Do you ever find yourself in a video call with your best friends, not actually talking at all? You’re barely making eye contact because you’re scrutinising your own face, someone else is scrolling Twitter on their computer and the other is shirtless and bouncing M&Ms into their mouth while watching Netflix?
A good video call is an art. Unlike pre-isolation hangs, you can’t just bounce off each other’s physical energy and in-person idiocy. Connecting beyond just clicking “join video chat” requires effort. Just because we have this wealth of nouveau-phonecall tech—Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Houseparty etc, doesn’t mean we’re actually using it well.
Some services like Houseparty offer in-app games, but if you’ve roadtested them, you know there’s only two that are actually worth your time. That said, playing a socially distanced game on your preferred soc-med of choice is a good way to break out of the rut of calls that leave you feeling more disconnected than full of the giddying power of friendship.
So, if you wanna add a bit of direction to your face time on FaceTime, these are the best online games to play on Houseparty, Zoom, Skype et al.
Houseparty Quick Draw
A game native to the Houseparty app, this is one that we’re actually into—Chips and Guac is like a knockoff Cards Against Humanity that’s just… kinda unfunny. Quick Draw, however, is v amusing: essentially players take turns to draw an object or idea based on a prompt only they can see. Then everyone else tries to guess what the fuck it is. This is especially good if one of you has some talent in visual art, because… they usually do the worst.
Houseparty Trivia and Pub Quizzes
The other decent game in the Houseparty app is the trivia, which you can select a bunch of topics from. Geography is particularly illuminating about how poorly we listened in school, but I’ve also never had to ever read topographic lines in real life so whose the real chump? (It’s still me.) The point here is not that the trivia itself is actually that engaging, but more so the joy in being collectively outraged at bizarro questions and laughing at fires complete misfires.
You can also make up your own pub-style trivia and play over Zoom and FaceTime, which also means your questions can be as wild as you like.
Cards Against Humanity
While not the *official* Cards Against Humanity game, you can play a better approximation of the infamous card game online for free w your pals. Head to this website and invite each other into your game, there is a max of six players but more is probably a bit chaotic.
Dungeons And Dragons
Okay, this may sound like a big, nerdy commitment but there is a reason the Dungeons and Dragons game has the following it does. Even our mans Vin Diesel plays, and if it’s good enough for Dominic Toretto it’s good enough for me. What better time to break out some theatre of the mind when literally all regular theatres are closed ya know? There are a tonne of guides on how to use Zoom, Discord and Roll20 to set up your campaign.
For the uninitiated, D&D is the classic fantasy tabletop role-playing game, where you and a bunch of your friends play as different characters and work through a campaign (the storyline). You can use one of the classic campaigns, which lays out all the potential twists/turns for ya, or make your own up. This is where it can get extremely fun, for example, you could play as a group of teens sneaking out of your house in a post-apocalyptic virus ravaged world trying to get supplies, ward off zombies, and attempting to reunite with each other. Could be upsetting, could be the best game to play on Houseparty ever, your milage may vary.
Never Have I Ever
Another classic is Never Have I Ever. We’d assume most are familiar with the classic house party game (like the regular kind of house party, not the sad lonely phone kind), but if not here are the basics of how to play Never Have I Ever. If you’re playing sans drinks, one person goes saying something they haven’t done, for example, “Never have I ever ghosted someone.” Anyone who has ghosts someone loses a point—you can set how many you have at the start, usually ten. The last person in the group with any points left wins.
If you’re playing with drinks… look I’m sure you know what to do. Good luck and may the odds be in your liver’s favour.
Charades! Good wholesome fun for us all. Or you can go nuts and get extremely obscure with your references. Split into teams or pairs and have one person from either team DM each other the charade, it ups the challenge and makes it feel more competitive. Healthy competition is a good antidote to boredom and ending up in conversation spirals of “yeah, I miss being outside.”
Okay, this requires a little bit of creativity and ideally a screen other than your phone. It can also, be turned into a drinking game, should you desire. (Well, so can nearly any game but uh we’re advising vaguely responsible alcohol consumption in all things.)
Pick a film or TV show to watch, ideally one you all actually like and have a vague idea of what it could be about. Rewatching things works particularly well here, peep some of our best isolation rewatch suggestions. Before you start watching pick a bunch of words/themes/cliches that are likely to happen. For example, Katara saying something kinda mom-like in Avatar: The Last Airbender. (I think you can see where this is going.)
Using something like the Netflix Party or Kast browser extensions—counting down and pressing play at the same time ain’t it chief—start watching. Depending on your alcohol stash, you can either just call Bingo as you see your phrases/actions (write ’em down to score and figure out a winner at the end) or call Bingo and drink.
Yes, you will miss the questionably sticky floors and soju, but you can still do karaoke via Zoom! This isn’t so much a game as just an ~activity~ but giving your video call some direction can help it feel like a proper hang.
There are a bunch of ways you could do this. The easy mode is shoving your fave tracks on a collaborative Spotify playlist for more of sing-a-long styles. Advanced mode is making a YouTube playlist of karaoke-ready (vocal-less) tracks and use Watch2gether to sync and sing. This is best done with headphones and thick walls, or forgiving neighbours.
ReFlex The Game
If you aren’t on the Flex Mami train, book a damn ticket sis. The multi-talent DJ, host and Fairy Nutmother’s ReFlex card game is the perfect thing to get engaging conversations going again. Stop asking each other bland questions about how we’re doing in iso and start asking each other if the concept of monogamy makes sense! The game encourages deeper, more reflective thinking and can actually be quite revealing, even when you’re playing it with people you’ve known for ages. Some people are even using it on socially distanced dates to suss if a honey is really the one (or one of the ones, as the case may be.)
We’re Not Really Strangers
In the same vein as ReFlex The Game is the card game from We’re Not Really Strangers, that aesthetically pleasing IG account that you can’t remember when you followed. The game moves through stages and encourages deeper convos and connections, Noah Centino even shouted it out in the Netflix IG live series Wanna Talk About It.