Party games are games which share several features suitable to entertaining a social gathering of moderate size.
- The number of participants is flexible and fairly large. Traditional multiplayer board games tend to accommodate four to six players at most, whereas party games generally have no fixed upper limit. Some games become unwieldy if more than twelve or fifteen play, but even for these the upper limit is flexible. Many party games such as Charades simply divide everyone into two or more roughly equal teams, while others like Werewolf give each individual a role and the object of each player becomes to play the role.
- Cooperation between players is encouraged. Very few successful party games are scored individually; most games that involve a score to determine the winner are team-based, and others such as role-plays are not usually scored in the traditional sense.
- The players can take part at varying levels. Not everyone enjoys straining themselves to the utmost to win, so good party games have multiple ways to play along and contribute to everyone's enjoyment. For example, in Fictionary not everyone needs to create plausible dictionary definitions; humorous submissions are at least as welcome. In charades, players can actively participate in guessing without taking a turn at acting.
- Players do not have to wait for long periods before participating. Games in which every player has their own turn can become boring with a large group, especially if a turn takes a long time to complete. Team-based games are ideal for this very reason; with two, three or four teams of four or five players each, the wait time is severely reduced as compared to twenty turns per round.
- The game has entertainment value for spectators. Many party games involve at least some level of humor, whether inherent in the game or introduced by players. In this way, players not taking a turn can still enjoy the gameplay.
- Player elimination is rare. Monopoly makes a poor party game, because bankrupt players must sit out while the remaining players continue to the game's conclusion, which can take several hours. In contrast, no matter how far behind a team is in Pictionary, all players can participate until the very end.
- The amount of specialized equipment needed is not dependent on the number of players. "Common-hand" Liar's Dice (also known as Perudo), though it can technically be played by an unlimited number of people, usually becomes totally infeasible beyond about a dozen players. The game generally needs five dice and a dice cup for each player; with 12 players this requires a staggering 60 dice, which very few other games will require. By contrast, Yahtzee needs only one set of dice regardless of the number of players, thus it has no equipment-based limit on players (though it does have other practical limits). This disadvantage can often be mitigated through coordination with invitees to bring additional supplies as may be necessary, and often the supplies are inexpensive to procure.
- The game usually does not involve spending real money. Players should not have to buy something, especially if that thing is a single-use item other than food, in order to participate in the game. Sometimes this is a rule of the game; scavenger hunts generally disqualify players caught buying items on the list. However, there are exceptions; a "casino night" with a token buy-in for charity or to help pay expenses is usually acceptable to most casual invitees. A targeted audience, such as gamblers or the well-to-do, may pay more considerable sums to participate.
Common party games
Children's party games
Not all of the above are suitable for children's parties. Traditional children's party games (some of which are also popular with teenagers and adults) include:
Party video games
Starpath's Party M
The party game has become a genre of video games — arguably in 1982, with ix. Currently, the most well known example is the Mario Party series. These games are usually best played in multiplayer mode. The games are commonly designed as a collection of simple minigames, designed to be intuitive and easy to control. Some of the games (most notably the Mario Party series) are played out on boardgame boards.
Other examples of party video games include:
Large group games
Large group games are those which are played with a large number of participants and are often used as planned activities in structured environments, especially as educational activities. They are similar to party games, except that large group games are typically planned for larger numbers (perhaps even hundreds) as part of an event.
Large group games can take a variety of forms and formats.
Some are physical games such as Buck buck.
Some are modeled on the TV Game Show format, offering points for teams who can answer questions the fastest. Trivia-type games might have questions posed from the stage and each tabletop writing their answers to be collected and scored. Others may take on some of the qualities of Open Space environments and allow participants to wander in a less structured way.
Group board games can take on the design of small groups of players, seated at tables of 4 to 6 people, who work together on a problem. There can be large numbers of people (and thus many tables). If properly designed, these scalable exercises can be used for small groups (12 to 20 people) as well as very large events (600 people or 100 tables).
Generally, for these larger exercises, multimedia projectors, large screens and microphones are required for instructions, communications and debriefing.
A search for team building events can turn up millions of links to exercises, companies, and all kinds of offerings ranging from paintball competitions to fire walks to outdoor climbing or whitewater adventures. The impact on actual team building can vary widely - a golf outing for corporate executives does not generally accomplish much in the way of organizational improvement while a business simulation might be directly focused on linking the play of the game to issues for corporate improvement.