How to Get Going With Virtual Game Night So You Can Easily Play with Long Distance Friends and Family

virtual game jackbox zoom

Here are the Steps to Getting Started on Long Distance Game Play

We’ve got lots of time on our hands and hanging out together playing virtual games seems like an easy way to pass the hours. Unless, that is, you’re not quite sure how to get the virtual party started.

No worries! That was me until my son challenged me to “just figure it out, mom.”

So I spent one evening testing out different game options in order to break it down into steps for anyone else new to the online world of game play.

All of these options involve some kind of video calling platform: Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Call, etc.

(Special thanks to Carla for her tips on the House Party App – I have yet to get into a game over there but it sounds amazing.)

Here are some of the remote game play options people are enjoying right now:

The Jackbox + Zoom Combo

What is it?

Jackbox is a set of games that has been around for years.

Typically, when playing face-to-face, the host pays for and downloads the game pack of their choosing to their *compatible device. Then, the host broadcasts the game to a common screen that all players can see – often a TV. Players then go to jackbox.tv and enter the room code that appears on the screen, which puts them in the game.

Jackbox games range from drawing games to wordplay to trivia and are a really fun way to include everyone.

*Jackbox is available on most gaming systems (think Nintendo Switch, PS4, XBoxOne) as well as gaming platforms like Steam and Discord.

Who it’s good for:

The Jackbox + Zoom combo is great for groups that have one person who is tech-savvy enough to set up Jackbox and Zoom and issue invites.

Guests will need to be able to accept a Zoom call on their laptop (that involves clicking an invite link and entering a password) and then going to jackbox.tv and entering a room code.

Kids in upper elementary grades and above enjoy playing Jackbox – just be sure to put on the family filter. Our family loves Quiplash.

What you need:

  • A host with access to the Jackbox games AND a Zoom account
  • Strong wifi connections at all participating locations
  • A computer at each participating location
  • A cell phone for every player in addition to the computer

How to make it happen:

If you’re the one setting up the game, start by setting up a Zoom call (or a Google Hangout) for game players.

You’ll also need to sign up for Jackbox and buy the games on the system of your choice (the game Drawful 2 is free right now on Steam.)

Once you have access, start a game on your laptop and use the screen sharing option on a laptop so players can follow along at home on their laptops. Jackbox offers detailed instructions for each different system here.

House Party App

What is it?

If Facetime and Zoom had a baby it would be House Party.

house party app 1

Playing House Party games with my siblings was one of the best nights during this stay-at-home order! The night was filled with so much laughter my face hurt and my heart was so happy afterward.

In tile form, you’ll see all of the “players” but you can talk and interact without having to play a game, too. Trust me though, you’ll want to play the games! Choose from lots of games like Chips and Guac (basically Apples to Apples,) a Pictionary type game, and lots of fun trivia. The games are self-explanatory once you start.

Another great quality I love about House Party is that the clarity and sound are better than most! There is little to no delay or glitching if you’re connected to wifi. Because of this, we’ve used this app sheerly for conversational hangouts.

Who it’s good for:

House party is family-friendly AND adult only. If you’re playing Chips and Guac or pictionary or just having a big group chat it’s great for the whole family.

However, some of the trivia games are for mature kids or adults only. You’ll want to look through and decide what you feel comfortable with for your family.

What you need:

  • A smartphone for each person or household
  • A host
  • Friends with the app
  • Wifi (House party works best when all players are connected to WiFi.)

How to make it happen:

  • Download the app.
  • Make a profile and choose a username.
  • Find and accept friends (you may need to give each other your user names to help find each other.)
  • Start a party house/room and invite players.
  • Lock the room if you have a set “guest list.” Or, leave unlocked if you don’t mind other friends joining in.
  • Start playing!

Scattergories

What is it?

Scattergories is another game that’s been around for quite some time. The basic concept is that someone rolls an alphabet-covered di, selecting a letter. Players then work to come up with words starting with that letter that correspond to the categories on the list.scattergories 1

Who it’s good for:

This is good for players that like word games. Kids need to be able to read to play this game.

Playing scattergories is a great option for people that have a hard time with getting apps to work or only have access to a cell phone.

What you need:

  • A host with the Scattergories game.
  • A cellphone at each participating location
  • Paper and writing utensils

How to make it happen:

Initiate a call between players over Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.

The host team will explain the rules, roll the di to select a letter, and also text a picture of the list in play to players at remote locations.

Flip the timer and start play. You will be able to read word answers to each other over the video call and follow the regular rules of the game.

Classic Games You Probably Own + FaceTime or Zoom

What is it?

Many people have games like Yahtzee, Pictionary, Settlers of Catan, and Battleship in their homes.  If you can find a remote friend with a copy of the same game, you can play together over a video call. classic games you can play over video chat

Who it’s good for:

People who love classic games and have video calling capabilities.

What you need:

  • A copy of the game in question at each location.
  • A cellphone at each participating location or some way to do a video call

How to make it happen:

After you decide which game you’re going to play, decide how you will keep up a common board if that is part of the scenario. Kendra Coston says that when they play Settlers of Catan that they have one camera set up above the table/game and we each make the same moves on each board.

More Apps & Games to Play

Gamepigeon: This iMessage extension is a set of 2-player games like darts, archery, minigolf, and more. For Apple.

Bunch: Play your favorite games with friends, over group video chat. Bunch comes with several built-in games that users can start playing right away, like trivia, pool, and a flighty bird game. Apple or Android.

Dominion Online: Play the deck-building card game online. Skype with your friends while playing so you can talk during the game.

Exploding Kittens – App version: For $1.99 you can play this popular card game online, with friends. I like how short each round is. Android and Apple.

Caribu: Here’s how you can read books and draw with kids that aren’t able to sit with you. The app has a huge library of stories to choose from and is a favorite way for grandparents to connect with grandkids. Normally there’s a fee for this app, but for now, AT&T is funding 60 days of free access and unlimited usage of Caribu. Offer valid March 24-May 24, 2020.

COVID-19 Resources – Table of Contents

Where to Buy Masks, Locally
Where to Buy Local Beef, Produce, Milk
Supporting Your Child
Bringing Groceries Into Your Home
Grocery Shopping Hours
GR Coronavirus Resources Page
Pregnancy During COVID Q&A
How Far Should You Drive?
Remote Learning Tips
COVID-19 Time Capsule
Kid Birthdays During the Shutdown
250+ Boredom Busters
At-Home Date Night Ideas
Michigan Armchair Travel Guide
Neighborhood Ideas

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