If you spend much time around games and gamers, the chances are you’ve heard a fair bit about Discord. There are some aspects of video games that take a great deal of explaining, but this ins’t one of them. Discord is a chat app. It lets you communicate with other people using text, voice or video, and although it isn’t just for gamers, it has now replaced Kik as the most popular platform for communicating about games, with a staggering 14 million daily users.
Although there are many more chat applications that work extremely well, from work-orientated Slack to teen favourite, Snapchat, Discord has been built with gamers in mind, and the first way it demonstrates this is by being deliberately lightweight in its bandwidth usage, even when you’re on video. That’s purely so that if you’re using it while you’re in a multiplayer game, it’s not devouring the Internet connectivity that you need to stay competitive.
If you’re reading this because you’ve just set up a Minecraft or Rust server (or any other server based game) Discord servers are a bit different. Although they’re called ‘servers’ they’re actually just chat rooms in Discord, and have nothing to do with spinning up hardware. They operate very much like other chat forums, so you can nominate an administrator, and individual moderators who can then make sure messaging stays on topic and obeys any rules you’ve set. Once your Discord is reasonably active, inviting your most frequent posters to become moderators is often a good place to start.
You can also set up discrete channels within your Discord server. This is important if you’re running Discord as a social function on your game server, because having a place for players to chat and socialise is really helpful, however you’ll want to keep general chat separate from channels where players ask for help, or report bugs and problems. Having a friendly chat channel cluttered with that sort of content makes it harder for you to respond with timely help, and can also be off-putting for new players just looking for information or new friends.
As a Discord user, you can join as many servers as you like. Anybody can search for and join public servers, but you have to be invited to join private ones, generally by being sent a link. A great many server, games, and game developers have their own, usually public, Discord server for players to join, and these are often promoted alongside the games themselves as a way of creating engagement and community.
Adding friends and finding new ones with similar gaming interests is just as straightforward. In a server you’ve already joined if you click on a user, you’ll often be able to see which game they’re currently playing and for how long. You can also hover your mouse over their picture and click ‘View profile’ to find out more about them, including whether you have mutual friends and server memberships in common.
To send a friend request, just right click on their name and choose ‘Add friend’ from the pop up menu. You can also add your IRL friends, either from invites they send you, or if you know their Discord names and they’re public, you can search for them and send a friend request in exactly the same way.
As well as video and voice, you can also spice up your text chat with the usual selection of emojis, add reactions to messages by clicking the ‘+’ button, and post gifs simply by dragging them into the text field. You can also edit and delete messages that have already been sent if you have a sudden change of heart.
If you want to get a bit deeper into Discord’s text capabilities you can also learn its simple version of Markdown language that enables you to add bold, italics, underlining and various other special effects. You don’t need to off course, but you’ll sometimes see people using that extra functionality, and we wouldn’t want you to be left wondering.
There’s also Discord Nitro, which lets you stream games in 4K, use one server’s emotes in other servers, and gives you access to fancier, animated emotes. It costs $99 per year or $10 per month, and while wholly unnecessary, it’s a bit of fun for those spending a lot of time on Discord. It’s also a nice way of giving something back to the developers of an excellent, and otherwise completely free way of chatting to friends and fellow gamers.
If you click on your own picture in the bottom left of the screen you can set your status - whether friends can see if you’re available to chat or not. It defaults to ‘online’ when you’re actually using Discord, but you can get it to show your presence as idle, invisible, or do not disturb if you’re busy or want to read messages or watch a stream without chatting to anyone.
You can also mute or block individuals in a server by right clicking their names and selection those options from the pop up menu. As admin of your own Discord server you can also ban users, which works in the usual way, or ‘deafen’ them, which prevents them being able to read or hear what’s going on in a channel or an entire server.
And finally, Discord makes it easy to link to your other social channels including Twitter, Xbox Live, Twitch, Steam, Skype and others. That lets you find your Discord friends in other channels, and also lets them do the same for you if you’ve chose to let them. It’s a useful way of integrating Discord into the rest of your life.