How To Host a Virtual Game Night
Getting a whole bunch of people over to your house for a game night can be tricky. Everyone has to be free and in town, you’re limited by how much space you have in your living room, plus you need to organize all the snacks and clean up afterward. But with an online game night, you can play with all of your friends anywhere in the world—plus they provide their own snacks.
Here’s how to host a fun night playing games online.
Decide what games you want to play
The hardest part of organizing a virtual game night is deciding what games you want to play online, simply because there are so many great options. It all depends on how many people you have, how much time you want to spend gaming (instead of just hanging out and catching up) and whether you want this to be a one-off or an ongoing thing. Here are some of the best options:
- You can now play lots of classic board games online, including “Monopoly,” “Clue,” “Catan” and “Risk.” They all have their own apps that allow you to play online multiplayer.
- If your group is into role-playing games like “Dungeons and Dragons,” virtual tabletops, such as “Roll20” and “Fantasy Grounds,” make it simple to host an adventure or even a full campaign. The apps take care of things like dice rolls, so there is no chance of anyone cheating!
- Tabletop Simulator is another virtual tabletop that allows you to host almost any game you want, at least if you’re prepared to set it up. Or you can use it to play the modern party classic “One Night Ultimate Werewolf.”
- And video games are always an option, too. If everyone has a Nintendo Switch, you can play classic video games like “Mario Kart 64” and modern indie games like “Stardew Valley.” If everyone has a PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One or Xbox Series X or S, then games like “Fortnite,” “League of Legends,” “Minecraft” and “Call of Duty” are also options.
- If your group wants to work together instead of competing, there are also awesome co-op games on almost every platform.
Set up a way to chat
What separates an online game night with friends from just playing online games is having a way to chat and hang out—especially if you’re playing virtual boardgames. Ideally, you need to be able to make group video calls or group voice calls, and have one person share a screen if you’re playing an online board game or RPG. Once again, there are a few options:
- Zoom and Google Meet are popular video calling apps, but keep in mind that unless the host has a paid subscription, they limit your group video calls to 40 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively.
- If everyone has an iPhone, iPad or Mac, FaceTime is a great option and supports group calls for up to 32 people.
- WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are both free and allow group voice and video calls.
- For a more tech-savvy group (or one that is going to meet regularly), Discord is the best option. Although it takes a bit of setup, it’s explicitly designed for gaming groups to hang out and play.
Tips for a successful game night
Now that you’ve got an idea of what you want to play and how you’re going to host it, here are some tips on how to organize a great online game night:
- Don’t plan on playing too many games. People always want to chat and catch up if they haven’t seen each other in a while.
- You don’t need any special equipment to host a game night. If you have a computer and use a video calling app that can share screens, everyone can join on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
- Similarly, make sure to allow time for explaining the rules. If you’ve picked a board game that lasts about two hours, schedule at least three hours plus chatting time so no one has to run off early.
- While you can host an online game night for 20 or 30 people, it’s more work than hosting an intimate night for three of your friends. If this is a big celebratory event, go all out and invite everyone; but if you want a simpler time, keep the numbers to five or six.
- If you’re going to meet up regularly, seriously consider setting up a Discord server. It’s the best tool for online gaming groups.
- Do some prep beforehand. Make sure you know the rules of whatever game you’re going to play and how the video calling app you’re using works. You don’t want to have to root through the rulebook or a how-to guide halfway through the evening.
- Make sure you’ve got a fast and reliable internet connection like fiber. And check your Wi-Fi to make sure you haven’t got a dead spot where you’re setting up to play. Game night is all about connecting!
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