As the workforce shifts online during the pandemic, video conferencing tools are a key part of the digital office, however, these platforms are also great for gameplay.
As cities continue to take proactive measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus more Americans are working remotely. Consequently, and have become a normal part of the virtual workday for tens of millions of Americans. However, these video conferencing tools aren't exclusively meant for the by any means. It turns out, these tools are also ideal for virtual gameplay with friends and family members.
SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)
Fortunately, there are innumerable games to play over Zoom to help take a break from the news and break the sheer monotony of isolating at home, although some games certainly translate to the digital landscape more readily than others. (Sadly, it may be best to wait to dust off The Settlers of Catan.) Below, we've listed some of the best games to play over Zoom to help maintain some semblance of normalcy during the pandemic.
Bingo is one of the more popular video conference games at the moment. That's because the game transitions well to the virtual setting and is conducive to both large and small groups. It's easy enough to make a bingo card at home with common household items, although there are bingo cards available on Amazon for those so inclined. There are a surprising amount of online bingo number generators to help streamline the process and some of these apps provide a recap of numbers already called to minimize potential confusion.
The classic dice-rolling game is perfect for Zoom due to its simplicity, although you will of course need five dice to play. Yahtzee is very easy to pick up on the fly and is a great option for all ages, especially larger families with mixed ages participating. The original scorecard is fairly straightforward for tallying points and making a simplified version should only take a few minutes to finagle.
SEE: Holiday Zoom backgrounds for your virtual office party and seasonal gatherings (TechRepublic)
Chess has been the long-distance game of choice for centuries. In the days of yesteryear, chess was a popular game many friends played via mail, penning letters with an individual move included in each correspondence, the game slowly playing out over the course of months. Fortunately, with modern tools like Zoom individuals can play and socialize in real-time. Chess translates rather well to Zoom compared to some other classic board games and there are many options for online head-to-head chess play.
Scattergories is not as well known as the other options on this list, but this multiplayer game is a cult classic in some gaming circles. Gameplay all revolves around a template sheet with a series of general clues and categories. Players must use a preselected letter of the alphabet (this letter changes every round) to start each answer to the given clues. A timer adds a little pressure to mix. As for tackling online Scattergories via Zoom, people have a couple of options.
Swellgarfo actually offers a solid faux-Scattergories experience with a question template already in place, a built-in timer, and a random number generator to boot. One player will need to share the Swellgarfo screen with other players and everyone will need to record their answers on scratch paper. Alternatively, the original playing card lists are readily available online and individuals can simply jot down their answers on scratch paper. However, this super DIY approach will require additional tools such as a random letter generator and a digital stopwatch. For the Scattergories purists, it's also possible to load the original timer audio on YouTube for a more authentic experience.
Charades is one of the livelier options on this list for those looking to add a little energy to their game night. In Charades, one player draws a card then pantomimes this clue, and their teammates attempt to guess the mystery word. Each correct guess scores a point and these points are tallied after a predetermined number of rounds. There's a free Charades app available in the App Store and Google Play to assist, but it's just as easy for each team member to have a timer and word generator open in a separate tab during play.
Playing Pictionary can get a little tricky without the traditional gameboard, but there are a few digital hacks to upgrade the overall experience. Nonetheless, it is possible to forgo the traditional play without too much trouble. First, teams will need to determine a point goal rather than traversing the traditional Pictionary board. Zoom has a handy whiteboard feature to help with sharing real-time drawings. Players will also need a stopwatch and a word generator to assist with play along the way.
Farkle is another lesser-known dice game for Zoom. To start, you'll need six dice, scratch paper, and a pen to track point totals. Scoring is fairly straight forward. Different dice combinations award various point totals with rare dice combinations tallying more points. Additionally, if a player scores with all of their dice on a roll, they can roll again. This is called being "hot" and this feature makes it possible to rack up points in a hurry. Scoring is cumulative, so players will need to agree on a point threshold before the game begins. Farkle is also one of those games that everyone seems to play differently. That said, feel free to add your own twist on gameplay and remember, if it doesn't pan out as planned, you can always ditch the concept next time. A comprehensive rundown of standard rules and variations can be found here.
Keep in mind, there are a few technological touches people can add to their conferencing setup to assist with the gameplay. A connected Bluetooth speaker could help dial up the decibels during more communication-heavy games and casting/connecting to a larger, compatible TV screen could make things feel a little less cramped.
This article was updated on Nov. 17, 2020.
- The latest cancellations: How the coronavirus is disrupting tech conferences worldwide (TechRepublic)
- The tech pro's guide to video conferencing (TechRepublic download)
- Coronavirus domain names are the latest hacker trick (TechRepublic)
- COVID-19 demonstrates the need for disaster recovery and business continuity plans (TechRepublic Premium)
- As coronavirus spreads, here's what's been canceled or closed (CBS News)
- Coronavirus: Effective strategies and tools for remote work during a pandemic (ZDNet)
- How to track the coronavirus: Dashboard delivers real-time view of the deadly virus (ZDNet)
- Coronavirus and COVID-19: All your questions answered (CNET)
- Coronavirus: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)