with several of my GeekBuddies -- literally from coast-to-coast -- while playing games at BrettSpielWelt, and have to say, it is a phenomenal resource. Especially for two player games. The ability to chat freely over Skype offers an unmatched means to teach a new player how to play a game online, answer quick questions about the user interface and discuss the game events -- things that may be too clumsy or time-consuming to adequately do by typing mid-game.

I have not yet tried a larger "chat" with 3 or more people on Skype, but I would certainly give it a try. More voices may be a bit distracting, especially without the visual cues you use during normal conversation to pick up on nonverbal context (even for things as basic as "who is talking? whose voice is that?"). But with the right group of people and the right game, I think Skype can richly enhance a variety of online gaming experiences!

You can check out Skype here. If you decide to download Skype and want to give it a try some time and play something online at BSW, drop me a line -- or give me a quick e-call!


  • Hey there! That was my comment, and as soon as I see you on there next time, I'll give you a ring.

    By Blogger Mark Haberman, at 7:54 AM  

  • I'll second that nod to Skype's quality. The best I've ever used for hands-free no-hassle chatting. Although I do have some reservations about the physical interface. It's a little over-designed. Too many things to click on, each with their own different style and interaction.

    By Blogger ekted, at 10:53 AM  

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