What do you like most about playing online versus in person?

Hi all, would love to get perspectives on what everyone likes about playing online versus in person. Certainly there are trade offs but it would be fun to hear more thoughts.

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Availility (supply) of opponents … and AIs.

Recording of the games (memory) and reviews.

Pattern search and puzzles (study).

Some go variants are easier to use (like toroidal go or multicolor)

On the less side:

Online is more prone to misunderstandings. The communication there is less polite and respectful. Isolation can encourage cheating or use of external help.

It’s more complicated and slower to review a game with someone


I actually wrote a blog about this exact topic as a project for my English class:

In my time playing Go, I have always noticed a significant difference in the experience of playing online versus playing in person. While the majority of my time playing Go has been spent online, I find it almost universally less satisfying, and have wondered whether it serves a purpose. In addition my online play is of a significantly lower quality than when I play in person. I’ve occasionally been curious about this phenomenon but haven’t ever fully investigated it.

The explanation that immediately jumps to my mind is the wonderful tactility involved in playing the game on a real board. Over the thousands of years Go has been played, the physical experience of the game has been tuned to perfection. The satisfying shape, color, and sound of the stones, the beautiful rectangles making up the grid of the board (to give the illusion of squares when sitting across from an opponent), and the smooth wooden bowls, all come together to form an experience that is more than the sum of its parts, and yet…

I experience a similar difference in experience even when I’m using some crappy travel set or magnetic board with stones one needs drag around and use fingernails to pick up. Don’t get me wrong, these experiences are definitely worse than playing on a higher quality board, but there must be another factor here. The thing that I think really differentiates in-person and online play is the human element of Go. When I play online, I really have no idea of knowing what my opponent is experiencing. For all I know my opponent could be a robot or an energetic cat with incredible luck.

In-person, there is a shared grimace at a difficult situation, a mental boxing match for control, and a deep connection based on two interpretations of the same board. Online, there is a screen and a mouse. The usual connections are extended but unable to be reciprocated like a handshake or high-five left hanging. It is the same emotional barrier that allows people to spew hateful nonsense online that severs these emotional connections inherent to in-person Go. In the past I have tried keeping my nice board next to me while playing online, copying every move onto it to try and capture some of that tactile magic. In the end it was just more cumbersome and time consuming.

In terms of quality of play, the lack of emotional connection removes one of the main incentives for thoughtful play. On a bad day I find myself playing five moves in a row without thinking, only to concede and move on with my life. In person this is not an option. Additionally, there is a surprisingly large difference in effort between placing a stone in person and using the mouse online. This makes online moves both less meaningful and much easier to do impulsively.

As I was looking for a solution to this issue, I found that other people in the Go community experience similar things. While I was never able to find a solution that works perfectly for me, I have come to terms with what I should be playing online for. Overall, I think the purpose/value of online play is negligible without in-person play to be practicing for.

This was not in the blog but I do agree with the benefits of Online play others have said before me


I believe that playing online simply cannot be better than playing live. When there was a Go club in my city, I didn’t play online at all, but then times changed, the club ceased to exist, and here I am. :smiley:

I have no idea why or how but you know, club lives mostly from their members contributions so I hope you’ll be able to meet again some day.

I don’t think of one as better than the other… The both have something to offer, and limitations.

I’m in agreement with @Groin
Things I like:
Availability (large supply) of opponents (including 'bots) without even leaving my home. And slow correspondence games are easy to get if I don’t have 30+ minutes for a full game today.

The game is recorded with no effort!
Game reviews are made easy, and somebody could review my game while I’m asleep or at work and then I can look at the review later.

I play Toroidal-Go on the Little Golem game server (website) and it is very difficult to play T-Go IRL - so online T-Go is the way to T-Go (or face-to-face with a computer).

I can play nekkid and no-one knows.

:rofl: <just kidding>

OK OK, I guess it’s my own fault now if nobody wants to play me anymore.


That’s an important point I missed and it can be enlarged to many more situations when playing online.

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Yeah, my thought was just a tongue-in-cheek example for the many things opponents could interpret as rude if they happened IRL.

Smoking, belching, being drunk, watching TV, talking on the phone …
Even eating … (NEVER without a napkin!)