A virtual holiday party might not be the ideal way to celebrate, but if anyone knows how to make the most out of the endless stream of shit life throws our way, it’s us queers.
So maybe you’re staying home to protect immunocompromised family members from getting sick or maybe you want to remotely connect with your friends in-between your racist uncle’s rants. Or maybe you’re reading this way into the future, and we’re all staying home to avoid the roaming packs of cannibalistic mutants. Whatever your situation, here’s some festive ideas to make your virtual yuletide gay.
Virtual happy hours
Had enough virtual happy hours after 2020? A drink in your hand does nothing to dispel the feeling that you’re making small talk during a work conference. And yet here we are, a year later, still doing them. But there’s plenty of ways to gay up your virtual happy hour up this holiday season.
Create your own pub
First, we need to set the mood by recreating the pub atmosphere. This guide shows you how to make a virtual set using vMix or the free OBS Studio—essentially, you’re creating the illusion that you are sitting at a bar by scouring the internet for a background image (the pub of your choice) and a foreground image (the bar table) and placing your virtual self in between them. Doing so requires a green screen (any basic green cloth will work).
If you integrate OBS with a live streaming platform (YouTube or Twitch), you can move all virtual participants into the same virtual set—with the added benefit that people who missed the gathering can watch the stream later. This requires one marginally tech-savvy person to control the OBS and streaming, but even a basic software tutorial can get you up to speed on what you need to do.
Why go to all this trouble? The real question is: Is this even a queer party if you’re not doing the absolute most? It’s about festive ambiance, people. And if you’re going to get virtually trashed on Christmas, it might as well be on the set of some Hallmark movie or the Grinch’s hovel.
Holiday drink ingredients
Onto the most important part of any happy hour: the drinks. There are the holiday classics like mulled wine, spiked eggnog, and buttered rum. You can also easily transform your usual gay favorites. Ingredients like cloves, cinnamon sticks, and/or ginger can infuse dark liquor drinks with that Christmas-y taste. Peppermint schnapps can add a holiday twist to a mimosa or a martini. And provided you coordinate, you and your guests could remotely partake of rainbow Jell-O shots, each topped with a Santa hat made out of whipped cream and a strawberry.
Pub trivia is a great way to solidify the bar atmosphere. You can easily recreate this yourself by purchasing a physical pub trivia set or by searching for questions and answers online (including queer trivia).
Virtual party games
As thrilling as it is to just sit and hang out on video conference, party games can help break the ice and ease the awkwardness—especially if your virtual party includes extended family you’ve barely spoken to. Here’s a few favorites.
Each of the Jackbox Party Packs includes a suite of easy-to-learn games in which you rely on your quick wit to craft responses to silly premises. Someone in your group will need to purchase one of the Party Packs and have a computer capable of running it (see System Requirements towards the bottom of the store page). Everyone else just needs a smartphone with an internet connection to participate.
Among Us is a free mobile social deduction game in which a crew of astronauts are trying to complete tasks to repair the spaceship. One player, who is assigned the role of imposter, is trying to sabotage these efforts and kill the crew without getting caught. It requires at least five players but can host up to fifteen, making this an essential pick for large groups.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, players must work together to diffuse a ticking time-bomb. Only one player can see and interact with the bomb onscreen, and the other players have the manual to diffuse it. And you thought family Monopoly night was stressful. Although originally designed for consoles, mobile versions have since come out.
Super Mario Party
Super Mario Party finally got an update earlier this year that allows for remote online play—better late than never, Nintendo? The game consists of rolling dice and moving characters from the Marioverse around a board to collect stars, competing in chaotic mini games in between rounds. This is a good choice if all your participants own a Nintendo Switch.
Fall Guys is an online multiplayer game in which groups of friends compete in races and other competitions. Like other battle royale games, it starts with fifty players, and in each round (usually up to 5) a set number of contestants are eliminated until there is only one ultimate winner.
While the game largely involves races and jumping over obstacles, you don’t need to be great at 3D platforms to have a good time—the goofy physics are part of the charm. This game does require all players to have a gaming console or PC.
It Takes Two
It Takes Two isn’t so much a “party” game as it is two players only, and it’s not so much “casual” as it requires some competence with 3D platforming in order to play. But all that said, this recent Game of the Year winner is one of the most creative and fun gaming experiences you can have with a friend or partner, so it gets an honorable mention. Also the best part: the goal of the game is to break up a straight couple!
Non-game virtual activities
If you and your participants are not in the gaming mood, there are other activities you can do to make the occasion memorable.
Virtual movie night
Movie nights are a staple of any casual gathering, and there are plenty of options for doing so remotely. When reviewing these options, be mindful of the chat capabilities—most of the fun of a movie night is interacting with other people. Disney+, for example, only lets you chat with emojis whereas a Zoom screenshare will allow you to comment vocally. If you need watchlist ideas, consider one of these queer holiday movies.
The Puff Pass and Paint workshop has made a name for itself in cities across the country, but you don’t need to join a formal class to get in on the fun. Just gather your canvas, “supplies,” and an art prompt, and paint away with friends. Combine this with the previous section’s activity to watch along with Bob Ross. The best part is you’ll end up with a souvenir to remember the occasion—which you’ll definitely need depending on the amount of “supplies” you used.
Fumbling through a new recipe with friends can be a great way to bond while learning something new. You can join in late on the sourdough craze of 2020 or learn how to brew your own beer from home. Just set your laptop on the kitchen counter and chat away while you work together. Make sure to plan ahead in case any of the ingredients are hard to track down.
Virtual Secret Santa
Just because you’re far away doesn’t mean you can’t exchange gifts. You can create a secret Santa list with the help of a website like this. For physical gifts, you can set a date for participants to mail them ahead of time. Alternatively, you can always exchange digital gifts like subscriptions, gift cards, and cameos.
Virtual photo booth
Assuming you’ve thrown a queer virtual party worth remembering, why not commemorate the event with a group photo? While you can easily take a screenshot of your conference call and throw in a few props, it’s more fun to get all participants into the same screen on a holiday-themed photo set. To do so, refer to our tips on setting up a virtual set in the first section of this article. Once you have your photo, share it with the rest of the world as proof that virtual holiday celebrations can be a creative opportunity if you let them.♦