In these days of social distancing, we've all spent a lot of time by now in video chat. Here are some go-to, fun and/or hilarious video games that can be played via video chat, to liven up your next lockdown get-together.
After all, conversation is boring and watch parties are suspiciously non-interactive. Let's get some games going on, and make these endless stay-at-home days pass a little bit faster.
Fun Games to Play Over Video Chat
We've all had to get a little creative about our need for basic human interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last couple of months, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Discord, and whatever other chat programs you use have put in serious work as replacements for things like watch parties and birthday celebrations.
When you're looking for something to do in chat other than obsess about how your laptop's webcam always makes you look exactly like the photo on your driver's license, there are always video games. Here are some tried and trusted options for amusing yourself while staying technically alone, via the video chat program of your choice.
Jackbox Party Pack
Frankly, this entire article could just be a game-by-game rating of the various compilations in the Jackbox collection. Many of them translate surprisingly well to a video chat setting; the host simply dials into the Jackbox website and streams it to everyone else, which is easiest using Discord or Google Hangouts, in much the same way as you'd hook your PC up to your living room TV. Every participant will also need a smartphone or tablet with Internet access to participate.
The stand-out across the six entries in the Party Pack collection is, to my mind, the two Trivia Murder Party games, found in packs #3 and #6. It's a macabre multiple-question contest with PG-rated death on the line. Many of the challenges are sort of blatantly unfair, but the final round is set up to make intense come-from-behind victories not only possible, but arguably inevitable.
Of course, the problem with playing Trivia Murder Party via voice chat is that nobody can necessarily see you looking up the answers on your phone. Do us all a favor and don't be that guy.
Split the Room is another strong Jackbox entry for video chat gaming, found in the Jackbox Party Pack 5. I can't do much better for a summary than its own official website: it's about "creating hilarious and divisive hypothetical questions," in a game patterned after a particularly weird installment of The Twilight Zone. Your goal is to take the prompts provided by the game and try to create the most difficult choices possible. You end up learning a lot about your friends and acquaintances via Split the Room, like what they actually consider to be a difficult choice.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
In a weird way, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes was preemptively made for this pandemic. One player is the Defuser, and is alone in a room with an elaborate bomb; all of the other players have the manual, but can't see the bomb. The goal is for the rest of the group to talk the one player through defusing the bomb before it goes off.
You only need one copy of the actual game to play, and it's available on every current console, operating system, VR headset, telegraph, and toaster oven. Everyone else just needs a copy of the Bomb Defusal Manual, which you can print out or view for free at BombManual.com.
This is another game that'll teach you a lot about your friends in a relative hurry, like who's actually good at complex interpersonal communication. If nothing else, you do get to repeatedly blow your friends up for fun, which is always a good time under any circumstances.
While the game was initially designed to be played by several people who were in the same room, Steel Crate Games has issued a specific tutorial to make remote play sessions a little easier, including a file you can download to unlock all the missions at once.
You do end up needing multiple copies of the game if you're just playing over voice chat and more than one player wants to take turns playing as the Defuser. If you can stream the video, via Discord or Google Hangouts, more options are available.
Berserk Games's indie toolkit Tabletop Simulator has been adapted to play a lot of different board games by this point, ranging from old classics to custom rules, with a few Berserk-approved games sold directly as DLC.
While you can sink a lot of hours into learning how to program Tabletop Simulator on your own--and hey, if you're still stuck indoors, maybe you could use a new hobby--there are a lot of grab-and-go packages you can use with the game.
You can use Tabletop Simulator to run anything from a simple board game like Clue to a full-fledged Dungeons & Dragons campaign. If your regular game night's been cancelled indefinitely due to the pandemic, you might be able to use Tabletop Simulator to bring it back to life.
While every player does need their own copy of Tabletop Simulator in order to participate in a game, you don't actually need them all to have downloaded the same sets of assets. On Steam, the game is set up to automatically share all of that information through the cloud, so if you spend some time setting up the virtual grimy gamer basement of your teenage dreams, you don't have to send all of your friends a file to download before they can get in.
Friday the 13th: The Game
While Illfonic's Friday the 13th got brought down in its prime by a battle over the rights to the franchise, right when we were on the cusp of being able to play as the nanite-empowered Jason X, it's still available for play on Steam and all the major consoles, including the Switch.
Asymmetric multiplayer in general is underrated as a party-game experience, and the advantage to F13 over, say, Dead by Daylight is how easy it is to jump in. Yeah, there's some character advancement, in the form of unlocking certain counselor perks or different versions of Jason, but most of F13's fun is front-loaded.
If you can get 9 people together on voice and video chat, F13 goes straight through tense and terrifying into unexpectedly hilarious, especially if everyone involved has about the same level of experience with the game. You can play discordant music over your speakers, try to bargain for your life with whoever's playing Jason (and you'll be amazed who turns into a weirdly relentless and effective killer, when given the right opportunity), mock each other over your freakouts, and generally use the game as an excuse to screw around. It's pure clean fun, albeit the kind that comes with a (fictional) body count.
One of the greatest emerging genres in modern party games is the crisis simulator, in that it helps you realize just how few people in your life you can actually rely on in an emergency. Spaceteam is a solid go-to example thereof, alongside Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and Jackbox's Push the Button.
In Spaceteam, which is free to play on iOS or Android, 2 to 4 players turn their mobile devices into a control panel aboard a spaceship. Your ship's in trouble, and every player is in charge of a few of its systems, but nobody is quite sure who runs what or even what they themselves might be running. You have to coordinate your response before time runs out, or the ship explodes.
In practice, what this means is that you and your friends will all be screaming at each other like a spec script for Star Trek while your imaginary spaceship gets closer and closer to inevitable disaster. It translates surprisingly well to voice chat, and while the low maximum number of players is an issue, you can always take turns as people's voices give out.
If you're interested in other kinds of games to help you get through the quarantine, Prima has an ongoing assortment of news, reviews, and guides covering today's biggest video games. Check out some of our biggest articles from today, such as:
- Check out the new content coming up for Jedi: Fallen Order
- Microsoft might be warming up to reveal Fable 4
- 5 old and new Viking games to play in anticipation of Assassin's Creed: Valhalla
What are some of your go-to party video games, and how well do they work via video chat? Have you managed to run a successful D&D session via Tabletop Simulator, or its lo-fi equivalent Roll20? Weigh in on the discussion via our official Twitter, @PrimaGames.