Come over for game night… oh… wait…
March 17, 2020 11:34 PM   Subscribe

How can I use something like Zoom or Google Meet to engage friends in games during this crazy time? None of us are gamers, we have no sophisticated consoles or special headsets, and don’t know anything about D&D-style games. How about Pictionary? Or? Help me think this through.

I like regular games in person with friends. But now that’s not possible. Think: Pictionary, charades, Rummikub, Cards Against Humanity, Hoopla, Mexican train, plenty more. I want to use video conferencing, probably Zoom (I have it for work) or Google Meet, to engage maybe 5-8 people in games that we can adapt to the online format.

Using Pictionary as an example, how might this work? If we each had paper and markers, would it work to just split into a couple of teams, and have one person with an actual physical game “run the board“? Could that person give a clue via a chat window to the one person who is drawing? And then, what, they’d have to point their camera at the paper they’re drawing on? This might be easier in a household with more than one person, but pretty challenging for the solo player. Has anyone already figured this out? Is there some kind of online space that permits everyone to watch someone draw with a finger in real time?

My Google Fu is failing me as I try to search for resources on this general subject. It also seems like there should be ways to engage in a game on a website, perhaps using our phones as gaming tools. Bottom line, the point is to be live, be silly, see one another’s faces, hear one another’s voices and laughter.

Open to all ideas. FWIW: Our ages range from 40s to 70s. We are all reasonably adept in tech. Probably all of us have some version of laptop or iPad, fewer of us have televisions.
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
My sister and I play escape rooms in a box over Skype. We each have a copy of the same escape and play it together. Works great!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:50 PM on March 17, 2020

Get creative. I watched my 6-year play board games with her friend today over FB messenger and they worked out the mechanics in minutes on their own. Grab the games you want to play, call and figure it out on the go.

If I were to set this up for myself, I would set a dedicated camera for the game board so all could see the 'play'.

If you were playing Monopoly, as an example, one person could be the banker in a side chat keeping track of everyone's money amounts.

Pictionary or charades seems pretty self-explanatory.

Card games would probably be difficult, even if all players had their own sets.

Chess/checkers/backgammon could be set up as above with a dedicated camera for the board, not required to be on both ends.

There's going to be some adjustments, I would just go ahead and do it and see how it works out. The kinks will work themselves out on their own.
posted by wile e at 12:04 AM on March 18, 2020

Check out board game arena and see if there are any games there you've heard of. Would go great with video or voice chat in real time.

Charades would be pretty easy - either everyone gets the pile of words, or one person picks the word each round and doesn't play that one, or a word generating website.

Pictionary too, point your phone camera or webcam at what you're drawing in real time. Might take some books and creativity depending on your device of choice.

You can play poker if you have one assigned dealer who shows (or texts) each person their cards. Yahtzee if you all have dice.

Scrabble or bananagrams if you all have a set of tiles. Same for cards against humanity, though if you want to conceal origins of each submission you'll want an intermediary.
posted by Lady Li at 12:07 AM on March 18, 2020

Are you open to an app? I downloaded Houseparty last night and used it to play Pictionary with friends across my city. It also has a trivia game (very US-centric questions) and some other games that I haven't explored yet.
posted by unlaced at 12:51 AM on March 18, 2020

We are using zoom, the audio is superior to other budget web conferencing and it works well on mobile. Plus its easy to use.
posted by fshgrl at 12:57 AM on March 18, 2020

If someone has good wifi, or a generous data plan, then a phone can be signed into the "meeting" and rigged as a physical-game camera while the human uses their laptop/tablet to interface with everyone. Be sure to totally turn off its audio and mute the mic, but then whoever is hosting the board doesn't have to keep adjusting electronics constantly.
posted by teremala at 5:35 AM on March 18, 2020

I did JackParty Games via google hangouts with a friend last night. It can host I think up to 8 people? I'm not the one who bought the games or set them up, so I'm not sure how they work.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:35 AM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Are you married to using physical pieces? If not you could use VASSAL. It is a free and open source game engine intended for playing board and card games over the Internet. It isn't the prettiest piece of software, but is well supported by the larger board gaming community and has modules for just about every game you can imagine. It has built in communication tools, but I normally use whatever group chat option everyone is most comfortable with. Here is the getting started guide and here is a good video overview.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:43 AM on March 18, 2020

Jackbox: one person buys it (about $20 something) then makes a group Skype/Hangouts/Discord call with everyone else and shares their screen. Once you start the game every player goes to on their phones/laptops and enters a game code, which registers them within the main game. Super easy, no special equipment involved.

There are a bunch of games on Steam you can play with another person. A friend in another state and I play Keep Talking and No One Explodes using our two computers and a phone call.

and this looks like a site that lets you play a bunch of games online, but I haven't tried it.
posted by Geameade at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

tabletopia and a discord chat work well for gaming, my husband works in board games and they do a fair amount of their playtesting remotely that way!

Jackbox is great and works well remotely - a discord or hangouts and everyone playing Spaceteam on their phones would be (chaotically) fun as well!
posted by euphoria066 at 12:14 PM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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