11 Online Games For Virtual Gatherings
Online games have revealed their importance during the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool to create laughter and memories in the absence of real life get-togethers. Through my virtual engineering design team socials and friend group gatherings, I’ve experimented with a few online games that are worth trying, and I wanted to share them in a listicle for those that have a bit less time to search for games. Most of these are free, and all of them quick and easy to set up. If none of these suit your fancy, here are 9 more games to add to your list.
Free | Up To 12 Players / 256 Players | Drawing Game
My most succesful article is about Skribbl.io tactics, so how could I not include it? Skribbl.io is an online drawing game in which a rotating person in your group tries to draw a word with their mouse/tablet, and everyone else tries to guess what they are drawing. Points are awarded for having your drawing guessed, and for guessing other people’s drawings. The main fun comes from laughing at other people’s ridiculous drawings, but the game also has a lot of room for skill expression, since drawing, guessing, and typing speed are all a part of a winner’s success. Recently, I discovered a carbon copy of the game, Sketchful.io, which seems to have a more active development team. Sketchful has an experimental player limit of 256 players (more than you’ll ever need), hotkeys to make drawing easier (e.g. B for brush, F for fill), and even the ability to save pictures. If you’re a dedicated Skribbl.io-only fan, also consider that the word pool on Sketchful is different, which can create more competitive games.
2. Gartic Phone
Free | 4+ Players| Drawing Game
Gartic Phone has emerged in the past few months as more and more streamers have played it, and it’s my go-to game for a laugh. It’s basically a port of the real world game Telestrations, and but if you’re unfamiliar, here’s how it works. Each player writes a prompt, and then the next person has to draw someone else’s prompt, and then someone else will have to guess what they drew, repeating again and again until the original prompt is completely lost via terrible drawings. My cheeks are always sore from laughing when playing this game, because there’s lot of room for humour in Gartic Phone. There’s also a lot of different modes being added to the game, and the graphics are very polished, so again, give it a try.
Free | 6–12 Players | Wordplay/Deduction Game
In Codenames, two different teams appoint 1 spymaster each. 25 cards with words on them are placed on the board, some of which are neutral, some of which belong to each respective team. The spymasters can see which cards belong to which team, and they have to come up with hints that will guide their team to picking the correct cards, while avoiding the other team’s cards and a death card. Hints are a single word only, followed by a number that represents how many cards fall under that hint. For example, the orange spymaster for the game pictured above could give the hint “Racecourse 3”, trying to tell their team to guess Sweat, Track and Jockey, or maybe “Halloween 3” trying to get Wizard, Pie and Crow. The game demands lateral thinking, which makes it all the more fun when one team is behind and the losing team’s spymaster has to connect 5 cards at once. Codenames is a board game initially, but the switch to online actually makes the game more player-friendly, as in the online version it’s easier for the spymaster to tell which cards belong to them. The online version also lets players vote for which cards they think are correct, which lets players play democratically if they want to. All in all, Codenames is one of my favourite games to play, and you should definitely give it a try.
4. Jackbox Party Packs
$10–$30| <8 Players | Multiple Games
Jackbox is a series of digital party packs that each come with a variety of games, usually 4–5 per pack. The games in each pack are generally diverse, easy to learn, and pretty polished, which is why they are paid games. The good news is that only one person in a group needs to own a pack for everyone else to play, so it’s a bit like owning a virtual board game that you can bring to different parties. To play a game, one person loads up the pack and gives a code for other players to join through. Some of the games involve trivia, drawing, inventing words, and there’s somethin for everyone. I don’t own any packs, but from viewing and playing a few of the games, my favourite series of games is the Quiplash series, which has games in Pack 2, 3, and 7. Quiplash is a game where players compete to write funny answers to prompts, and players vote to decide who wins. Since these games are paid, I’d recommend buying them only if you like every game in the pack since some games are known for not being superb, but also note that you can buy individual games for cheaper if you don’t want to buy a whole pack.
5. VXN Games
Free | Up to 36 Players | Multiple Games
While searching for a free alternative to Quiplash, I came across Mutter Nonsense, a game with pretty much the same premise as Quiplash, but free and understandably less fancy. Mutter Nonsense is part of VXN games, a website/developer that hosts 3 (4 now!) games, the other 2 being Speakeasy and Phonic Frenzy. Speakeasy is a trivia game that allows up to 64 players and has what you would expect out of a trivia game: a variety of categories, teams, and the nice added touch of bar ambience. Phonic Frenzy, on the other hand, requires players to type as many words as they can think of that contain a certain sequence of letters (e.g. “pt”). I’ve tried out all three of these games with friends and while they have some bugs and could be more polished, they are all fun, competitive, and obviously have a lot of work put into them. You have to make an account to play, but for the low-low price of free, it’s not a lot to ask.
Free for 1 Game/Day | Any # of Players | Geography Game
GeoGuessr is a fairly popular game, but if you haven’t heard of it, the premise is that you’re dropped into a random location in Google Street View, and you’re tasked with figuring out where in the world you are using only the Street View navigation. Common tactics include looking for city names on highways, looking for country domain indicators on the sides of cars, and checking which side of the road cars are driving on. People who love geography will enjoy this game, as a little bit of knowledge goes a long way in figuring out where you are, but I personally don’t think you need to know a lot of geography to have fun. Our group of ~30 people split into teams of 5 with 1 person controlling the navigation and sharing their screen with the rest of their team, and the points ended up being pretty competitive.
7. Cards Against Humanity
Free | 5–10 Players | Humour Game
Pretend You’re Xyzzy is an online copy of the IRL popular party game Cards Against Humanity. The premise is as follows: one player draws a black card, which has a prompt, and players can play their white cards, which have funny and innapropriuate words on them, to complete the prompts. Instead of voting like in Quiplash, the black card player for the round reads the answers out loud and picks the one they find funniest. The user interface for Pretend You’re Xyzzy is pretty bare-bones, but it gets the job done.
8. Photo Roulette
Free | 3–10 Players | Photo Game
Photo Roulette is a mobile game for Android and iOS where a picture is shown to all the players and they have to guess who in the group took the photo. This naturally means everyone has to give the app access to your photos, which might be a privacy concern, but the game is pretty fun so weigh your options. The developers have made it so you can remove certain photos from the pool before starting, so the privacy is the only real concern. This game has seen a lot of success, and in my opinion it’s because every photo can be the subject of a discussion, whether it’s a random picture that needs explaining, or a camping trip that everyone can reminisce on. In my opinion, it’s a game that’s worth playing once and then never again.
Free | Up to 10 Players | Trivia/Quiz
Kahoot is a colourful multiple choice quiz maker that is intended for use by teachers and students. Despite this, it’s free to use for anyone, and so if someone prepares a quiz for the group, a lot of fun can be had. Quizzes can have text as well as pictures, so there’s a lot of room for creativity on the part of the quiz creator. To get started, tell someone to prepare a quiz, and then when you start the quiz, you can give people a room code to enter here.
Free | Up to 10 Players | Jigsaw Puzzles
If you’re looking for a calm, not-too-competitive game to talk over, multiplayer jigsaw puzzles might be for you. Jigsaw puzzles might seem like a boring game to play, but there’s a certain satisfaction to completing a puzzle, and it doesn’t take hours to do since there’s a lot of people helping. There’s also a scoreboard for how many pieces players have succesfully placed, and a really satisfying click sound when correct pieces mesh together. Again, puzzles might not be for everyone, but I found myself enjoying a few games.
Free | 2 Players or Tournament | Chess
Chess has seen a huge growth in popularity during the pandemic, in part due to the high-level players that are streaming on Twitch and in part due to how it’s easier than ever to learn due to online sites like Chess.com and Lichess.org. Chess has usually a quick game between friends for me, but it’s also pretty easy to make a free tournament bracket on Lichess if your group is willing to commit more time. It’s best if everyone is at the same skill level, so maybe if you’re the only good player in your group, sit out and watch people hang their queens.
I hope you found something useful in this list. As I write this, it seems for once that the worst of COVID-19 is over, and I hope that I can help some people stay strong through lockdown with these game suggestions.