BEFORE CERTAIN CURRENT events upended all of our lives, a few friends and I had a goal: more old-fashioned game nights, involving old-school boards, mysterious card decks and little plastic figures. There’s something wholesome and cheering about gathering around a table and jointly figuring out the rules of some new game. And you can mix and match the people you invite, making it a low-key but intimate and friendly way to introduce new people to your group.
Our new stay-at-home reality required rethinking game night — and we’ve discovered that the virtual version comes with sometimes-unexpected upsides.
CHRISTY AND COVID-19: Gather writer Christy Karras was infected with — and recovered from — COVID-19; here’s what she’d like you to know about the virus, and her questions about what comes next.
We’re lucky to have a couple of friends who always spearhead the game part of game night, and they quickly pivoted to thinking about ways we could keep it going in a more virtual fashion.
My friend David, in particular, is a game connoisseur. He promised to come up with a few options, and we marked time in our busy (ha!) calendars for the event.
David’s solution: game by videoconference.
He bought a party pack from a company called Jackbox Games, which has been in the computerized game-night business for a while. I played their classic “You Don’t Know Jack” trivia game on a PC back in college; these days, the games are designed to be played using smartphones and the internet.
Prepandemic, most players would have been in the same room. To simulate that, David set up two computers at his house, interacting with us on one and running the game full-screen on the other. It works almost as well to run the game and the videoconference on the same computer and use the screen-share feature. Each household joined the videoconference and watched the game unfold on its own laptop.
Three couples played on the first night, and it was literally a roaring success. By the end of the evening, we were laughing so loudly that our neighbors might have wondered whether we were having an in-person party.
One of the more popular games was Drawful, which is vaguely like Pictionary in that it involves players drawing images in an attempt to match a given clue. But the drawings are even harder to parse because they’re made with a finger on a cellphone screen. Technical difficulties meant the lines two people were drawing weren’t visible to them, which only added to the hilarity.
We all wore our soft pants and ate and drank whatever we wanted — no designated drivers needed!
For the second game night, we added another acquaintance, plus one of David’s kids, Jesse. As a teenager, Jesse would not usually spend much in-person time with David’s friends. But difficult times make for strange bedfellows. And it was delightful getting some insight into a person we didn’t know well before.
The big hit this night was a fill-in-the-blank bluffing game called Fibbage and its spinoff, Enough About You.
One thing about games: They all require players to make certain decisions, and those decisions can teach you just a little bit more about the people at your game night.
As David put it, “Games like Enough About You help you get to know people you already know.” Whether you’re in the same room or not.