top of page
  • Writer's picture Natalie Budnyk

Game Night, But Make It Zoom

"Social Distancing" is the buzzword of 2020 -- though "quar" and "iso" might be giving it a run for its money lately as people try to cope by making light of the new normal. One of the hardest parts about our current situation is that even a video call to catch up with friends or family can have a looming cloud of stress that makes it hard to let loose. Unless you have a master of spin and small talk in your video chat, it can be a challenge to keep things fun and light. We do not always have that person, and so enters a different kind of master -- The Game Master.

If you know me, it's not surprising that I've become this master of games for my friends, but something you might not know is that my family is a well oiled gaming machine. One Christmas, we ripped through all the cards in Mad Gab in one sitting, never to be played again because there are too many photographic memories among us. We'll never forget how Grandma pronounced "Clint Eastwood" that day. Of course, this anecdote leads us to the list before you. I hope your video chats are made a little brighter with some of these ideas, from my family's weekly Zoom call to yours.

1. PERSONALIZED TRIVIA - My cousin, Stephanie, had the brilliant idea to use this quiz generator to create a giant trivia game about our whole family. You'll need one super dedicated person to create the quiz and to subsequently screen share the multiple choice questions to the Zoom chat. Everyone else will use their smart phones as an answer pad -- a common thread in a lot of these games. This could be super fun for a virtual birthday, graduation, or baby shower.

2. EVIL APPLES - You probably guessed what this one is already, but if not: What do you get when you adapt "Cards Against Humanity" into an app, but you have to describe it to your investors as "a raunchy version of 'Apples To Apples'", so they insist you put "apples" in the name "so people know what it is"? That's right. It's "Evil Apples".

I personally really hate the type of humor in "Cards Against Humanity", but if it's your thing, this game will be your new favorite.

The really cool feature is that you don't have to play this live. It works very similarly to "Words With Friends", so you can take your sweet time on each turn and play one round over the course of a month if you want. Or you can hop on that Zoom call and play it like you're in your dorm ripping White Claws with the homies.

3. BINGO - This one is incredibly simple, especially if someone on your call has a bingo set at home already. My Aunt Fran has one of those spinning baskets with number balls in it, so we used that and drew our own cards. If your aunts aren't teachers, you can also use this digital number generator instead of the basket thing. Download the card I made for our Easter Zoom call below. You can copy this setup on a scratch piece of paper, print mine out, or send it to your phone and use the "markup" tool to fill it out. Directions on how to fill out the numbers are at the bottom of the PDF.

Download PDF • 235KB

3. GOOGLE TRENDS - As the resident Game Master of my friend group, I characteristically watch a lot of gaming streams online. One of my favorites is Fun Haus. I co-opted this idea from them, so here's a link to Alanah's version. It's a little easier to understand how this works if you watch them play through it first.

The basic concept is that one person (the Steve Harvey, if you will) comes up with a topic and a few words relating to that topic. Our topic was (obviously) quarantine, so the words I chose were "recipe", "DIY", "party", "delivery" and "online". We muted the Zoom and split the group into two separate text threads so they could deliberate in secrecy, ultimately choosing one word to pair with my word. The object of the game is to pick the most popular google search term. "Bread Recipe" was unsurprisingly high, but "Chicken Recipe" took the crown. The Steve Harvey should keep a one minute timer for each deliberation, fill out and screen share the Google Trends graph (United States version linked here), and record the points that each team racks up according to the number of people who searched the term that week.

My grandparents were a little scared of this game, but once we got going, they decided that online data can be fun!

4. MATCH GAME - I'm here to blow the "RuPaul's Drag Race" community's mind right now. "Snatch Game" is indeed based on a 1960s game show called "Match Game". Let that sink in for a second, text your friends, and then spend an hour writing your own silly fill in the blank phrases. I already started a few here to give you an idea of what we are looking for...or for you to fully steal. Your choice.

Download PDF • 34KB

Match game is super simple. Two people are the "contestants" and everyone else is a "celebrity". The Gene Rayburn (or RuPaul if that makes the metaphor easier for you) reads each phrase, and all the players fill in the "blank". It's imperative that everyone writes these answers on index cards so you can be dramatic and show your answers to the camera when it's your turn. The object of this game is for the "contestants" to match with as many "celebrities" as possible over three rounds. You could even play this in a tournament style, where the reigning winner battles the next new contestant in each subsequent game, and the loser becomes a celebrity. There's a reason why this is the best "Drag Race" episode every season.

5. BAMBOOZLE - I need to preface this one: if you've never played "One Night", this might be a little difficult to get into, so don't get discouraged if you have to do a few practice rounds. Bamboozle is an online version of one of those find-the-killer games. Everyone has different names for this game (we call it "Mafia") and different ways to play it, but they all usually involve a set of cards that ONLY you can look at. Impossible to do via video chat, until now!

Your whole group will go to this website and be randomly assigned a character with special skills. Again, you need a Game Master to read the prompts out loud, so if that's you, maybe do a few practice rounds yourself before springing this on your friends. It's good to be an authority when "Master" is in your title.

7. JACKBOX GAMES - This is my absolute favorite option for a group of people who are really savvy with their smart phones and who game regularly. I say that last part because most of these require you to pay close attention to directions at the outset, and it helps if you've played similar games before. We decided that my weekly family Zoom is not quite ready to make the jump to this platform yet because of the phone savvy aspect, but maybe we will get there eventually.

Jackbox's model is that they make you purchase a Party Pack. We've found that each Party Pack usually has two really amazing games mixed with a few wild cards. You can browse them here, but I, as Game Master, have party packs 2, 3, and 6. Of those packs, the crowd favorites are definitely Tee K.O., Bidiots, Quiplash, and Trivia Murder Party. I was also persuaded to buy the one-off game, Drawful, which is sort of like Pictionary and super user friendly. The common thread with these games is that, again, someone will need to screen share the game with the group and EVERYONE (yes even you, Game Master) will play along on their phones by going to and entering a special room code.

I've done this a few different ways, and my favorite way to download Jackbox is through the Steam app. This way you can send your Steam login to friends, and they can use the games too for calls you aren't on. If you don't download the games through Steam, they're trapped on your personal computer for all of time -- no sharing. Steam also gives you a deal for buying multiple game packs at once! Alternatively, you can very easily buy these through Am*zon, Google Play, or iTunes, if Steam sounds too intimidating.

Happy gaming!


659 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page