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11 games and other fun things to do during virtual Thanksgiving

These activities can help make family time special even if you can’t be together in person.

11 games and other fun things to do during virtual Thanksgiving
[Source Photos: iStock]
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With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning of the risks of Thanksgiving travel, many families are opting for a virtual Thanksgiving this year. Zoom, the go-to videoconferencing system for many during the pandemic, has even announced it’s waiving its usual 40-minute meeting limit on free accounts during the holiday so families can stay connected.

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And while you may not be able to pass the turkey and stuffing through your webcam, there are still some ways you can make the holiday feel fun, special, and less like a carb-laden conference call. Here are a few ideas for games and other activities you can play with your family across the country or the world on this unusual Thanksgiving:

Play some classic verbal party games.

You can make up your own rules or play an online game like those from Brightful Meeting Games, which offers games such as Would You Rather, Spot My Lie (like two truths and a lie), and a word guessing challenge. Simply sign up for the service, pick a game, and drop a link in whatever video chat tool you’re using to connect with friends and family. Some makers of games that are easy to play online are rolling out special content for Thanksgiving. Take a look at virtual party games from Jackbox Games and the mobile multiplayer fashion role-playing game Love Nikki—Dress Up Queen.

Host Thanksgiving in a virtual world.

Try out virtual gathering service Teooh, where your family can pick avatars and then meet in a cozy spot of your choice. The platform has simple controls that even the less computer-savvy can pick up quickly. If you feel like merging play time with family time, try playing together in multiplayer gaming platforms such as World of Warcraft or Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

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Get creative with a murder mystery game, a lipreading challenge, or a space-travel improv game.

There’s a host of experimental games perfect for a virtual Thanksgiving over at #ZoomJam, an online game development event that challenged participants to build innovative games that could be played over Zoom (and similar platforms). And there’s a host of options beyond murder mysteries and improv—check out the list of inventive activities on the event’s site.

Build a shared video message for your family.

Share some updates on what you and your relatives have been doing during the pandemic or what you’re feeling thankful for. The best part? You can also include family members who might not be able to join a live video call. You can have everyone submit a video from their phone or computer to a service such as Tribute or build it yourself with your favorite video editing or presentation tool.

Trigger nostalgia with an old Flash game from the Internet Archive.

The archive is hosting and emulating vintage animations and games in the format popular from the ’90s and 2000s, which is likely to be a serious source of nostalgia for many millennials and Gen-Xers—and bafflement to all their older and younger relatives.

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Encourage everyone to pick fun virtual backgrounds.

For an easy conversation starter, you can highlight family photos, inside jokes, or whimsical images found online through your video background. For a seasonal look, try gathering in front of festive decor in your home. You can also get creative with Zoom-based activities that take advantage of what’s around your house, such as an ugly sweater contest or an in-home scavenger hunt.

Head to worship at your preferred denomination.

Whether or not you’re someone who customarily heads to church or another religious institution on Thanksgiving—or you’re curious about checking out what’s on offer—live-streaming worship services provide an easy, low-pressure way to include a religious element in your Thanksgiving activities. Find a service you’re interested in online, then tune in with your immediate family from home, or invite others to join you from across the web.

Set up a friendly trivia game.

Buy a set of questions from a company such as QuizRunners, use the questions from a board game such as Trivial Pursuit, or make up your own questions about your family and activities you’ve done together.

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Watch a movie or TV together.

Use an app such as Teleparty, which lets you synchronize watching a movie on services such as Netflix or Hulu and chat about what you’re watching, or Watch2Gether for services such as Vimeo and YouTube. To keep things simple, just stay connected through your favorite video chat app while you watch a football game or classic movie on TV.

Sing along to family karaoke.

Use Watch2Gether or a similar tool to synchronize music videos on YouTube, or just have your family members cue up their own favorite tunes in the background, and sing along. Streaming apps such as Spotify have plenty of karaoke tracks you can play on the smart devices of your choice.

Play a physical board game remotely.

While not every game lends itself to remote play—it’s going to be hard to play Scrabble without access to a shared pool of letter tiles—plenty of games, from Monopoly to chess, can be played with each player using their own board or, if you prefer, giving instructions to a single player who can manage a communal game. It’s a good way to bring family game traditions into the virtual world without having to download an app.

About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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