Staying home doesn't mean you can't hang out with your friends.
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As we've been social distancing for almost a full year, it's become clear that the pandemic has completely changed the way we spend time with our friends and loved ones. At the beginning of the pandemic, I started hosting virtual happy hours with friends every week, but as the months went on I started missing the upbeat interactions of our regular game nights. If you've been wanting to revamp your virtual activities, consider hosting a virtual game night. 

Here’s how it works: Organize a group video call and choose an online game to play. There are dozens of interactive games available (like virtual bingo!), and being able to see your friends’ faces as you play will make you feel like you’re right there in the room with them. Here are some of the easiest (and most fun) games our editors have been playing online, along with our recommendations for video calls. 

woman waving to computer on facetime
Credit: Adene Sanchez/Getty Images

So gather your gang, fire up FaceTime or Google Hangout, and have an online game night. One thing I can promise is that virtual game nights are just as competitive as the real thing.

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Card Games

While some board games can be played over FaceTime with one person controlling the physical board, card games are particularly difficult to play virtually (especially games like Apples to Apples ($30, Barnes & Noble) or Uno ($6, Target), where you don’t want the other players to see your cards until you play them). Luckily, it's easy to play games like Cards Against Humanity ($25, Barnes & Noble), Crazy Eights, Go Fish ($10, Target), and more online. (Here's how to play Cards Against Humanity online). To make the online games more fun, coordinate a group FaceTime or voice call so you can chat with your friends as you play.

Charades

This is an easy (but fun) one: Charades is one of the most basic group games, but we’re guessing you’ve never played it on a video call before. Have everyone print off a list of prompts before the game begins, or use an online word generator to give you new prompts in real time. Then fire up a Google Hangouts video call (it’s free) and start acting out your charades.

Heads Up

I’ve been using the HouseParty app to video chat with friends for years (it’s a great alternative to FaceTime if not everyone in your group has an iPhone), and last year they added a Heads Up feature that allows you to play the game with whoever you’re calling. Normally, you play Heads Up by holding your phone on your forehead so the person across from you can see the prompt, then give you clues to help you guess the word; the app will digitally put a word over your head for all other callers to see. The main HouseParty app and the Heads Up extension are both free, so go ahead and start planning your next at-home game night.

Jackbox Games

I’ve played Fibbage with several friends this week, and it's one of my favorites because it's so interactive and can be played with a whole crowd. The game will provide prompts and each player enters their own answers (meaning the game can be as G-rated as you like). To play Fibbage, the game provides a crazy-but-true headline with one word missing: Your job is to enter a lie that's believable enough to be chosen by the other players. The games start at just $5, and once you’ve downloaded them you can invite up to 8 friends to play at a time. Only one person needs to actually purchase the game; anyone they invite can play with just an Internet connection. I recommend using Google Hangouts to play this one virtually, because it allows you to share your computer screen so all players can see the game answers submitted by the group.

Scattergories

If you’re dead set on playing a physical board game (these are some of our favorites), you can still play one! Start a group FaceTime chat and have one person set up the physical board and point their phone or computer at it. That player will need to physically move the game pieces and draw cards for everyone so this method works best for games that don’t involve too many cards or extra pieces. Scattergories ($16, Target) is one of the easiest games to play virtually. If you haven't played it before, it's easy: Choose a letter of the alphabet and make a list of 12 words starting with that letter, according to the game prompts. The prompts are things like, "items found in an office," and if you write the same word as another player, neither of you get the point for that word. Have everyone use their own paper and pens and point the FaceTime camera at the prompts for each round. 

Karaoke

Missing your weekly karaoke nights? Voicebox Karaoke makes it easy to host a virtual evening of singing with your best pals. Sign up on their website to reserve a virtual private suite; then, have everyone dial in and queue up their go-to songs.

Trivia

Put your knowledge to the test by hosting a virtual trivia night. The app QuizUp lets you compete against your friends in real-time, from anywhere in the world. Choose from hundreds of categories and topics for a perfectly curated trivia night that fits your interests.

Virtual Bingo

Mix up your game night routine by hosting a virtual bingo game for your friends or family members. The My Free Bingo Cards service makes it easy to play with features like randomized bingo cards, a bingo card, and bingo cards you can use online or print out. It's free to play with up to 30 players, and you can start a game with more than 30 people for $10.

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