Moving game night with friends to the small screen

If your family is anything like mine, having so little interaction with friends and loved ones has been a bit of a challenge. It’s just us, every single day.

We have three boys who are used to running from activity to activity and soaking up lots of time with friends. Coming up with ways to stay entertained, laugh and play has led us to completing a 998-piece puzzle (we lost two of the original 1,000 pieces), reading books aloud and streaming lots of movies and TV shows.

None of that makes up for what we’re lacking in social time, but we’ve found that using technology to play games with friends comes close! While apps like Houseparty are popular ways to bring virtual gaming to groups, we’ve had fun using a slightly less high-tech approach.

Here are some of the easiest table-to-screen conversions we’ve discovered for those who also enjoy playing old-school games.

Bingo

The classic game with numbered balls and Bingo cards is easy to replicate in a video-chat setting.

  1. Have all participants create or print out their own Bingo cards. Numbers 1 to 15 go under the B column, 16 to 30 go under I, 31 to 45 go under N (don’t forget the free space!), 46 to 60 go under G, and 61 to 75 go under O.
  2. Choose a Bingo caller. This person will want to be close enough to their video camera so you can clearly hear them, and they may also want to text out the numbers to participants to eliminate being peppered with “what was that again??”
  3. Don’t have a Bingo cage? Use one of the many Bingo game apps on the app store. But I’m a fan of the real thing, Bingo balls and all, which is easy to find and purchase online.
  4. Have the Bingo caller determine what the Bingo pattern is for each round. 5 in a row? Four corners? Postage stamp? Blackout?
  5. When someone yells “BINGO!” have them read back the numbers. If they don’t have a good Bingo, keep playing.
  6. If you’re playing with friends who live nearby, consider having small prizes that you can leave on the winners’ doorsteps.

Checkers/chess

Both of these can be played with two people, plus two more “ghost” players. This idea can also apply to other traditional games such as Connect 4 and Battleship. (Battleship can be made extra fun when played over walkie-talkie, like my sons do with their neighbor friends.)

  1. Both people on the video chat will need a game set.
  2. Determine who is playing with which color/token.
  3. Focus the camera on the board, so it fills up the screen.
  4. Set up the boards identical to each other.
  5. Agree on the length of time allowed to make a move decision.
  6. Each player moves their own pieces. Ideally, with the exception of Battleship, each of them would have one more person with them acting as a “ghost player.” This person moves the opponent’s pieces on the board since the opponent is not there in person.
  7. The people acting as ghost players can become real players after each game, by either having the previous game’s ghost players play each other, or by having one ghost player oppose the last game’s winner.

Poker

In our past life before COVID-19, my husband and his friends gathered on a weekly basis at someone’s house to play a few rounds of Texas Hold’em poker. It was their time to connect, compete and engage in some friendly razzing about misplayed hands or lucky flops.

And, as in all things in life, where there’s a will there’s a way. So even when they couldn’t play in person because of Minnesota’s shelter-in-place order, they figured out how to help poker night live on.

  1. Determine the start time. The players’ spouses generally prefer the games begin after the kids are in bed. This is a good recommendation.
  2. Select an online social poker app. My husband’s crew uses Poker Stars for PC and the guys play on their home computers.
  3. Grab snacks and beverages.
  4. Use smartphones to set up an ongoing video call for chatting, reading people’s faces and seeing what kinds of snacks the other players are enjoying.

Click here for more tips on how to stay connected during social distancing.