Christmas is almost upon us, and that most unwelcome of gate-crashers, Omicron, is looming large and scuppering many a festive do. But if, like us at Guru HQ, you’re switching your get-togethers (be they work, friend or family related) to remote ones, you can still make them fun, silly and enjoyable to make sure you see out your working year -or see in your festive celebrations- with the laughter that we all need right now!
So, with that in mind, we thought we’d share a few ideas for online games that you can play without the need for too much preparation or expense!
This first option surely needs no introduction or explanation. Split your audience into teams and give one person in each team a movie, book, song, play or TV series (or get more creative with the topics if you dare) to “act out” for their teammates to guess. Often, the funnier or more abstract the title given, the more laughs will follow. But please be respectful of those who are more sensitive or straitlaced and avoid giving them Austin Powers movie titles to act out!
2. The Scavenger Hunt
It’s an oldie but a goodie, and it has the added benefit of getting people moving. (Well, that’s a benefit until Mary from accounts trips over her dog whilst rushing to find a bright red sock from her washing basket!)
It’s very simple to set up and play… the host simply comes up with a list of items that would most likely be found in every house, sending the audience off to seek out one item at a time, with first back and proudly brandishing said item scoring the point. Don’t go too vague or simple with your requests – “bring back a towel” or “show me your favourite spatula” isn’t going to challenge your players much. Add a colour to the mix, or send them for something that will take them out into the garden or shed to really stretch their legs! Or set a bonus point for the person who comes back with the largest, oldest, brightest, or funniest version of the treasure you seek!
3. Spot the Difference
Set this up so that one person plays at a time. Each non-player must switch on their webcam and give the player a minute or so to study what they can see. Then every non-player turns off their webcam for 30 seconds and changes one detail either on their person or in their visible background (add a piece of jewellery, quick-change a tie, move a vase etc.) Then see how many of the differences your nominated player can spot. If you want to make it harder, agree in advance for only one or two of the non-platers to make a change!
4. Photo Clues
With a little forward prep’, you can arrange all sorts of fun guess-the-person-from-the-photo games. And it doesn’t just have to be their faces, though pre-collecting some childhood and baby photos of your colleagues is a great way to play this, and tends to generate a lot of heart-warming “ooooh”s and “aaaah”s from the other players too! Guess the person by the contents of their fridge or clutter drawer (c’mon, we’ve all got one!!) can be hilarious. And you might find out that ‘OCD Pete’ from marketing isn’t as OCD with his fridge as he is with his desk!
Another way to play is to get each person to submit a photo from their phone that means something significant to them or is particularly relevant – it could be a child, a pet, a favourite holiday destination, or a hobby in action. Players guess who submitted it and why. The owner of the photo can then share some detail about the photo which can be an effective and heart-warming way of bringing your teams closer together.
5. Pitch Perfect
Nothing to do with the musical movies, thankfully! But this is a fun one for getting the creative juices flowing. Give each player an item (anything from the interesting and bizarre to the most mundane will do) and a short period of time (2 minutes is usually enough) to perform the perfect pitch for that item - think Dragons’ Den with less money (and Deborah Meaden) on offer! You can either go “off the hoof” and give them no time to prepare, or give them their items in advance with the option of finding TikTok videos or creating PowerPoints to help them in their hard sell!
6. Online Pictionary
Everyone loves drawing games. If you’re great at drawing, you score kudos points along with the actual points for your team guessing first. If you’re terrible at drawing (like me!), you generate a shedload of laughs from everyone (along with just a smidgeon of despair from your teammates!).
I’m sure you remember the premise: draw the word on the card for your teammates to identify. The first team to get it right wins the point. What you may not know is that there’s an awesome online version, called Drawasaurus, which is completely free and can be set up for your teams with almost unlimited playing spaces available.
7. Colleague Guess Who
Another old-school physical board game that you can translate to the world on online calls and conferences. For this one to work, you do need a decent number of players, so if you’re having a virtual Christmas lunch for four, you may want to skip this one!
In case you’ve forgotten the rules, you ask yes/no questions about the people on your screen or in your field of play (such as “are you a woman?”, “do you wear glasses?”, “do you have blonde hair?”) in the hope of eliminating as many players as possible until you have whittled your options down to the chosen player. When players are discounted by your clever questioning, you can either cross their names out on a piece of paper (properly old school!) or ask them to switch off their webcam until the end of the round.
8. Excel Battleships
Quite simply, agree on a playable area within an Excel spreadsheet (i.e. a 15x15 cell grid) and the number and size of your battleships (one 4x2, two 3x1, one 6x1). Within your teams, place your battleships and then take it in turns to choose a single cell to "bomb". Respond with a “hit’, “miss” or “totally sunk” (if it’s the final remaining cell of a ship) and be the last with a ship still floating to win. Savvy players will have a second spreadsheet on the go to record the success (or otherwise) of their strikes!
9. “Draw as I say…”
So, I had to put one game in advocating the power of clear and transparent comms, didn’t I?! Quite simply, give the describer an image (a fairly simple line drawing is best – a boat, a kite, a lighthouse etc.) and give them up to 3 minutes to describe to each player what to draw using only geometric terms, instructions or directions. “Start in the bottom left and draw a straight line at 45 degrees to the middle of the page. Now draw a perfect square without the top line…” etc. At the end of the allocated time, get all players to show their drawings and see how well the image has been explained and understood. The differences can be surprising and hilarious. And it’s a great illustrator of how, even when we think we’re giving clear instructions, we often omit small details that are then open to interpretation or misunderstanding!
10. 'Know Your Colleagues' Quiz
With just a little pre-prep, you can put together a fun and light-hearted quiz to see just how well your people know each other (with the added bonus of learning more about each other once the answers are shared!) Get everyone to fill out a short questionnaire a couple of weeks in advance and use their answers to write your questions. Match your colleagues to their favourite movies, bands or destinations. Who once played semi-professional football? Who described themselves as “loving cheese more than life itself”? Go as leftfield and whacky as is appropriate with your teams.
If you want to pre-plan some more “involved” or immersive games, there are plenty of third-party options available for a range of prices, player numbers and complexity. Many require smartphones for each player, so please factor that in when selecting. Escape rooms are unendingly popular and great for team building and getting the old grey matter working! A quick Google search will return dozens of options (with one word of warning that you usually get what you pay for and if it seems very cheap to play, it will… well… feel very cheap to play!)
Alternatively, here is a short list of other options for you to investigate:
May we take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this a very Happy Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!