You Don't Know Jack (video game series)

For other uses, see You Don't Know Jack.
You Don't Know Jack
Developer(s) Berkeley Systems, Jackbox Games, Starsphere Interactive, Iron Galaxy Studios, Webfoot Technologies,, Banana Zinc Team
Publisher(s) Sierra On-Line, THQ, Jackbox Games, Berkeley Systems, SPELGRIM.Com, Majesco Entertainment, TopWare Interactive, Warner Bros. Games, Tsukuda Original
Engine EnElectriGine
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, PlayStation, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii, Nintendo DS, iOS, Android, OUYA, Roku
Release date(s)

1995–2000, 2003, 2011 (on physical formats)

1996–2000 (via netshow on, 2001 (via AMC web game), 2007–2008 (via online beta), 2012 (Facebook), 2013 (Steam re-release)
Genre(s) Party game
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

You Don't Know Jack (commonly abbreviated YDKJ) released in Japan as You Don't Know Jack Presented by Masatoshi Hamada (You Don't Know Jack Presented by 浜田雅功), is a series of computer games developed by Jackbox Games (formerly known as Jellyvision Games[1]) and Berkeley Systems, as well as the title of the first game in the series. YDKJ, framed as a game show "where high culture and pop culture collide", combines trivia with comedy. While primarily a PC and Mac-based franchise with over two dozen releases and compilations for those platforms, there have been a few entries released for consoles: two for the original PlayStation, and the 2011 release which had versions on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS and Wii. In 2012, Jackbox Games developed and published a social version of the game on Facebook[2] with cross-platform versions subsequently released for iOS,[3] Android[4] and Kindle. On November 5, 2013, the majority of the franchise’s many volumes and spinoffs were reissued onto Steam[5] by Jackbox Games.


In 1991, Jellyvision's former identity, Learn Television, released the award-winning film The Mind's Treasure Chest, which featured lead character Jack Patterson. When Learn Television sought to use new multimedia technologies to create a more active learning experience, the company teamed up with Follett Software Company and developed "That's a Fact, Jack!", a reading motivation CD-ROM game show series covering young adult fiction, targeted to 3rd through 10th graders. The game would give a title for a child to read, and then ask questions related to that title.

The idea for You Don't Know Jack began while That's a Fact, Jack! was still in development. The game's title comes from the less vulgar version of the phrase "You don't know jack shit." Jellyvision's website has this explanation as to why You Don't Know Jack was made:

"Way back in the early 90s, Jellyvision decided to test the waters of mainstream interactive entertainment by beginning a partnership with Berkeley Systems, of "Flying Toasters" fame. Berkeley Systems asked us if we could apply the concepts of a game show to an adult trivia game. Since no one at Jellyvision at the time actually liked trivia games, we tried to figure out how to make trivia questions fun and engaging to us. When we realized that it was possible to ask about both Shakespeare and Scooby-Doo in the same question, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK was born."[6]


The game can be played by one, two, or three players. (The game can be played with up to four players on the tabletop version and the console versions of "YDKJ-2011". The 2011 PC version is limited to two players.) All versions of the game feature the voice of an off-screen host who reads questions aloud, provides instructions regarding special question types, and pokes fun at the players.

The game usually opens with a green room segment, in which the players are prompted to enter their names and given instructions for play. The audio during this segment includes rehearsing singers, a busy producer, and a harassed studio manager/host. The only graphics are a large "On Air/Stand By" sign in the middle of the screen, visual representations of the players' button assignments, and a box for name entry. On games after Volume 2, on certain days, such as Christmas Eve, or certain times such as a Saturday night, or even during Twilight, the announcer will mention the time of day or the special holiday, and sometimes grumble about it for playing the game at that time or day.

Most versions of YDKJ offer the choice of playing a 7- or 21-question game; some versions offer only 15 questions (Netshow, LFF, 5th Dementia, Mock 2), and others offer only 13 questions (The Ride), 11 questions (HeadRush, "YDKJ-2011"), or 7 questions (The Lost Gold). In a 21-question game, there is a brief intermission after the tenth question. Most questions are multiple choice, with some occasional free-entry questions, or mini-games. The Facebook version offers only 5 questions.

Before each question, one player is given a choice of three categories. Each has a humorous title that has some connection to the topic of the corresponding question. After a short animated introduction, which is often accompanied with a sung jingle about the question number, the host asks the question. Typically, the question is multiple choice, and the first player to "buzz in" and give the correct answer wins the money for that question and gets to choose the next category. If a player answers incorrectly, he or she loses money, but not before the host wisecracks about it. There are occasionally other question types offered (see below).

In multi-player games, each player is allowed one chance to "screw" an opponent in each half of a full game, or once in an entire short game. Using the "screw" forces the opponent to give an answer to a question within ten seconds. If the player who is "screwed" answers correctly, he or she wins the money while the player who "screwed" him or her loses money. This basic design has changed slightly in some versions of the game. For example, in the teen spinoff HeadRush, the screws are replaced by pairs of false teeth, so players "bite" their opponent instead. In The Ride, instead of just forcing an opponent to answer, players engage in "FlakJack", where they launch multiple screws into the screen, partially or totally obscuring the question. The player being "screwed" must then answer, even though the question may no longer be readable.

In the previous games, different category options were worth differing amounts of money, which was revealed after a category was chosen. This amount indicated how difficult the question would be. Amounts included $1,000, $2,000, & $3,000, and were doubled during the second round of questions. However, early volumes of the series occasionally featured questions hosted by guests spawned from Fiber Optic Field Trips and Celebrity Collect Calls; these were worth $5,000 and appeared as the first question of the second round. Later games in the series opted not to give players three randomly generated questions, instead giving a set amount of questions in a set order. Instead of random questions, players 'buzz in' to set the amount of money the question is worth. Values could range from only a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more.

Some of the volumes have a feature called "Don't Be a Wimp", which is activated if one player has a very large lead. If no one answers a question, the host may deride the leading player, calling on the audience to shout "Don't be a wimp!", and forcing the leader to answer the question.

In some volumes, the host also punishes a player who buzzes in too early; the question disappears, leaving the player with ten seconds to type the answer. For both The Ride and Fifth Dementia, this is replaced by different punishments: the player is forced to pick from a list of four nonsensical answers, all of which are wrong, or both the question and answers are scrambled. This punishment is only triggered if a player buzzes in at the very instant that the question appears on the screen. In those three instances, the player that buzzed in is not permitted to "screw" the other players.

Question types

The majority of You Don't Know Jack questions are multiple choice, with four possible choices. Some questions are fill-in-the-blank, requiring a typed response.

Special questions are also played during the game. Each version of YDKJ has its own different types of special questions, but some of the most common are:

This question is famous for an Easter egg where if the player types in the phrase "fuck you", the host will respond in an annoyed way and will dock between $50,000 or $100,000 from their score and change their name. If another player does it, the host responds by chastising that player for a lack of originality. If a third player does it, the host will declare the game to be over and leave, forcing the game to lock, and if the player presses random keys, the host will stay an extra statement regarding that the game is ending regardless of what the player does. This Easter egg is different in the 2012 Facebook game. Instead, the host mocks the player saying that he can say the "nasty words" as well and proceeds to say a lot of them bleeped-out of context, no extra amount of cash is lost other than the normal wrong answer penalty.

The Final Round

The final round of the game, called the Jack Attack in most versions and also known as the HeadRush in HeadRush, is a word association question. A clue is given, which generally describes the desired correct answers (such as "movie stars") and after that a word, phrase, or name appears in the middle of the screen, to which the contestant must find an associated word or phrase that fits the overall category. For example, Star Wars might be the associated word, and the correct answer fitting "movie stars" could be Harrison Ford. Other possibilities offered might include actors not in that film, or other objects or concepts related to the film but which are not stars of the movie. For each associated phrase, seven potential matches appear on screen one-at-a-time for only a few seconds each before disappearing, and only one is correct. The topics and/or potential answers are sometimes humorous.

Players win money ($2,000 in most YDKJ volumes; $5,000 in HeadRush, $4,000 in YDKJ - 2011, $1,000 in the 2012 Facebook edition) if they buzz in when the correct match is displayed on the screen. An incorrect guess deducts money from the player's score—not just once, but every time the player buzzes in incorrectly (it is possible to buzz in incorrectly multiple times while the same incorrect answer is shown). Multiple players play simultaneously, playing to the same words. The words that are not matched will be cycled back in once all seven words have been attempted.

Jack Attack ends after either (1) all seven phrases are correctly associated with their clue, (2) 7-14 total phrases (including cycled words) have been shown in the middle, and/or (3) all phrases are either matched or attempted twice. The exceptions are the 2012 Facebook edition (the faces of those who did answer correctly are shown) and 2015, where all seven phrases are only shown once.

The running total of each player's score is not shown anywhere on the screen during Jack Attack, and this part of the game is usually accompanied by ominous music or ambient sounds. This creates tension between players because of the uncertainty of ranking, and the unsettling atmosphere.


One of the unique features of the game takes place after it has ended. Before you start a new game, you can choose to listen to YDKJ staff performing parodies of various radio commercials. The commercials vary in absurdity, selling products such as scented suppositories or foreign language cassettes to help you learn how to speak American.

They also featured phony news stories about everyday things. Examples: "Oxygen: Gas of Life? or Secret Military Death-Vapor?" or "People are falling unconscious for 8 hours every night. What is the 'sleeping disease'? Do you have it? Find out tonight."

Most YDKJ games feature recurring characters like "Chocky the Chipmunk", a breakfast cereal mascot with the catchphrase "Pink and tartie!" or "Xenora: Queen of Battle", a parody of Xena, Warrior Princess that gets involved in overtly erotic situations. Others are "The Movie Ending Phone", "1-800-me4-sale", "Cancer Stick tobacco lip balm", "Momma's Pride Human Breast Milk", "Buster's Bait Shop" and parodies of public service announcements from the fictional "United States Department of Condescending Paternalism".

The first CD-ROM for The Ride features a CD of a selection of these commercials from the previous games in the series. The Disk was titled You Don't Hear Jack and has since been released as a separate product on CD.


There have been many different hosts of You Don't Know Jack over the years. The following is a list of hosts and the games they appear in.

Game list

This is a list of the You Don't Know Jack games released:

There is also UK version, a French version, a Japanese version, and these German versions:


There are also several YDKJ collections, which bundled different games into one box. These include:


Reviewing the Macintosh version of the original You Don't Know Jack, a Next Generation critic praised the social nature of the game and the witty presentation. Calling it "An excellent, hip piece of work", he gave it three out of five stars.[12]

Other media

During the 2000 presidential election, Sierra On-Line president David Grenewetzki challenged the presidential candidates to play a political version of YDKJ. The game had been distributed to a few radio stations, and was described as a "litmus test" of the candidates' political knowledge.

YDKJ also appeared as two books: You Don't Know Jack: The Book and You Don't Know Jack: The TV Book. Both were published in 1998 by Running Press.

There was also a Tiger Electronic Table-top game of You Don't Know Jack, voiced by Nate Shapiro. It featured question cards with a number code on it and a grey button to open a sliding door to show the answers. It was the first game to feature 4 players instead of 3 players. There were also "Sports", "Movies", and "TV" question packs that were sold separately.

An actual television show version of You Don't Know Jack had a brief run on ABC in prime time during the summer of 2001.[13] It starred Paul Reubens (the actor and comedian best known for his character Pee-wee Herman) as over-the-top game show host Troy Stevens, with Tom Gottlieb's 'Cookie' as the announcer. The show lasted only six episodes, as it received very little buzz and most YDKJ fans weren't even aware of its existence until long after its cancellation.

After the You Don't Know Jack TV show ended, another show from the makers of YDKJ called Smush aired on USA Network in late 2001. It was a game of taking two or more words and combining them into one long word. The show started late at night, but was later pushed to later and later times, even up to 3:00 A.M.; until it was eventually canceled.

In 2001, AMC released You Don't Know Jack about MonsterFest, an online game on their website hosted by Schmitty, and the MonsterFest movie marathon was hosted by Clive Barker and Carmen Electra, who gave clues for the game.

In 2002, during the "Global Color Vote" (to choose the new color for M&Ms candy) the M&Ms website had a game called "You Don't Know Color", mostly based on the same game used for the MonsterFest game. It was hosted by Billy West as the Red M&M and you played for points, not dollars. At the end of the game, after finishing the "Color Attack", you made a choice between the 3 colors to vote for.


  1. "Jellyvision changes name to Jackbox Games". Retrieved 2013-11-18.
  2. "'You Don't Know Jack' Returns as Facebook Game". Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  3. "You Don't Know Jack Hops from Facebook to Mobile, and It's So Much Better For It". Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  4. "Apps of the Week: You Don't Know Jack, Dashlane Password Manager, reClock and more!". Retrieved 2013-11-24.
  5. "You Don't Know Jack series arrives on Steam". Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  6. "YDKJ Information Page". Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  7. doNATE page on the You Don't Know Jack website
  8. Nathan Fernald's bio on the Jellyvision website
  9. "THQ Jacks up Video Gamers This Winter with YOU DON'T KNOW JACK(R)".
  10. "You Don't Know Jack on iPhone App Store".
  11. "The Jackbox Party Pack".
  12. "You Don't Know Jack". Next Generation. No. 13. Imagine Media. January 1996. p. 168.
  13. You Don't Know Jack at the Internet Movie Database (2001 television game show)
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