No matter your family traditions, it’s safe to say they’ve evolved throughout the years — including (but not limited to) the occasional game night. As a kid, perhaps you played raucous Friday night board games, but now, your game nights consist of Zoom-based charades. Or maybe, instead of decks of cards, you now play with VR headsets.
And while game night may look different now than it used to, the long-standing tradition of gathering together and playing continues to persist — we’re just updating our approach. So, with that said, what does game night even look like in 2021? Here’s how families across the country (and beyond) are still coming together for some good old/new-fashioned gaming.
“Our family gaming tradition involves pizza, pasta, and an old classic: charades. Since there are four members in our family, we always split into two teams composed of one adult and one kid. Then, to up the stakes, we pick a reward for the week’s winning team. Sometimes it’s monetary, sometimes it’s food-related, and sometimes it’s the option to delegate certain chores to the other team. And without fail, we always get pretty competitive.” — Scott H, California
“When I was a kid, gaming together was always something to look forward to — and now that I’m a father, it feels equally important. Growing up, I remember gathering around the coffee table to play board games with my brothers, sisters, and parents, and now, I get to do the same with my own little family. But games aren’t what they used to be — and my kids, who are growing up in the 21st century, are definitely not as excited about board games as I was. So instead of gathering and playing classic board games, we pick up controllers from Nintendo and play all kinds of games without having to set up a board.
“Since the whole point of game night is spending time together, we play games like Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain on our Nintendo Switch system, which is super interactive. Even my 6-year-old is so well-versed in technology that she can play, too, and watching her learn new things while we play is such a rewarding experience.” — Nick C, California
We do a game night every Wednesday of the week. We’re super regimented about it because we’ve all realized it definitely helps us unwind after work or school. Generally, the games vary week to week, but our favorite is a certain party card game — which is a super silly, interactive card game, and we all tend to get really invested. It’s kind of like other card games, but with a whole array of crazy characters thrown into the mix. And usually, the loser has to do the dishes or take out the trash for the week, so we often get very competitive.” — Craig M, TX
“My family is based all over the country so during quarantine, we started playing various word games over Zoom every other week. There were about 10 of us who would play and we would take turns picking the themes or the rules and setting the timer. Now, even though we’re all free to leave the house again, we’ve kept playing. It’s a way of staying connected that feels low stakes, easy, and fun. And it’s a tradition I don’t imagine we’ll let go of any time soon.” — Emmett W, New York
“Our game nights as a family start in the kitchen. We typically spend the evening cooking together first, which gives us some time to unwind from our days, play some music, create a fun environment, connect with one another — and also prep our favorite dishes. Typically we go for an appetizer buffet and lots of fun snacks — which feels way more fun than our usual sit-down dinner situation. In fact, I think the food is the only way I can still lure my older kids into hanging out and playing. Then, we pick a game, spread out across the living room (with finger food in reach), and start playing.” — Kim A, Canada
“Every Christmas, my mom makes me and my siblings play a game she calls ‘Bucks for Bonding.’ The name really says it all: It's basically a way for her to gently bribe us into saying nice things about one another. She’ll say, ‘Name four things you admire about your brother’ or ‘What is your favorite childhood memory?’ and we all take turns answering. But it gets more complicated than that: Each year, she adds a new twist to the game that ups the ante. She’ll make us complete challenges while blindfolded, or, say, while our legs are tied together. And then the winners will earn prizes like cash, stocking stuffers, lottery tickets, or gift certificates. Sure, it always sounds silly — but honestly, it works. We always do feel closer at the end.” — Cassie C, New York
“My kids are 7 and 9 years old, which means it’s often difficult for them to open up about what’s going on inside their heads or at school without my husband and me asking them outright. That’s why we make a point of playing card games a few times a week together. For some reason, we’ve found that both of our kids open up and speak freely if we play a game while we chat.” — Veronica H, Dominican Republic
“Growing up, every single Friday night, my family would order pizza (thin crust, cut into squares). After we’d finish our pizza, we would play board games or do puzzles for hours on end. Now, I’m married and I have a home of my own, but looking back, having a weekly game night with my parents and my brother made each week feel complete. Fridays were our time to be goofy, to put the work and school weeks behind us, and just genuinely enjoy each other without pressure or obligations. In the hopes of maintaining the tradition, I still have game nights with my grandmother about once a month. My husband and I both take pizza over to her house and play cards for three, four hours — and it always feels so joyful and comforting.” — Natalie B, Indiana
“As a working mom, it can be hard to keep my schedule balanced — and game night is a great way to make sure I fit in quality time with my kids and my husband. We’re all huge movie buffs, so it’s no surprise that our game night tradition usually involves movie-themed charades. We’ve been playing it for years, and it definitely encourages us to lean into our most actorly selves. Plus, it helps our kids loosen up and be more expressive. And best of all, they’re so tuckered out after that they go straight to bed without a fuss.” — Melinda J, Australia