Social distancing can be rough.
I love binge-watching and self-care, stay-at-home days as much as the next person but when that’s *the main event* day in and day out, it can be hard. Luckily in this digital age, we can still be distant, together!
During our first weekend of social distancing, Mike and I got some friends together over two nights to play games virtually over video chat (Google Hangouts). It was a lot of fun and felt like we were hanging out and being social without physically being with each other. (Maybe social distancing should be called physical distancing? You can still be pretty social, virtually lol.)
We’ve had some people ask how to do this so I thought I’d put a blog post together. As we try other ways to virtually hang out with friends, I’ll try to capture the how-to on this blog for you to do too!
Now this is for a specific, online-based game, but I’m sure you could apply the same principles to playing board games over video chat too (I’m going to figure that out during social distancing weekend #2 lol).
How to have virtual game night using Jackbox Games over Google Hangouts
NOTE: SINCE THIS WAS PUBLISHED, WE’VE ALSO PLAYED ON ZOOM JUST FINE AS WELL.
What is Jackbox Games?
Jackbox Games are easy-to-play party games that your group of friends access simply through a browser on a smartphone. Many are trivia-style games, some are drawing/pictionary themed, some are fill-in-the-blanks, there’s usually a vote-for-your-favourite answer components. The games are typically purchased as part of party packs so you get a bunch of games in one pack and as they put it: “there are hours of laughs in every pack!” Our Jackbox Games were bought / downloaded through the video game platform Steam.
What do you need to play?
Only one person in your game night group needs to own one of the Jackbox Games Party Packs.
Each pack comes with a handful of fun games or you can buy specific games individually. The packs are pretty affordable, especially if you break down cost per game you get! Our favourite Jackbox games (so far, we haven’t tried them all) is Quiplash, Drawful, Guesspionage, and Split the Room. These are unfortunately split over a few different packs so up to you if you want to buy standalone or grab a bunch of party packs (would recommend the party packs—they’re so fun and give you a good variety of play!)
To play virtually, each player needs their own smartphone + Wi-Fi access and each household playing also needs one laptop or tablet + Google Hangouts access (browser or app).
The individual phones are what you use to join the game. The laptop or tablet is what you use to view the virtual stream of the game, and connect to Google Hangouts so other households can see / hear you while you play.
We would also recommend the host have laptop AND tablet so they can stream the game from laptop but see everyone’s faces through the tablet.
How do you set up the virtual Jackbox Games night?
- The host (the one who has Jackbox Games) creates a Google Hangout on a laptop.
- Go to meet.google.com and hit + Join or start a meeting
- Choose a name/nickname
- Click “Join Meeting” to be the first to start the video call
- A pop-up will appear with a share link to the call
- Copy the link and give it to your friends or family to join
- Wait for everyone to enter the video call
- Remember, households should be entering the call so if two people are playing from one living room, they should be logged into the Google Hangout as one account from one laptop or tablet.
- Shift your webcam or tablet camera so all players in the household are visible on the one screen.
- The host should join the Google Hangout from a separate tablet or laptop as well as the first laptop will be used to stream the game so if you want to see your friends/family’s reactions on video you’ll need the separate tablet
- When everyone is in the call, the host loads Jackbox on the laptop.
- When Jackbox is loaded on a separate window, the host goes back to the Google Hangout and clicks” Present Now”
- You’ll be prompted to present “Your entire screen” or “A window”
- Click “a window” and select the window with Jackbox open
- Now your laptop is streaming Jackbox through Google Hangouts to the other players!
- Players use the web browser on their smartphones to play the actual games but watch the game unfold and see / hear reactions from other players, through the device with Google Hangouts
- Host and players can hook their laptop (that is streaming Jackbox) to your TV via HDMI so you can see the game on a bigger screen
- You can also try this with other video call services, we were just most familiar with Google Hangouts
- Google Hangouts only allows 10 “users” in the same call for its free versions. As users are “households” that means you can have more than 10 players however Jackbox games do have limits on how many people can play (usually up to 8 people max but this varies per game. 6 is a good number of players).
- If you want more friends to play, Jackbox Games also lets audiences watch and vote in each game so you can alternate who gets to play and gets to be an audience member if you want a bigger group. Most games support an audience of up to 10,000 people (lol I don’t know who has that many friends though!)
That’s it! We usually play each Jackbox game twice and spend one to two hours playing in total so we’re able to try a variety of games. It’s a ton of fun, and totally social distancing-approved.
It was also great because in this specific example (our first socially distant weekend), thanks to virtual hangouts we were able to spend time with our friends from Vancouver and Medicine Hat, let alone the friends or family who live nearby.
As I mentioned, this how-to is specifically for Jackbox Games but I’m sure you could also video chat and play board games with friends if they all have the same board games as you too. (I’m trying that next!)
Have fun with your virtual game nights!
Feel free to share photos of your virtual fun! I was using #VirtualGameNight and #SocialDistancingGames lol.