Over the past five weeks, most of our social lives have disappeared. While Zooming and FaceTiming friends are great ways to stay in touch, few people have anything particularly exciting going on.
When these conversations turn to predictions about when life will become normal again and how much we wish that COVID-19 didn’t exist, my solution for the sadness is playing games over Zoom! There are a variety of online games that you can play with friends to make these conversations more fun and create memories while apart.
My favorite Zoom game is Codenames. You send one link to a group of people, and everyone can split their screen between Zoom and the Codenames website. The link will show you a five-by-five grid of random words. Then you make two teams — the red team and the blue team — and each team chooses a Spymaster. Each Spymaster clicks the Spymaster button, which allows them to see the color of the words (the words are either blue for the blue team, red for the red team, black for neutral, or shaded gray for the death word, an automatic loss). The Spymaster then gives a one-word clue that links two or more of the words together, and their teammates guess which words the clue applies to. You need at least four people to play, so this is a great game for larger groups.
Codenames is hilarious because the Spymaster has to listen to their teammates debating which words to choose, while keeping a straight face. The Spymasters can also come up with funny and creative clues that make teammates try to get inside the Spymaster’s head. Initially, this game may sound unexciting, but you won’t be able to stop playing once you get into it.
Just Dance Now is a close second for best Zoom games. This game requires two screens: you have to download the free Just Dance Now app on your phone to use as your remote and go to the Just Dance Now website to follow the dance steps (you can also download the Just Dance Now app on your computer rather than using the website).
Once you have your remote and screen set up, you can join a dance “Room” with a code and compete with your friends. If you decide to play over Zoom, one player can screen share the website and everyone can follow the moves. The app has a variety of fun dances including “Scream and Shout,” “September,” and “Shut up and Dance.” There are group and single-dancer versions, so you can practice dances by yourself, too. Dancing is a great way to move around in quarantine, release stress, and laugh at your friends attempting to follow the moves on screen.
Another great game for large groups is Psych. You can download the free app on your phone and choose from a variety of “decks,” or themed games. The deck called “The Truth Comes Out” is the only one you can choose without paying extra, but it’s also the most fun. Everyone has to put in a game code to start. Once all the players have joined the game, Psych will generate a question using the names of the players. Questions could be similar to “In ten years, John has become extremely famous. What is he famous for?” or “If Fred and Sally started a band, what would it be called?”
Each player submits a funny answer to the question, and then everyone sees a list of the anonymous answers. Players choose the answer they like the best, and you win points for players who voted for your answer. At the end of the round, the author of each answer is revealed. You win by having the most people pick your answers by the end of all the rounds. Psych is most fun when you create personal and silly answers for questions about your friends!
The video-calling app Houseparty also has some great games to play. You can video-call multiple friends on Houseparty and choose from a variety of games: Heads Up!, Trivia, Chips and Guac, and Quick Draw. Quick Draw gives one person an image to draw, and the other players have to guess what the drawing is. Chips and Guac is similar to Cards Against Humanity — one person puts out a card with an adjective on it and the other players “put down” cards that relate to that adjective.
Another easy way to play Cards Against Humanity is on playingcards.io. The website has “Remote Insensitivity,” which is essentially the same game and can be played with multiple players.
Of course, nothing can substitute hanging out with friends in person, but we have to find ways to stay connected and make each other laugh. These Zoom games may bring some joy to your day and help you get through this tough time.
Psych, Just Dance Now, and Houseparty are available for both iPhones and Androids.