15 Jan

The 8 best games to play on Zoom


It’s January 2020. Your mask-less self is casually dropping by bars, attending concerts, willy-nilly hanging out with friends in indoor spaces without a care in the world. You’ve never heard of Zoom.

Fast forward to 2022. You work on Zoom, have drinks with your friends on Zoom, see the fam on Zoom. You’ve even attended a Zoom wedding. While you may put on a professional shirt from time to time, you haven’t changed out of pajama bottoms since March almost two years ago.

When your entire social life takes place on a Zoom call, you might be looking for a way to bring a bit more excitement to the table. Fortunately, there are tons of games you can play that make Zoom call more interactive and fun! Here are my suggestions for the eight best games to play on Zoom with your friends and family.

1. Charades

Clapperboard used for Charades
Charades is not a game that would normally be used in the same sentence as social distancing. But I have played it successfully over Zoom and it makes an awesome virtual game night!

To play charades, divide into two teams and come up with some words, phrases, movies, etc. to act out. You can either make up your own or use an online generator. To play charades, prop your device on a table and clear a space. When it’s your turn, act out your clue silently while the other players on your team try to guess the answer. Choose any time limit you like, as long as it’s the same for both teams. To make sure everyone can see the player who is acting, the host needs to click on that player in Zoom and click “Spotlight Video.” That ensures the person acting will always be the large video even when other people shout out answers. Score one point each time your team guesses the right answer, and the team with the most points wins!

If you’re looking to up the ante for adults, charades happens to be one of the best drinking games. A team has to drink when they don’t guess the answer in time – and I’ll tell you from experience, the acting and guessing only gets funnier the longer you play.


2. Pictionary

Full disclosure: A whiteboard on an easel is a permanent fixture in my living room, because you never know when a game of Pictionary will break out. Lucky for me, there are some special features on Zoom (my new living room…literally) that make Pictionary a super fun virtual game to play. First, the host needs to activate Zoom’s whiteboard feature. Click “Share Screen” at the bottom, select whiteboard in the window that opens, and then click to share the screen in the bottom right. All players now share a blank canvas that everyone can see and draw on!

Each player should access the drawing palette by clicking “View Options” at the top of the screen. Then select annotate from the dropdown menu to pull up a toolbar. You can change the color and size of your brush and easily start drawing by clicking on the screen with the mouse or touchpad. If you are playing from a touch screen, you can draw with your finger! Take turns drawing clues while the other players on your team try to guess the answer. To clear the screen, just click the trash can icon. Score one point each time your team guesses the right answer, and the team with the most points wins.


3. Board Games

Board game pieces in a heap
The easiest virtual games to play on Zoom are the ones you already have! (And I have a lot.) Board games are really easy and fun to play over Zoom, as long as you don’t have to share a board with the other players. If the game does require a community board – like checkers, chess, Sorry, or Monopoly – it’s going to be hard to reach through the computer screen to move your pieces around. But if there’s no game board, you can each set up your own copy and play on Zoom. For two-player games, both players need a copy and should simply set up their own game as they normally would – just leave the other half of the game in the box! Board games that are perfect for this are Battleship, Scattergories, and Guess Who.

For larger groups, you can turn your Zoom call into a game night with a group party game. Divide the group into two teams and only two players need a copy – just make sure those two players are on different teams. Outburst is a great Zoom game to play like this. Teams take turns trying to guess all ten items in a category and you can easily get everyone on video calling out answers and participating. The two players with the game act as the scorekeepers while the other team shouts out guesses.

If you are REALLY a board game junky, you can even play strategy games over Zoom. (If you’re not a strategy game fanatic, skip right over to the next section. This is about to get intense.) All players set up the full game at home, including game boards for the ghost players. For example, if you are playing with four players, each player sets up a full game for all four players. When anyone takes a turn, everyone (not just the player taking the turn) mimics those moves on their respective game boards. This only works for games that don’t have privately and randomly distributed cards or tokens. For example, in Puerto Rico, all players can see all of the cards and goods and can make moves for the other players. But a game like Settlers of Catan cannot be played over Zoom because all players need to purchase development cards from the same stack – and you can’t pass cards through Zoom! To play with your friend this way is a bit more tedious, but if you are really in strategy game withdrawal, it absolutely works!

Note: If you attempt playing Castles of Burgundy this way, you’re not alone. I’m starting a support group and you should get in touch with me immediately.


4. Karaoke

Guy singing karaoke in a comedic manner
This picture pretty much sums up how I feel when I karaoke. I can’t sing, but let’s just say I do not let that hold me back. If you know what I’m talking about, allow me to introduce you to karaoke: the digital edition. Believe it or not, there are a seemingly unlimited number of YouTube karaoke videos. Just type in your favorite song followed by karaoke and you will find a video with the backing tracks and lyrics. The only thing missing is a crowd. Thank god for Zoom! Just screen share the YouTube karaoke video with your guests (victims) and sing your heart out. You can find pretty much any song you like, but I highly recommend this one.


5. Online Escape Rooms

Couple playing online escape room with laptop
This will come as a surprise since I create online escape rooms for a living, but escape rooms are my favorite pastime. I basically live and die for them, so as you can imagine I’m pretty jazzed that they’re now available all over the web. And you don’t have to get locked up – you just get to solve the puzzles! These escape rooms can be played with a big group of family and friends (or coworkers) divided into smaller teams that race against each other. But if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are a lot of virtual escape rooms out there. Be sure to read all about the different types of online escape rooms and how they work! If you are looking for a fun way to connect with your friends online, my suggestion is to run, not walk, to your computer and find a virtual escape room to do together.


6. Trivia Games

It’s likely that you have been to bar trivia at some point in your life, so you probably know how fun it is to play trivia games with a group of friends! Because you don’t need any playing pieces, it’s almost made for Zoom. It’s a great game to play with friends and family or coworkers! If someone has a copy of Trivial Pursuit, you can just read the cards right out of the box and answer them together. If not, try this random trivia generator.


7. Cards Against Humanity

There are thousands of simple games that use playing cards, but most card games don’t work via Zoom because (unless I’m really missing something) you can’t deal cards through a computer screen. One exception to this is Cards Against Humanity. In this game, you complete fill-in-the-blank statements with other words that make hilarious combinations. Unlike many word games, you fill in the blanks by using words from other cards. Each player needs to have the game at home, and all players can draw their own hand of cards from their own box. It doesn’t really matter if multiple people accidentally end up with the same card – you will probably all use it differently and this game has so many cards, it’s pretty unlikely.


8. Happy Hours With Zoom Games

Even if you aren’t meeting your friends for happy hour in person, many people are holding weekly “zappy hours” – a combination between Zoom and happy. It’s actually pretty fun, and since you don’t typically have props with you at the bar, it turns out that most drinking games become virtual games over Zoom with no changes at all! Two of my favorite happy hour games are Never Have I Ever and Think While You Drink.

To play Never Have I Ever, take turns saying things that you have never done. If anyone in the group has done those things, they have to drink. To play Think While You Drink, start out by saying the name of a celebrity. The next person has to say the name of a celebrity whose first name starts with the first letter of the previous celebrity’s last name. So if I say Emma Stone, the next person can say Sofia Vergara. A celebrity whose first and last letters start with the same letter (like Susan Sarandon) reverses the direction so the last person to say a name is up again. As the name implies, when it’s your turn, you have to think while you drink, or drink until you have come up with a name.

All of these Zoom party ideas are great ways to play games while you chat with your friends, and you can even make use of the Zoom backgrounds to have a little fun! Tell me your favorite games to play on Zoom in the comments!

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