These online game nights are saving me right now -- as I write this we are in week 2 of the Corona Virus self-isolation. Online Video Hangouts have been a lifesaver, but having something to focus on and forget about what is happening gives you back two hours to be a little less stressed. HIGHLY RECCOMEND.
These virtual game nights have also left me incredibly inspired to keep this up when life gets back to normal. We are lucky enough to live near lots of friends and be able to have in-person game nights pretty often, but we also have many friends + loved ones who liver afar and we could have easily set up game nights with them too.
Plan out the Logistics
PICK A GAME
I'd suggest choosing a game before you start throwing out invites, because the game you choose might dictate the number of people that can participate, just like when you are playing games in person.
Curious what games I have already checked out or will be checking out?
Pick a Time + Video Chat Platform
Not until recently did I realize that everyone has a strong preference on their video chat platform. Anyone else noticing this phenomenon? Here are some ideas if you are new to this -- Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts/Meet, Facebook Messenger, Houseparty, Skype, Whats App. Choose whatever is easiest for your group.
Pick a platform. Pick a time. Send the invite
The joy of a virtual game night is that everyone can jump on and off the call as needed. Encourage people to show up for however long they can -- even if it just to say Hi.
Starting the Hangout
The more often you do this, the easier it will be for everyone, but those first few times you are on a group video chat it is pretty normal to be uncertain about how to maximize the situation (and whether or not to talk).
If you have a large group on the call [8+ people] I'd suggest taking the lead and setting some guidelines. Here are some pretty common ones.
- Mute yourself if you are having a side conversation or other things are going on in the background.
- Instead of clapping, give some spirit hands.
- If you are having a side conversation, consider using the chatbox.
- If you are giving instructions-- the web address of the game, for example, be sure to type it in the chatbox.
- Mute other notifications that have sound on your computer. No one needs to hear your group chat going off every couple of minutes.
Give Some Time for Everyone to Check-in
Suggest that everyone go around -- How are they doing this week? What is new? Any fun announcements? Everyone can get in on questions and conversation, but make it a pass the virtual talking-stick kind of situation so that everyone feels like they are connecting.
Consider the Features of the Video Chat
Most video chats have a screen share feature. As I mentioned above, this can be super useful for the host to set up one device to screen share the game. Put this device on mute. Use a second device to play along + participate.
Zoom has this feature and I am not sure about others. You can create breakout rooms! Here is a tutorial on how the host can do this. This is super useful if you have a larger group to break out into smaller groups similar to what you would do at a party. Come back to the central group and then break out to another group. It seems silly, but if you are on a call with 8+ people and not playing a game this feature is a lifesaver.
The host does have to do quite a bit more work if you use breakout rooms to approve people going in and out of rooms, but it is totally do-able.
Most Importantly -- Have fun!
Share. Laugh. Drink a glass of something fun. Get together.