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Image: Playco

Users of the popular video-conferencing platform Zoom will now be able to play social multiplayer games as they chat, as part of a new expansion of apps for the service.

Why it matters: The popularity of Zoom and gaming soared during the pandemic. As people isolate less, Zoom needs to give users more reasons to use video chat.

Between the lines: Zoom's first games include a poker game, a new riff on the popular social mystery game Werewolf, and a pair of releases from Playco, a company that specializes in so-called "instant gaming" that allows users to play without the need for extra downloads.

  • One of Playco's games, "Heads Up!," involves a player having to guess a word that's on the screen based on clues from teammates on Zoom. It originated as a game played on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show and has been popular on mobile.
  • "Ask Away" is a question-and-answer game meant to dig up people's personal fun facts. "It’s designed to play quickly while waiting for others to join a work meeting, as an icebreaker with fresh faces, and even to deepen relationships with lifelong best friends," Playco co-founder Justin Waldron told Axios.
  • Any user in a Zoom meeting can start the games and invite other users to play, and there's no maximum player count, Waldron said.

The bottom line: An open question is whether people will initiate Zoom calls for the purpose of playing the games themselves, or if they'll primarily use them to improve the dynamics of the kinds of Zoom calls — company meetings, occasionally awkward video-based family meetups — that millions of people have experienced over the past year.

Go deeper

Upcoming war video game is about saving lives, not taking them

Screenshot: Brave Lamb Studios

The upcoming video game “War Hospital” is the rare historical war game focused on saving lives, not taking them.

Why it matters: War video games are common and cliche. Not this one.

Students vandalize and steal from schools for viral TikTok challenge

TikTok logo displayed on a phone screen in Krakow, Poland on July 18, 2021. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A viral TikTok challenge is leading students nationwide to shatter mirrors, steal fire alarms and intentionally clog toilets, The Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: Dubbed the the “Devious Licks challenge, students are showing off their "devious licks" on TikTok — with a sped-up version of "Ski Ski BasedGod" by rapper Lil’ B playing in the background.

Axios-Ipsos poll: People of color face more environmental threats

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±2.5% margin of error; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Americans of color are much less likely than white Americans to experience good air quality or tap water or enough trees or green space in their communities, and they're more likely to face noise pollution and litter, a new Axios-Ipsos poll finds.

The big picture: Our national survey shows Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to live near major highways or industrial or manufacturing plants — and to have dealt in the past year with water-boil notices or power outages lasting more than 24 hours.