Need to avoid (yet anoth­er) awk­ward silence? Be pre­pared with one of these games next time.

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Despite some states re-open­ing for busi­ness, it looks like most Amer­i­cans will be fol­low­ing social dis­tanc­ing guide­lines through the sum­mer (and poten­tial­ly into the fall). One sil­ver lin­ing of this sit­u­a­tion is that peo­ple are using the oppor­tu­ni­ty to catch up with long-lost friends and on vir­tu­al calls and hap­py hours. 

My extend­ed fam­i­ly actu­al­ly start­ed doing month­ly vir­tu­al triv­ia nights long before we all start­ed social dis­tanc­ing, which we’ve of course con­tin­ued through the quar­an­tine. I’ve also done game nights with oth­er groups of friends from around the coun­try. 

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Dur­ing a time that no one real­ly has excit­ing news to share, play­ing a game can be a good way to spend time with friends with­out hav­ing the pres­sure to keep every­one enter­tained. I’ve test­ed out a few game plat­forms over the past two months, and below are five of my favorites for Zoom calls and vir­tu­al hap­py hours. I’ve also not­ed which plat­forms are eas­i­est for each type of group. 

Jackbox Games

Jack­box has been around for years but has been surg­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty — at least among my friends — in the past few weeks. You can buy indi­vid­ual games (on sale right now for $4.99) or buy a par­ty pack with mul­ti­ple games (on sale for $12.49). The per­son who’s host­ing the game will share their screen on a Zoom or oth­er con­fer­ence call, and every­one else will log on to jackbox.tv to . The group I play with has the Jack­box Par­ty Pack 2, which comes with five games. My per­son­al favorite is Fib­bage, which is a game where every­one com­pletes a sen­tence (e.g. “The may­or of Rab­bit Hash, is a _______”) with a lie believ­able enough that the oth­er play­ers will fall for it. You get points for oth­er peo­ple believ­ing your lie and for pick­ing out the truth. There’s a bit of a curve on some of the games, but you’ll fig­ure it out if you play mul­ti­ple rounds. 

Kahoot!

If you’re into triv­ia, Kahoot! is the eas­i­est-to-use plat­form my fam­i­ly has found. One per­son hosts and sends out a chal­lenge, and the rest of the peo­ple on the call com­plete rounds of triv­ia on the Kahoot app. Kahoot’s oth­er games lean toward learn­ing as well — brain teasers, sci­ences quizzes and lots of dif­fer­ent triv­ia top­ics. You can play on kahoot.it, but most play­ers use the app, so make sure that every­one in your group is some­what tech-savvy (for ref­er­ence, my grand­ma can usu­al­ly fig­ure it out just fine). 

Scattergories

More into clas­sic board games? There’s a Scat­ter­gories app that could be per­fect for your group. You can play on your own or cre­ate a group to play against your fam­i­ly and friends. It’s rat­ed for ages 4 and old­er, so this is a good game to play if you have young chil­dren in your group — though they’ll need a smart­phone or a tablet to down­load the app. 

Relat­ed: 3 Rea­sons Your Remote Employ­ees Should Be Play­ing Games

House Party

For tech-savvy groups, the House Par­ty app will let you see your friends and play games at the same time. To play, down­load and open the House Par­ty app then invite the friends you want to play with to your “room.” Once they’re all there, make sure you lock the room so that oth­er peo­ple can’t ran­dom­ly join in on your game. Then, you can use the app to play Head’s Up, Triv­ia, a game called Chips and Guac and a Pic­tionary-esque one called Quick Draw. The nice thing about this app is that you don’t need to use a com­put­er and a smart­phone or tablet to par­tic­i­pate, but every­one in your group will need to be able to down­load the app. 

Low-Tech Trivia

A few weeks ago a group of my friends played a ver­sion of triv­ia that’s per­fect if your group is large or if you have peo­ple who aren’t very good with . I call it low-tech triv­ia: Before you log on, every­one in the group cre­ates a list of 10 triv­ia ques­tions that can be relat­ed to any sub­ject they want (sports, his­to­ry, cur­rent events, gen­er­al knowl­edge, etc.). Take turns read­ing your lists, and score based on the hon­or sys­tem — just make sure you have one per­son keep­ing track of everyone’s score from each round. I like this because it gets every­one think­ing about game night ear­li­er in the day as they pull togeth­er their lists of ques­tions, and it’s more inter­ac­tive than hav­ing one game mas­ter. 

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