The coronavirus outbreak forced this grandson to find a new way to connect with his quarantined grandma.
Let’s face it, a family video chat is not always, ahem, Zooming with fun.
More than eight weeks into social distancing and quarantine in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been keeping in touch with distant friends and family on video chat, via the ubiquitous Zoom, FaceTime, Houseparty, Google Hangouts or any other software.
While it’s wonderful that we have the ability to see our loved ones on our screens while COVID-19 keeps us from getting together in person, there isn’t much to talk about in a world without school, sports, new movies or much news unrelated to the fight against the virus. If your Zooms are in a bit of a slump, a virtual game might jazz things up enough that you won’t need to pretend you’re jumping off the call to do some work.
We’ve compiled a list of Zoom-friendly games – some video games, some board games and some that require no equipment at all – for a range of ages and occasions. Whether you want to plop the little ones in front of their grandparents to get a half-hour of rest or you miss Saturday night partying, there’s something on this list that will entertain you for the length of a call.
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Good for: The littlest kids and their beleaguered parents. No tech/equipment required.
We all remember this game from preschool. Someone is Simon, and everyone else playing has do to whatever “Simon Says.” Anyone who follows orders when Simon doesn’t utter the magic words is out. Particularly good for wrangling a chat with five or more participants, and obviously for entertaining preschool and elementary school kids. And lest you think this is only for children, adults can enjoy it, too – there’s even an adults-only game of Simon Says in Season 2 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
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Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Good for: Everyone who can hold a controller and especially people who love video games. Requires game and Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite.
If you’re not playing Animal Crossing yet, chances are you know someone who is. The recently launched Nintendo Switch game has been a best seller for the company and it’s easy to see why it’s so popular, especially in quarantine. Users move to a deserted island in the life simulation game, fishing, growing flowers and fruit trees and designing their homes and a village. If you have a Nintendo online subscription, you can visit friends’ islands with your in-game avatar, and enter their houses, buy from their stores and generally have a good time. Video chatting with your friends while you or they visit makes it even more fun – you can give a guided tour of every nook and cranny on your island.
Good for: Adults and teens in one-on-one video calls with time and strategy to spare. Requires a chess board and pieces for each player.
If you love chess, there’s no reason quarantine should stop you from playing. Online chess games are great, but you can play remotely with regular pieces and a board, too. Set up your laptop, phone or tablet at the end of your chess board so you’re facing your opponent. Players say their moves out loud, i.e. “knight to E3,” so both participants can update the opposing pieces on their boards.
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Good for: Adults, teens and kids who are old enough to draw and are hopefully decent at it. No equipment or tech required.
One person draws a person, place or thing, and everyone else tries to guess what it is. Simple, easy. You don’t actually need a physical copy of the classic party game to make this work virtually. Some apps, like Zoom, have a drawing function built in, so one player can share the screen and take their turn, drawing a dog or “Home Alone,” and then the next player can take over the screen share on their turn. Or you can keep it analog and use a big sheet of paper and a pen, and hold your masterpiece up to the camera.
Dungeons & Dragons
Good for: Older kids, teens and adults, preferably those who have played before (could be hard to learn virtually). Requires game books.
The popular role-playing game set in a fantasy world is mostly verbal and usually played around a table, so it can be easily converted to digital form with each player conferencing in.
Trivia (of any kind)
Good for: Smarty-pants older kids, teens and adults. Requires trivia-style board game or prepared questions from one member of the group.
Quizzing your friends and family (or being quizzed yourself) is an easy, engaging way to liven up Zoom. All you need are questions and answers, which you can acquire from the cards in board games like Trivial Pursuit, or go online to research your own list of stumpers. Here’s a pop culture freebie: Which movie won best picture in 1976? (Answer: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”)
Jackbox Party Pack
Good for: College kids and twenty-somethings who miss partying. Requires one participant to purchase the video games, but the others just need smartphones to join.
These popular party games, which often rely on user-generated content, come in packs and have long been a dinner party staple for many millennials, but you don’t have to be around the same dinner table to play. One member of the group needs to buy the games – which include Family Feud-style survey quizzes, guess-the-lie games and games to identify sounds, among many others – but everyone else logs into the “room” on a smartphone. The games are available for most video game consoles, Mac, Windows and Linux computers, and in the Apple and Android app stores.
Good for: Adults (21 and up) who can agree on rules.
Strictly for responsible, adult-only Zooms (preferably on Friday and Saturday nights), there are ways to adapt classic college drinking games to suit a video chat format. While card games are out, classic secret-spilling games like Never Have I Ever are easily done remotely. You can also watch movies and TV shows in tandem, and play the associated drinking games. But, like in college, you all have to agree on the rules of the game, and since you’re not in anyone’s home specifically, no house rules will likely apply.
Roadtrip games (Celebrity, 20 Questions, I Spy)
Good for: Families who have been on road trips together and can’t handle anything more complicated. No tech/equipment required.
Families who have spent hours upon hours in cars together know that sometimes you need simple word games in your back pocket for long stretches of silence. Celebrity, in which one player says the name of a celebrity (Tom Hanks) and then the next player has to name a celebrity whose first name starts with the first letter of the last name (such as Halle Berry), is always a winner. Twenty Questions, in which one player thinks of something and everyone else has 20 questions to figure out what it is, and I Spy, similar, but the player is looking at something they can see, are also easy favorites for the very little kids.
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