Nothing is as enjoyable as gathering around a recently cleared dining table and having a fun game of Balderdash or Monopoly with friends and family.
Whether you’re playing charades or poker, these magical moments are memorable and epic.
With cases of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant omicron on the rise, many people are deciding that in-person gatherings for New Year’s festivities may be too risky. That doesn’t mean the fun has to be canceled; it just has to happen virtually.
Tips for hosting a virtual game night
Here are tips for hosting a game night and suggestions for online sites that can help facilitate virtual game night:
Plan your virtual game night
Give people ample time to prepare for game night. They may need to figure out how to work a video chat platform for the first time or how to get the app on their phone. And setting a time and date gives everyone something to look forward to.
Find a platform to video chat for virtual game night
Consider platforms without time limits, such as Google Hangouts, or be prepared with the time limit (like with Zoom chat) and let that be the end of the game or a break in the action. If it’s going to be the break in the game, set up two meetings ahead of time and send both meeting links out at one time.
Tip: Make sure everyone knows that these platforms are free but operator data charges may apply, so using a WiFi connection is best to avoid charges unless there is unlimited data on their phone
Popular platforms for virtual game night :
- Google Hangouts – up to 10 people can be displayed at one time but everyone must have a Google (Gmail) account.
- Zoom – many people can join this video conferencing platform but in groups of three or more, there is a 40-minute time limit.
- Facebook Messenger – great for people who are already on Facebook. Note that only six users can be displayed at one time so if you have a large group, you may want to find a different platform.
- FaceTime – has great quality and can be started with just a chat message turned into a video call to your participants. However, only four people can be displayed at one time and everyone must have an Apple device to participate.
- Skype – and oldie but a goodie. Up to 24 people can video call at the same time.
Find a game for virtual game night
Once you’ve decided what you’re playing, it might be nice to send out how to play the game so that you’re not spending too much time in the beginning with an explanation and you can start playing and get right to the fun.
Some of our favorite virtual game night ideas
This website lets you purchase individual games — drawing, writing, trivia or hidden-identity games —that you can play with up to eight people. Once you purchase the game, it’s yours to play as much as you want and others can join using a special code you provide to them.
If you’re planning to play more than one game or get together for a game night more than once, Jackbox Games provides “party packs” for just under $30. Again, a one-time purchase allows you to play with others as many times as you like.
Another benefit to Jackbox is that players don’t have to download an app to play. They only need access to a web browser, go to “jackbox.tv” and enter the room code given to them by the host. Though the party games are designed for up to eight people, as many people as you’d like can join in to watch allowing people to jump in and out of the game-night experience.
It is a benefit to create your game night via a video chat platform so everyone can talk and see each other’s expressions as you play. The game purchaser can share their screen with participants and, if possible, have the participants use their phones to answer questions (they would go to “jackbox.tv” to do this), leaving their chat screen open to see those great reactions. Also, you can turn on extended times so players with poor internet connections don’t miss their chance to answer.
It’s a classic that all ages can enjoy. My free bingo cards allow you to select up to 30 bingo cards for free that you can share with your partygoers with a simple link.
There is a bingo caller and an automated winner verification. You can make it fun with prizes for take-out meals or online shopping. And if several people in the household want to play and are more hands-on, the bingo cards can be printed as well.
EllenTube with Headsup, Psych! and more
Yes, we are talking about the fun, game-loving Ellen DeGeneres. On her site, she has an array of family-friendly games you can download from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Depending on the game, there are paid and free versions. More play options are available in the paid versions.
These games require everyone to download the app and it’s best to use your phone to play the game and a video chat platform to share the experience live with others.
HeadsUp: You remember the game: you stick a card to your forehead and your teammates give you clues so you can guess what it is. It’s easy and fun — and now, virtual. Using your phone, you download the HeadsUp app for 99 cents, connect your party via a video chat platform and off you go.
Psych!: Like Balderdash, you get a question, then try to “psych” out others with fake answers — it’s trivia meets Cards Against Humanity. Others have to pick the right answer out of the fake answers. There are many different decks so lots of versions to play. You can send invites to friends to join your game.
Using word-generating websites to assist in an interactive virtual game night
For charades: In this popular guessing game, players work as teams with one member acting out a word or phrase without making any noises. With different word-generating websites out there, this is an easy virtual game to try.
Have your game participants get onto your video chat platform, establish the two teams, and agree on a word-generating website to use, such as Charades Generator and Ideas or PsyCat Games. Every word generator is a bit different, so find the one you like for your group. And don’t forget a timer if one is not provided.
For Pictionary: In the same manner as charades, you can challenge others to guess what you are drawing. Use a word-generating website, like Random Word Generator to help come up with what you need to draw, and then go to a free drawing program such as Auto Draw to start drawing. Don’t forget to share your screen so your teammates can see what your drawing. (Or do it the old fashion way on paper, but you’ll need to point your camera on your paper so your teammates can see as you draw.)
To mix it up a bit more, take turns between acting, drawing or even building or modeling using your kid’s Legos or Playdough. And again, don’t forget the timer.
Other fun online and app games to play with friends:
Scattegories. It is like the game. You get a letter and then you have to fill in the categories with words that start with that letter. Great game to play with friends and family, but you can also play alone or with strangers.
Everyone has to download the app to play but you can use a video chat platform to connect virtually while you are all playing.
Yahtzee with Buddies Dice Game. Download this free app to enjoy an old classic with your friends and family.
Words with friends. It is Scrabble virtually.
Board Game Arena. The list of board games on this site is huge. It’s not so much for a virtual game night but if you’re looking for a different way to spend your time, check it out.
Tabletopia. This experience is as close as it gets to sitting down with your family to play your favorite board game with storylines and strategy. While you play virtual board games with others, you can also use their chat option.
Whether it is Bingo or a long played-out strategic board game that you and your friends and family once enjoyed together, there is something for everyone out there. The most important part is connecting with each other and bringing a little fun and laughter into each other’s worlds.
When you’ve made that decision to safely gather for a good time, consider sending out a new invite — for a virtual game night!