What Is the Discord App?

By Jack SteinLast Updated September 3, 2020
Photo Courtesy: @discord/Twitter

Ever since the early days of Pong, computer gaming has been an engaging pastime. It's easy for fans to become ensconced in their games, and sometimes their enjoyment borders on obsessive — which is often part of gaming's appeal (and something you definitely understand if you've spent 12 hours straight playing Final Fantasy VII Remake). Finding a digital home with likeminded individuals is a natural progression; it gives gamers a chance to get help working through a game's tough spots, it lets them share feedback about what they do and don't like and it's also just a place to let loose and have fun discussions.

Initially, gamers often turned to forums and message boards to meet these needs — until Discord arrived. This chat platform made it possible for them to talk to one another in real time. It was advertised for years as the "Chat for Gamers," but when so many people across the globe first went under lockdown in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform changed its tagline to "Chat for Communities and Friends" to be responsive and reflect the changes in its usage. Discord is no longer limited to gaming communities; in fact, it's even used for education and business purposes. If you're curious about using the platform, learn more about Discord and how it works.

The Basics of Discord

It can be tough for gamers to chat with one another during gameplay, particularly if they're gaming in teams and need to communicate in order to play cooperatively. Titles that have in-game chat features don't always work well, and if you're trying to communicate within a broader network, it can be nearly impossible. This is why Discord came along.

Photo Courtesy: Discord

Its setup is very similar to the chat features found in apps such as Skype and Slack. It allows you to engage in text chatting, in which you type out messages to individual users or in various chat rooms, and in voice chatting, in which you can use your computer or other device's microphone to speak to other users. You can download the software onto and use it on your computer, or you can download the app onto your mobile device, as Discord has both Google Play and iOS apps. It has more than chat features — Discord also supports video calls.

Discord operates using various servers, each of which is populated with different channels. Channels are like individual chat rooms where you can discuss specific topics. While you can have your own private room where only friends or those connected to your gameplay can join, there are other public rooms and places on Discord where you can find people with similar interests. There, you can join the themed channels and begin chatting about their topics with other users. You can also choose not to download any software and open Discord in your internet browser while you're gaming.

Is Discord Safe for Kids?

At its root, Discord is a social messaging app, and there's always some level of danger when it comes to underage children and social messaging. One of the benefits of Discord is also one of its biggest problems when it comes to younger users: the ability to join different rooms and fandoms other than the game of choice without adult supervision. There's a "Nearby" feature in the program, too, and when it's turned on it allows others to see your near-exact location. That's definitely not a kid-friendly feature. According to Common Sense Media, there's also a likelihood that kids (and adults) will encounter abusive language on the platform.

Photo Courtesy: Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Also, Discord has been involved in several controversies. Neo-Nazis and alt-right groups were using several Discord servers to organize a shooting in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017. Supposedly these groups are now banned from the servers. There have also been instances of pornography appearing on Discord. If you have an underage child using the app, don't ever let them use it unsupervised — you might not want to let them use it at all.

Using Discord for Education or Business

Discord can be an effective tool for purposes other than gaming chats, such as for discussions in distance learning classrooms or for business. If you're using Discord for the classroom, one of its main benefits is that you have an invite-only space where your students can talk to each other and to you, and non-students can't access it. Current students can ask questions, transfer files and go over assignments in one easy-to-access space. You can also share videos and other files. Additionally, you could record a lecture and upload it to the room for students to view later. One of the best things about Discord compared to apps that are designed solely for educational purposes is that it's free, and it's a terrific way to remotely organize your office or your class.

Photo Courtesy: Discord

When it comes to office meetings, Discord doesn't have the video capabilities of Zoom, but it does give you a channel where you can share files and information. Plus, you can do video chatting on a more limited level. It's a reliable way to keep in contact if you have a small meeting underway or if you need to share files or ideas with colleagues or employees who are working from home.

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