People professionals get asked to wear a lot of hats. You’ve probably played the role of therapist, mediator, researcher, policy writer, cheerleader, and more. After 2020, you were asked to add a few more hats to the list: IT expert, remote working advisor, wellbeing strategist — I could go on.
Suddenly, those pre-pandemic board game nights that ran themselves or trips to the karaoke bar near the office seem almost ludicrously simple by comparison. You’d just send a calendar invite and some people showed up. Easy.
Now, you’re still trying to keep engagement and relationship-building alive, but you have to keep everyone safe and healthy as you do it. Now you’ve got a new hat to add: virtual event host. In that spirit, let’s focus on one particular type of event: game night.
Playing games can be a lot of fun, whether with friends, family, or colleagues. That fun is conditioned on everyone coming along for the ride. The moment a game fails to include someone, the fun evaporates — at least for that person and sometimes for everyone else, too. For this reason, you need to follow three key steps to take to host a successful games night.
There are tons of virtual board games. Some free ones we like include Codenames and Carcassonne. For a more complete list, take a look at this round-up of virtual games that a colleague and I put together. Make sure you know the recommended group size for each game in advance and think about whether you’ll all be able to play together or instead will have to use breakout rooms.
You’ll probably want to meet on a conferencing platform such as Zoom or Teams. I recommend using the technology your group is most familiar with since the game itself may be new to them. Remember, the games come with their own learning curves — you shouldn’t need to add another new system to the mix.
When players don’t understand a game and are colocated, it’s easy for them to ask casual questions — sometimes of the group or the person they’re sitting next to. They’re able to do this without disrupting the game’s flow because of all the physical cues. By contrast, it’s more mentally difficult for players to ask even minor clarifying questions on Zoom. You need to take the time to explain the game in a thoughtful, structured way. That means you should:
Let’s use Cards Against Humanity as an example. The objective of the game is to collect more points than anyone else.A round is played by selecting a “decider” and having them read aloud from one of their black cards, which contains a Mad Lib like, “I stopped loving fishcakes when I realized I could eat...”). Every other player selects the white card from their hand that would complete that sentence (like “my feelings,” “sawdust,” or “Kentucky”). The decider then picks their favorite, and that player gets a point.
Of course, not every People professional will need to be the host or facilitator — you can certainly ask for volunteers. That said, whoever is going to play the role needs to do a few critical things.
HR teams have a lot on their plates, and you might feel that hosting game night isn’t part of your responsibilities. Still, I’d recommend that you give it a go — the goodwill, energy, and positivity you can create through games is surprisingly enduring. That goodwill can fuel your team and keep them going through the hard times.