Don't let social distancing prevent your next family game night.

How to have a family game night while social distancing

A typical Saturday night for my girlfriend and I is meeting our family somewhere for dinner, drinks and live music. We also enjoy gathering together for family game nights. On Friday after finishing up our “work from home” day, we immediately missed the excitement of planning evenings like this. But being the problem-solvers we are, we set to work figuring out a way we could still have a fun night with family to look forward to. For this first strange weekend of social distancing, here’s what we came up with: Family game night thanks to Zoom

1) Zoom is a video conferencing software. The free version limits a meeting to 40 minutes, while the “Pro” one is for up to 100 participants with no time limit. We felt the $14 a month was a small price to pay for quality family time. We had one family member sign up for this, and act as the administrator who organizes the meeting. They pick the time and email “invites” to the rest of the group.

2) When everyone receives the emailed invite, they will get a link to the meeting and a unique meeting ID number. From the invite, they can also download the Zoom app. Although you can download it to a computer or mobile device, our experience was that using a computer with a webcam was easier to communicate, especially over a long period of time (imagine holding your phone up for hours. Ugh). Also, some of the members in our group used their phones and had freezing video issues and could not take advantage of all of the chat features.

3) We set our family meeting for 7:30 p.m. Soon after a few of us joined the virtual “room,” we learned another trick: If you have more than one person in the same real room, have one turn on their audio and mute the others. This prevented any screeching feedback issues.

4) Choosing a game is the tricky part. We chose to play “Things.” It’s a simple game that gives everyone a category such as “Things you should never put on a kitchen table.” We own the board version of this game and used the cards from the game to give us categories. If you don’t have the actual game, all you need is a little creativity to make your own categories; “Things that are harder than you think” and “Things that make ballet more interesting” were a few of our categories. Each family member takes turn being the “judge.” On Zoom, you can privately chat anyone in the “room,” so answers are sent to the judge this way. Then, the judge collects the private answers and displays them in no particular order to everyone with a simple copy-and-paste to the “everyone” chat. Now the fun begins! Players (not including the judge) take turns guessing who-said-what, for example: Logan, did you say “keys” for “Things you should never put on a kitchen table?” If you guess right, you keep guessing until you’re wrong. If your answer was correctly guessed, you are out and you can’t guess again until the next round starts. You get one point for each correct guess. You keep going around until all of the answers are matched with the person who said them. This ends the round. The winner is declared after playing a predetermined number of rounds (In our case, we had 9 players and decided each person would have one turn at being the judge, so we played 9 rounds)

5) It took a little trial and error but in the end, we all had a great time. Best practices we picked up during the game included: One player keeping track of whose turn it was: we used a list of players in order of age. One player kept score. The person who was the judge used the everyone chat feature to keep answers up to date. In between rounds, we talked about our day, shared what beer or drinks we were enjoying, and even did some virtual toasts. At the end of the night, we all agreed it was the next best thing to being in the same room.

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