A desk covered in toys with the word 'friends' spelt in scrabble pieces.

Social games during a pandemic

The open-source engineering team had a bubbling sense of not being together due to the pandemic. The group spends time chatting throughout the workday on our always running video chat, but nothing moved us off work-related topics.

As an experiment, we started a “social hour” where the purpose was to jump on the video call and not work. We ended up playing games, and it’s removed that feeling of the team feeling apart.

If any of the above resonates with you or you already have a social hour and need some new games, here are sites/apps we’ve been using.

Drawasaurus

Drawasaurus is a drawing game (who’d have guessed) and requires at least two players and supports up to sixteen players.

To win the game, you need to get as many points as possible, and points are awarded for:

A typical game has three rounds, and every player gets a turn to drawer while everyone else guesses for each round.

Every player has a turn to draw one of three prompts in each round.

Screenshot of prompts during a drawasaurus game

Other players watch as the prompt is drawn and type guesses in the chat room.

Screenshot of a prompt being drawn on drawasaurus

The first person to guess the prompt correctly gets the most points. Points awarded to players decrease after each correct guess or as time passes. The player drawing the prompt loses points if no one answers correctly and gains points if everyone figures out the prompt.

Tips:

Codenames

Codenames breaks players into two teams, each with one spymaster and one or more operatives. The spymaster provides a hint to the rest of their team, describing which cards and how many to select.

This game requires a minimum of four people, and we’ve played with six players.

Once the players have joined the room and selected their role, spymaster or operative, one of the spymasters has to provide a hint and the number of cards the operatives can choose.

Screenshot of a spymaster giving a clue on codenames

After the clue is given, it’s up to the operatives to discuss which cards to pick.

Screenshot of a operatives looking at the board of cards

The first team to select all of their cards wins.

Tips:

Really Boring Website

This game is a riff on Scattegories. Given a letter, write one word beginning with that letter for a given category.

Points are awarded by all players voting for words people came up with and if multiple players have the same word, neither get any points.

Screenshot of a Relly Boring Website

While it may not seem like much, the creativity of answers makes this game enjoyable.

Other Games…

The games above are easy to set up and get going. The following games my team has tried playing with varying degrees of success.

Jackbox Games

Jackbox Games has several games that I’ve played with other folks and when it works, it’s great.

One person sets up the game and “broadcasts” the main screen to the players (there are guides on how to do this for Zoom and Google Meet) and players use their phones to visit a website and play along.

The two warnings with these games are:

  1. They aren’t free, but they are very affordable.
  2. Setup isn’t easy, and it may not work (for me, audio sharing on Linux didn’t work).

Among Us

This game is free, and folks on my team seemed to enjoy it. When you start a new game, one person is selected as the “imposter,” and everyone else has to either complete all their tasks or figure out who the imposter is before time runs out of the imposter kills everyone.

The main reasons I’m not a big fan of this game:

  1. Someone has to go around killing other players (their teammates).
  2. Once a player is killed, they have to watch, which can lead to some folks being left with little to nothing to do.