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April 29, 2020
Brad Jamison

Easy social distancing activities & games you can play while staying safe

One of the hardest parts of being stuck at home is feeling unstuck, and enjoying yourself the way you did before. To help you with that, we compiled a list of games, activities, and fun things you can do at home to stay connected to your family, friends, and neighbors while following the guidelines of social distancing. The best part is, you can keep doing these things even when the lockdown is over.

Play Collaborative Digital Games 

There are tons of ways that you and your friends all over the world can tune in together, play a shared game, and enjoy the feeling of socialization without any safety concerns. Here are just a few: 

Jackbox Games

Jackbox is a great way to play games together in person or digitally. Only one person in your group needs to have a Jackbox account to set up virtual sessions via Zoom. All participants can use their laptops or tablets to access the shared Zoom experience, and phones to play the game. No app download is required for participants, and games range from kid-friendly to LOL-worthy. Try Jackbox originals like Fibbage (making up the most convincing lie) or Drawful (drawing weird and wild pictures for guesses), there really is something for every group. 

Collaborative Mobile Apps

You’re probably already keeping yourself busy while social distancing with a few mobile games on your phone. Why not up the ante and get social by choosing games that you can play virtually with friends? Many apps have an “invite your friends” function where you can at least compare scores or trade items, but others also allow you to play together live, or send turns back and forth. Here are just a few favorites: 

You can also check into the activities you already love and see which ones have an “invite friends” function. Bonus: check out these text messaging games, too! There are plenty of simple games like Hangman and more unique, conversational games like “just a minute” which challenges your ability to elaborate on a given topic. These on-the-go, anytime games are really nice to play with friends who aren’t as tech-savvy or who don’t have time for lengthy play. 

Sims 4, Animal Crossing, & Other Shared PC Games

Your phone isn’t the only device that can quickly connect you to friends virtually. Your laptop or PC can also quickly connect you to friends near and far. Popular choices like The Sims and Animal Crossing are sweeping the globe during the social distancing period, thanks to their depth and replay-ability. In these types of games, a robust universe, social transactions, and plenty of collaboration will keep you coming back and playing for hours. However, you can also engage in many games similar to our mobile versions above -- from online poker to virtual scrabble. 

Start playing on Steam

Steam is a dashboard of some of the best solo and collaborative games on the web. It’s easy to sign up and start playing games, but also discussing them and even creating them! If you and your friends use Steam together, you can hop into multiplayer games at any time. Steam is a community for game developers and players alike, but you don’t have to be technically savvy to use it. For the average gamer, Steam is a distribution center used to access all the PC and online games you want to play. Wondering if your favorites are available through Steam? Here’s the full list of games (and other content) powered through the platform. 

Play Traditional Games Online During Quarantine

If you and your friends have a traditional game you love to play, there are many ways you can get creative via Zoom (or your video call app of choice), and have a virtual game night. For many of these, players will need to designate one person to move everyone’s pieces, narrate the game, or lead the charge. 

Card & Dice Games

As long as both parties trust each other, and have their own decks or dice, there are plenty of card games you can play while social distancing, using actual cards. Of course, most have a virtual version that’s easier. If you prefer the real feel of cards and pieces, though, try these:

  • War 
  • Poker
  • Yahtzee
  • Codenames 
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • The Voting Game 
  • Left Right Center 
  • Rummy
  • Go Fish 
  • Crazy Eights 

Board Games

While many board games don't work as a social distancing activity, requiring the shared use of one board and pieces, others do. In fact, if one player is willing to own the moving of pieces, almost any game can be played this way. Games like Guess Who, Battleship, and other separate-equipment board games work well via video chat as long as both players own the game. Simple games like Dominoes, Scattergories, Battleship, and Chess can be played with some modifications. As long as a game requires no secret stash of cards or information, patient friends and family members will find easy ways to modify for virtual play. 

Verbal games

From long-loved verbal games like 20 Questions, Two Truths and a Lie, or Never Have I Ever, to more unique talk-based games, anything without pieces is easy to orchestrate online. Try to recast a TV show or movie with all new actors, make a list of things in any category in alphabetical order, test each other’s knowledge of any variety of topics, or try an icebreaker game. Often, these can be slightly awkward with strangers but are lovely with friends! 

Bonus: you can play Dungeons & Dragons online with friends in a variety of ways. D&D communities live stream on Twitch, play through the Discord app, or play privately on Zoom. If you’re a seasoned D&D-er, you and your guild or faction can start your own games virtually so that you never drop your rate of play. For newbies, an online community is a great way to learn the game with moderators who explain thoroughly. 

Host a Virtual Party or Hangout From Home

If you’re not into games or your crew can’t agree on just one, there are many other types of social distancing activities. Try one of these: 

Movie nights

Using the Netflix Party extension for Google Chrome, you can sync up your Netflix account with your friends’ to watch a movie together. You can also start a film at generally the same time the old-fashioned way. You and your friends can pile on the snacks, blanket up, and get ready for a movie marathon. Short on time? Catch a quick episode of your favorite show over lunch.

Date nights 

Separated from your significant other, or you want to try something new with a Tinder match? Take things virtual. While possibly awkward for a first date, it’s also a great way to get to know someone 1-on-1. Plus, you'll learn a little bit about their life and atmosphere at home, and most importantly: stay safe. For couples who are forced to observe social distancing separately, Zoom dates are a creative way to spend time together. You can hop on video just to cook your respective dinners or fold laundry, or you can set up something special, fun, or romantic. It’s up to you. 

Dance parties

Whether you’re trying to entertain a bunch of kiddos, connect with your former classmates, or recreate those nights at the club, hop on Zoom and add music! You can use Auxparty to trade-off DJing or collaborate all week on a shared playlist in Spotify. Dancing and enjoying music can bring people together from anywhere. If your crowd is mixed in age or preference, put on a multi-decade playlist that gets everyone grooving. If you know your crowd, curate something a little bit more true-to-them.

In-home scavenger hunts

This fun social distancing activity can be played with the littlest of kids to a big group of adults. Make a list of things people should, might, or probably do not have in their houses. Give everyone a few easy points, and let things escalate from there. A game coordinator can make a list in advance, or have everyone make their own list to challenge the others with. You can award points to the person who has the most stuff in their house. Then, give bonuses to those with the weirdest, grossest, prettiest, or most unusual items. 

Shared classes or tutorials

Anything you can do in person, you can do online. While classes like couples dancing or hand-to-hand combat might be off-limits, most online tutorials and courses can be done at home and shared with friends. Get your crew on Skillshare and have them all take the same class or prop up the same YouTube tutorial and compare results. Everything from woodworking to makeup, from home DIYs to fitness, and from painting to playing guitar can be found online (often for free). You and a friend can hold each other accountable, learn something new, and build skills. This is also a great way to stay connected to work colleagues and peers. 

_____ together online

You can fill that blank with almost anything. Get creative. Host a virtual book club or another type of organization. You can cook and eat dinner while your friends cook and eat dinner. Why not wash your car while your friends wash theirs? You can do almost anything virtually that you’d want to do with friends if you connect virtually while you do it. 

Play contact-free games in real life

If you want to play a game or share a social distancing activity with neighbors or friends who visit-at-a-distance, consider these. Add some music and separate snacks to make it feel like a party, even in quarantine. 

Use two sets, keep one score

For many indoor and outdoor games, you don’t need to share sets of equipment, if everyone has their own. Games like ring toss, darts, and cornhole work well for this, as long as both families or groups have their own set. If you both have a basketball and a hoop, set up similar spots to shoot from and play HORSE. Using separate hula hoops, set up contests for who can hula the most. For whatever ages and abilities you hope to suit, there’s a socially-distant and appropriate activity for you!

Play without pieces

There are many games you can play with friends and neighbors that don’t require you to touch anything at all. Activities like charades, Simon Says, running races, biking races, rollerskating or skateboarding, iSpy, improv games, and other equipment-free games can be a great alternative to those that require physical contact or shared materials. 

Set up a shared space, and keep it socially distant

Depending on which state you’re in, you may or may not be able to bring your friends or loved ones together at a park or even in your yard. If your state allows you to congregate, there are still many social distancing activities to keep yourself and others safe. Here are a few: 

  • Set up a projector screen and watch a movie with 6 feet between families
  • Host a bring-your-own picnic in the afternoon with 6 feet between blankets
  • Run races with plenty of space between 
  • Shoot separate frisbees or balls into a shared target 
  • Build different sand/block castles and compete for the tallest 
  • Paint, draw or create art together

There are a million other ways that you and your family members, friends, kids, or colleagues can get together virtually. If you get creative, almost any activity you used to love can be modified to keep you safe during COVID-19 and connected at any time. What exciting ways have you and yours found to stay connected? 

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