Tech

Here's how to host a virtual game night during quarantine

Play with friends without leaving home

Drawing of Jack's head in a box on a blue background Credit: Jackbox

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Right now, staying home to combat the coronavirus pandemic is more important than ever. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself connecting with people you haven’t talked to in years over video calls and social media.

Now it’s time to turn those calls into a virtual game night, and all you need to do it is turn your computer on and download a Jackbox Games Party Pack.

What is Jackbox Games?

Jackbox Games creates some of the most fun multiplayer party games on the planet—and I’ve been playing them on AppleTV for years. Jackbox Games are made for one to eight players and allow people to play virtual trivia, murder mystery, drawing, and other fun party games. The company has been around since 1995, but when its most popular game was called "You Don't Know Jack."

How do you play Jackbox Games?

Jackbox Games Drawful
Credit: Jackbox Games

Drawful is a popular game you can play on Jackbox Games.

The way the games work is simple: A main screen (usually the TV) displays the game, while all the players open a special login screen on their phones. Prompts from the main screen are then answered by each player questions on their phones.

In our current quarantine, having people over to play on one TV isn’t an option, but luckily, there's still a way to host a game for your friends wherever they are. Jackbox’s Party Packs—there are six total—are available to download straight to your Mac or PC, so instead of using a TV as the main screen, you can use your computer.

You can purchase the games directly from the Jackbox website or, if you have a Mac, you can download the Party Parks in the App Store. Once you’ve downloaded the games, all you have to do to play with your friends is start a video call on a conferencing site like Zoom (free for up to 40 minutes then $14.99 a month for a Pro package) or Google Hangouts and share your screen with your pals. Then each player just needs to use their phone to join the virtual game, and voila—it's party time in quarantine!

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If you need help figuring it out, Jackbox has created a handy guide to get you up and running. You can also use the Steam app to share your games remotely, but in my experience a video call feels more social and suited to these specific games.

What games can you play on Jackbox Games?

Bracketeering
Credit: Jackbox Games

Bracketeering is my favorite game on Jackbox.

The games themselves are super inventive and fun to play. My favorite, Bracketeering, “is the game of strong opinions about stupid things.” Each player puts in an answer to a question on their phone to create a digital bracket. Then the answers go to head-to-head and each person votes on the best answer. During this virtual tournament you can finally figure out which is better: Oprah or string cheese, Komodo Dragons or Oprah’s best friend Gayle, or any other random thing you can think of.

And that’s just one of five games in the Jackbox Party Pack 4, my personal favorite. In Survive the Internet, you “twist your friends’ ‘online’ comments in hilarious ways” to riff on social media culture. Monster Seeking Monster is a virtual dating game where you chat with friends on your phone to find the perfect match—but you’re all werewolves and zombies and witches, oh my! And in Fibbage, a '70s-inspired game, you guess weird facts about your friends—and who doesn’t like guessing weird facts about their friends?

And since there are six different Party Packs to choose from, each of your friends can buy a different pack to keep you entertained for hours. Right now my friends—split between Brooklyn, Nashville, Boston, and D.C.—have a standing happy hour every Wednesday to sip some wine and play these wild games. It’s given us a little levity in this weird time and something to make us laugh as we learn to connect during this new normal.

Now the only question is: Oprah or string cheese?

Get Jackbox Party Parks starting at $12.49

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