18 votes

Socializing over video conferencing

Have you been socializing with friends or family using Zoom, Hangouts, Skype, Facetime or the like during the pandemic? Beyond the typical chats, meals and drinks, what sorts of activities have you been engaging in over these services? Games? Karaoke? Watching movies? What sorts of activities have been the most successful or lent themselves to working remotely?

18 comments

  1. [3]
    kfwyre
    Link
    My husband and I do video chats with family and friends pretty frequently. Shout outs to Jitsi Meet for being a dead simple, easy to use video chat platform. Here are the games that we do...

    My husband and I do video chats with family and friends pretty frequently. Shout outs to Jitsi Meet for being a dead simple, easy to use video chat platform. Here are the games that we do regularly:

    These are a staple. We've played them so much some of their magic is gone, but that doesn't mean they aren't great. For the uninitiated, one person can run the game and screenshare it, and everyone else can answer/participate using their phones from their own place. Some of the games across the packs are duds, but there are enough good ones to get lots of play from.

    This site lets you generate Scattergories cards and works great with screen sharing, allowing people to play easily through remote sessions (everyone only needs pen and paper). For anyone not familiar with the game, you are given a letter of the alphabet and, when the time starts, different categories that you have to fill in with items that start with that letter. For example, the letter for a round might be "S" and the category might be "Heroes". You might put "Superman" or "Spiderman" down. The catch is that you only get a point for your answer if no one else has put the same thing, so you have to try to think of more obscure items. Additionally, you can get multiple points for alliterative answers (e.g. "Silver Surfer").

    • Scavenger Hunt

    This one requires a bit more prep. My husband and I came up with a spreadsheet with various lists of items that would be found in an average home (e.g. an expired food item; something with a cartoon character on it). We split the call into teams by households, and then had households race head-to-head to complete the lists. The rules were that only one person from each household could be retrieving an item at a time (so that bigger groups couldn't work in parallel), and you weren't allowed to use your phone for anything (so they couldn't just look up a picture of an item). The runners had to bring the item back, hold it up on the webcam and state which category they were fulfilling, and then we marked the spreadsheet for who came in 1st/2nd for each entry.

    This one was a bit more work to set up and operate, but it was a ton of fun to have a real-time race going on and work our way through a tournament bracket. If you try it out, I recommend having two people being "judges". My husband update the live spreadsheet scoreboard as I monitored the video call and called out to him which teams were bringing back which items. It would be very hard to do with one person, though you could always tweak the setup to make things easier (i.e. doing each item on the list in heats, rather than running the whole list at once).

    In some of the later rounds, we got a little more "adventurous" with the categories and had stuff like "drink a full glass of water on camera" and "wear a shirt with the sleeves tied together" so that it required a bit of extra work and added some comedy to the event as well.

    11 votes
    1. etiolation
      Link Parent
      Nice work keeping the classics alive. The excellent thing about Jitsi is that it isn't tied to your phone number, making it possible to set up chats between acquaintances without sharing too much...

      Nice work keeping the classics alive.
      The excellent thing about Jitsi is that it isn't tied to your phone number, making it possible to set up chats between acquaintances without sharing too much personal information.

      4 votes
    2. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      Our long-running pub trivia team has morphed into a standing Tuesday evening zoom meeting that 6-15 people pile into every week. We drink beer, and play either Jackbox games or Code Names. As you...

      Our long-running pub trivia team has morphed into a standing Tuesday evening zoom meeting that 6-15 people pile into every week. We drink beer, and play either Jackbox games or Code Names.

      As you said, there are a couple duds, but there are a few really great ones. The drawing ones are a particular favorite. Specifically "Tee Fury" and "Champ'd Up" are favorites. Most of us are not good artists, which makes it better, and there is naturally a lot of adult humor.

      3 votes
  2. grahamiam
    Link
    I've tried video chatting with people I used to play board games with and a lot of family and a few friends. The only times it's felt fun and meaningful as opposed to just an obligation were...

    I've tried video chatting with people I used to play board games with and a lot of family and a few friends. The only times it's felt fun and meaningful as opposed to just an obligation were either ones that weren't just chatting and instead had a specific topic, or if they were chatting it was a one-off thing where we hadn't talked a in while. With friends who I text regularly or with family, it just hasn't felt very meaningful and in some cases feels like it's actively hurting my connection with them as opposed to sticking with text. (Especially when it comes to my nephew who is entertained by talking to me for about two minutes then doesn't want to but my brother wants him to anyways - I don't know what the best way forward is with that. If we chatted any less he'd probably basically forget me.) That's probably a personality thing though.

    The thing that's worked best over video is my book club, but I have a good group that's a good size (7 people) who all actively listen and respond to each other as opposed to trying to surreptitiously look at other stuff at the same time. My favorite part is that every time we meet, everyone takes some notes during the talk, and then via email we follow up with links or ideas or further thoughts by email.

    I know it's not exactly what you're asking, but I've written a ton of letters and emails over the pandemic and it's been both very meaningful for me (therapeutic? mentally engaging?) and I've gotten some really touching responses. It seems like a lot of work at first, but you can reuse ideas between different recipients and it's so much more intimate than video conferencing, imo. Of course, in certain situations it can create stress with the relationship - I tried to engage repeatedly with an older family member by writing letters, they never responded and barely acknowledged, so I stopped, then they don't understand why I stopped! But, again, personal tangent, I'm tired of relationships where both sides aren't invested and feel like they're a waste of time, even when they're family, and I'm at a point in my life where I'm fine with cutting those strings.

    10 votes
  3. [3]
    MimicSquid
    Link
    My friends and I have been using Gather.town to socialize, and it's been so much better than a video call with twelve people all stumbling over each other. It's a very simple virtual space with...

    My friends and I have been using Gather.town to socialize, and it's been so much better than a video call with twelve people all stumbling over each other. It's a very simple virtual space with video chat based upon how close your avatar is to others, and having physical spaces to chat more privately. You can all be hanging around near the TV and then start up a conversation with someone, at which point you walk out to a table on the patio to talk without as much interruption. When I wanted to grab a snack rather than logging out, I walked into the kitchen and stared at the fridge while I ate IRL.

    The "physicality" of it makes large video chats so much nicer; it feels a lot more like interacting in a real space than most video calls.

    10 votes
    1. [2]
      Shahriar
      Link Parent
      That is a really cute application and reminds me of Pokémon. It seems like a simple execution but it is so unique and has a lot of use cases to mind.

      That is a really cute application and reminds me of Pokémon.

      It seems like a simple execution but it is so unique and has a lot of use cases to mind.

      3 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        Right? I first learned about it when one of my friends used it for their wedding reception. It handled 100+ people quite well; there were lots of 4 person tables for people to sit at while the...

        Right? I first learned about it when one of my friends used it for their wedding reception. It handled 100+ people quite well; there were lots of 4 person tables for people to sit at while the speeches happened; a dance floor with a DJ playing music, a campfire with a youtube video of a campfire on loop for that crackling ambiance, a maze, and more. Some of the cool features are gated behind higher priced tiers, but there's a lot that's lovely and free.

        4 votes
  4. pArSeC
    Link
    My semi-regular Saturday night routine with my close buddies has been: Start the evening with a 30 minute Jitsi video call, to catch up and see faces. Then lead into a couple of movies, shared...

    My semi-regular Saturday night routine with my close buddies has been:

    • Start the evening with a 30 minute Jitsi video call, to catch up and see faces.
    • Then lead into a couple of movies, shared using Metastream. The movies are picked earlier in the week, and the playlist includes a themed set of trailers, retro ads, shorts, music videos, etc that I've put together.
    • While watching, we discuss the movies/riff on them/etc in a Signal text chat group
    • Drink! This is optional, but improves the riffing significantly :)

    It has worked pretty well, and has the advantage of being mostly self-hosted and FOSS. (We could easily do the text chat without Signal, but it was the path of least resistance...).

    We also have an occasional spin-off night that has the same format, but has a slightly larger set of people, and we watch a pro-wrestling playlist.

    5 votes
  5. guts
    Link
    Here the norm has been Zoom for group classes or conferences, seems Zoom is getting on a similar spot as WhatsApp as the conferencing platform of choice. What i am testing the waters is the new...

    Here the norm has been Zoom for group classes or conferences, seems Zoom is getting on a similar spot as WhatsApp as the conferencing platform of choice. What i am testing the waters is the new Telegram audio chat group which is similar to Discord audio chats, if you have a Telegram group is easy to enable it and people on the group can join anytime. Watching movies i highly recommend Plex watch together or Jellyfin syncplay where you can watch on sync videos with other users on the same server.

    4 votes
  6. stu2b50
    Link
    Not a bad time to start DnD. It's is just a worse experience over Zoom than in real life, even though some things are actually easier (i.e it's much faster and easier to type !roll 12d8 + 5 when...

    Not a bad time to start DnD. It's is just a worse experience over Zoom than in real life, even though some things are actually easier (i.e it's much faster and easier to type !roll 12d8 + 5 when you get that juicy crit smite than to grab 12 d8s and throw them down triumphantly at the DM, but also less satisfying). But it's also much easier to schedule, and it's nice and regular but more interesting than playing the same tabletop games (Mafia, code names, etc.) over and over again.

    Also, small buy-in Poker, like 2 cent NL.

    4 votes
  7. [2]
    eladnarra
    Link
    My friends and I have mostly been too tired for games or chatting face to face, so we often end up watching TV or movies together. Teleparty works well, if it supports the particular platform, and...

    My friends and I have mostly been too tired for games or chatting face to face, so we often end up watching TV or movies together. Teleparty works well, if it supports the particular platform, and other platforms are integrating "watch party" abilities. Worst case scenario we all press play at the same time or someone shares their screen.

    It's relaxing to hang out and just chat via text while watching something. :)

    4 votes
    1. Cycloneblaze
      Link Parent
      I second teleparty - I often use it while on a Discord call too.

      I second teleparty - I often use it while on a Discord call too.

      3 votes
  8. streblo
    Link
    My friends and I "get together" about once every couple of weeks to play NLH poker. We're using Poker Now which is pretty awesome -- I keep waiting for the shoe to drop because its a great...

    My friends and I "get together" about once every couple of weeks to play NLH poker.

    We're using Poker Now which is pretty awesome -- I keep waiting for the shoe to drop because its a great platform that seems barely monetized.

    3 votes
  9. [5]
    PapaNachos
    Link
    I sometimes play board games with friends and family over zoom. It's easy but buggy if you use a service like Tabletopia or Board Game Arena. But if you're have extra cameras and the means to...

    I sometimes play board games with friends and family over zoom. It's easy but buggy if you use a service like Tabletopia or Board Game Arena.

    But if you're have extra cameras and the means to mount them, you can also play physical games. It can really increase the immersion and make the experience much more enjoyable. But it definitely takes some work to set up and learn how to operate. Some day I'll write a blog post about what we learned in the process.

    2 votes
    1. [4]
      cfabbro
      Link Parent
      Have you considered giving Tabletop Simulator a try? That's what me and my friends use to play board games together. It can be a bit clunky at times, but we have yet to encounter any major issues...

      Have you considered giving Tabletop Simulator a try? That's what me and my friends use to play board games together. It can be a bit clunky at times, but we have yet to encounter any major issues with it. It also only has a one-time purchase cost, instead of subscription model like the two you listed. And the steam workshop has almost every tabletop boardgame you can imagine. The only major disadvantage to it is that everyone requires a PC and steam account to use it.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        PapaNachos
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I'm familiar with Tabletop Simulator. The one time purchase is nice, but in my experience I describe it as like playing games using chopsticks. Of all the services I've used, TTS has, in my...

        Yeah, I'm familiar with Tabletop Simulator. The one time purchase is nice, but in my experience I describe it as like playing games using chopsticks. Of all the services I've used, TTS has, in my opinion, the worst controls and UX.

        Tabletopia has a free version, if you're okay with not having access to their premium games. But a far amount of the stuff on there are pre-kickstarter prototypes.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          cfabbro
          Link Parent
          Fair enough. And it even sounds like I may have to give the others a try. :P

          Fair enough. And it even sounds like I may have to give the others a try. :P

          2 votes
          1. PapaNachos
            Link Parent
            In my experience all the different options (that I've tried so far) have pros and cons associated with them. That's part of what drove my girlfriend and me to learn how to stream physical games....

            In my experience all the different options (that I've tried so far) have pros and cons associated with them.

            That's part of what drove my girlfriend and me to learn how to stream physical games. In our opinion it's a much more personal experience and we don't have to deal with shit like glitchy physics engines or teaching whoever we're playing with the UI.

            But it also severely limits they number of games you can play, because streaming a hand of cards is a pretty complicate (though not unsolvable) problem. And doing it for each for player is even more complex. And small text means you need to be able to stream in HD if you want people to be able to read it on the other end. And... and... and...

            2 votes