#deaffriendly Games for Deaf-Challenged Holidays

Posted by: Staff Writer on Nov. 26, 2013

Brace yourselves. It’s that time of the year where you deploy every trick in the book to survive company holiday parties, family reunions, and awkward Thanksgiving roundtable chit-chats with heavily bearded or accented in-laws. Well, now we’ve got even more tricks to add to your book: Games!

As we suggested in Tips For Getting Through the Holidays with Hearing Loss, it’s tempting to hide in a seventh serving of Zinfandel or bury our schnoz into our iPhone. But if small talk isn’t working out for you, it’s time to try icebreakers that bring out the competitive spirit.

Problem is, not all games are equally deaf-friendly. Forget spelling bees, Trivial Pursuit, or other auditory-dependent games that have (unintentionally) shunned many a deaf holiday celebrant. Even games that you would think are deaf-friendly, like Pictionary, pose challenges:

1.   Your back is towards your team while you are drawing.

2.   How do you know which teammate is shouting out their answer?

3.   How are you supposed to speech-read while your eyes are focused on drawing?

4.   What if you don’t speech-read?

Whether your goal is to crush your competition, or simply to get to know your cousins a little better, here is a list of equal-opportunity games:

1.  Charades

This one is a no-brainer. If Charades is on the party agenda, expect yourself to be pursued for the team (almost) as hotly as Robert Griffin III was courted by the Washington Redskins.

“We’re going to kick ass with the deaf chick on our team!” many a captain has exclaimed. But to truly bring the team to championship glory, try and teach your teammates the ABC’s in sign language so they can fingerspell their answers. You could talk about facial expressions and why eyebrows are essential, too. Or give everyone paper/pen and allow them to write their guesses.

2.  Beer Pong

Deaf or hearing, if you’re lucky enough to be part of a family that condones garage antics like beer pong, your Thanksgiving is already going to be much, MUCH more awesome than ours. Please invite us to your dinner.

3.  Monopoly

You know what’s more fun than listening to Uncle Virgil rant (for the umpteenth time) about the free market and socialism? Beating him speechless in a game of Monopoly. Go on, buy scads of property. Become a "Free Parking" despot. Mortgage the crap out of everything. In other words, use the game as an opportunity to not get stuck in the jail that is a long exhausting dinner conversation.

After you’ve driven various family members into boardwalk bankruptcy, you’ll have another perfect icebreaker: Explaining how you won.

4.  Dix It

NOTE: This may be better for deaf-only parties than deaf/HH parties

Numerous deaf friends have sworn by Dix It as the perfect deaf-friendly game, citing its ability to override the usual ADHD that usually overcomes a deaf party. You know what we’re talking about: The way we commence games, start chatting about something 5 minutes in, and end up never finishing the game.

Well, this fast-paced "he said, she said" storytelling game has plentiful images (something we deafies excel at) and a competitive camaraderie that brings friends and family together.

5.  Checkers/Chess

If you’re one of those laser-focused, quiet types, then chess is perfect for you. There’s usually not much pressure to trash-talk or make small talk  - especially if you’re playing against someone similarly reserved. It’s also a perfect opportunity to teach your vanquished foe how to sign “checkmate”. 

6.  Scrabble

Like words? Like obsessively moving tiles diagonally? Like winning? Then Scrabble is the holiday game for you. If you possess superior spelling skills but couldn’t compete in the school spelling bee because you’re deaf, then Scrabble takes the audist element out of this literary-based competition.

7.  Foosball

If you’re one of those kinesthetically inclined types (like many deaf people are), fleet-fingered action is the game for you. If you pair up in teams, it’s a chance to build trust and communication. For example, as a goalie, you’ll want to pass to your foosman forwards – you can do this via signal like tapping, or a certain number of times you bounce the ball off the wall. Same for pushkick, pullkick, and pull shot defenses.

8.  Poker

This one is debatable for our list. As Daphne said in “Switched at Birth”, deaf people possess an advantage in reading body languages and “tells.” This may or may not be true. But even if you’re at a slight (and ever so slight) advantage, poker is a game of fast-talking, lively verbal jabs, trash-talking conversation. And sometimes, listening to these conversations is critical to deciding if Uncle Will is bluffing or really holding the nuts.

Our verdict: Happily partake in a few hands, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself utterly lost in the conversation. The important thing is you can still win – or have fun trying.

9.  Stratego

Got a nerdy cousin who plays Stratego (or heck, at least understands the rules of Stratego)? If so, you are all set for the rest of the holidays. Even eHow says that this game is perfect for deaf players, since it “requires high levels of concentration, and a quiet environment is preferable.” 

While everyone else in the family is heckling about politics and their personal issues, you can maneuver your way through red and blue pieces on a 10” x 10” board. Just like a Capture the Flag boss.

10.  Apples to Apples

This perennial favorite is a hit with all crowds: Teens, young adults, families, and more. Little wonder that it’s the tie that bonds during holidays. More importantly, its trademark brightly colored red and green cards are visual enough (and all labeled with adjectives) that, at judging time, it doesn’t matter whether you need to fingerspell the answer or yell it out loud.

Because of the sheer variety of cultures and customs associated with our holidays, we know these game suggestions are merely the tip of the iceberg. Fellow deaf/hh readers, what are your surefire holiday favorites? Chime in here – or send us pictures of your favorite #deaffriendly icebreakers!



Comment Policy

We’re aware that issues facing the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing Community can become quite passionate and divided. What can we say, we’re a group of passionate people! While we fully support a community full of passion, we also require that comments are respectful. We think negative attitudes and disrespect are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. This doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with people, you just need to do it respectfully. We reserve the right to delete or edit any comments we feel are judgmental, rude, or of attacking nature.


#deaffriendly Tee - echo
Deaf-Friendly Consulting
enews sign up