Have You Played… You Don’t Know Jack Vol 1?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

You Don’t Know Jack [official site] is a series of pop culture quiz games, delivered as gameshows that are taking place inside your computer. I’ve loved them since I first played the original, now titled Volume 1, many years ago, and playing them again recently reminded me why that is.

The questions are clever, working through a combination of pop culture knowledge (be warned – some of this is trickier than intended because the references aren’t quite as timely now), wordplay and surrealism. It’s a quiz that can jump from Shakespeare to I Love Lucy effortlessly, sometimes within the bounds of a single question.

What really sells You Don’t Know Jack is the fictional gameshow environment. There are adverts, sound checks, multiple hosts across the series (the most famous and beloved doesn’t appear in volume 1), and the computer screen isn’t just a display, it’s a window into the world of Jack. It feels like an idea created by a comedy troupe that was later refined into a game, and I mean that as a compliment. I can imagine a live stage version of the show and, indeed, it’s no surprise that my favourite comedic podcast, Hello From The Magic Tavern, shares some DNA with the series.

I was delighted when these games showed up on Steam, having wanted to replay them for years, and I’m glad to see that they hold up.

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13 Comments

  1. Gothnak says:

    I remember getting the very first one of these in the early 90’s when i was at Uni. Was a great party game. I wonder why something like this for a mass market online game hasn’t taken off? 100-1 wasn’t a great implementation and you just need to look on iOS to see how popular Pointless & The Chase apps are.

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    Herzog says:

    The only video game I played together with my mom, dad and sister. The German dub for it was fantastic as well.

  3. trashbat says:

    There was a UK-specific version featuring Paul Kaye (Dennis Pennis era)

    It’s still a going concern to some extent. Jackbox is a decent party game if you have a TV/PC hookup and a bunch of people with smartphones.

    • TeePee says:

      Definitely seconded re: Jackbox – it’s been a breakout hit within our social circle, more or less everyone who’s played it has then gone and gotten hold of their own copy, such was the hilarity (although Quiplash has since taken the ball and run with it).

  4. Yserbius says:

    Played this all the time in high school. Question 4 was really the question that cares.

    I loved how the audio was so seamless. Like if you interrupted the host with your buzzer before the question was fully voiced, he would stop, insult you, then let you try to type your answer instead of multiple choices. There was no hitch in the audio, he would go right from asking the question to “Whoa! Got a clairvoyant over here!”

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      X_kot says:

      My favorite gimmick: one player has a solid lead in the late game, and no one buzzes in during a hard question. The game says, “Hey, Moneybags, you’re looking pretty comfortable…why don’t you give this one a go?”

      What I wouldn’t give to see Trebek pull that on someone.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The host interaction was amazing. I got the game on the 25th of December, stuck the CD in the drive, and fired it up. Cue the host:

        “Ahh, you got me for Christmas, didn’t you. And what did I get? You. Not exactly a fair trade, is it?”

        Amazing party game.

  5. buschap says:

    I haven’t! I should. I played the snot out of Volume 2, though.

    “The Marquis de Shar-day”

  6. VeNT666 says:

    Loved the names it picked for you if you took too long.

  7. The Algerian says:

    Yes I did, and recently.

    It can be challenging when english isn’t your first language and you didn’t grew up or ever been to the US, especially not in the 80’s or 90’s.

    But somehow, I manage.

  8. rydash says:

    Slight inconsistency here, depending on who you consider to be the most famous host. If you’re thinking of Cookie Masterson (who most recently did YDKJ 2015 in the Jackbox Party Pack), well, he IS in this first game of the series, too!

    He’s just not a host in this one. For lack of a better term, Cookie is the stage manager – asking how many players and questions your game should have before the On Air graphics come on and the game actually starts.

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    Flavour Beans says:

    My grandmother got the first handful of these for free when she got a computer at some store a dozen or so years ago. She had no idea what they were, knew I liked PC games, and gave them to me. I was waaay too young for some of the jokes, but the games were absolutely fantastic. I have them on Steam now and still like to come back to them. As so many have mentioned, the presentation of this game is what really sells it; dynamic and seamless audio, lots of conditional jokes, just enough visual polish to tie it all together. For as out-of-nowhere as these games were, they were really ahead of their time, and it’s almost surprising that you don’t see too much else like it.

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