There are a few things every home should have. Potable water, non-perishable food, a smoke detector, fire extinguisher, and at least one of the many Jackbox Party Pack games. You know, for emergencies.
The Jackbox Party Pack games are a semi-regular series of party game collections from the folks who made You Don’t Know Jack, the 1995 trivia game that was just as much about being a smartass as it was about being smart. Each pack comes with about five games designed for, well, parties: A good Jackbox game often boils down to telling the best joke, or inspiring fun, heated arguments.
What makes them ingenious, however, is how they work: No one needs a video game controller, or even a console. Every Jackbox Party Pack has made its way to just about every device that plugs into a screen, and even if you do have one on your Xbox, the way people actually play is via their smartphone. They just navigate to a website, punch in the room code for the game you’re all playing, and voila—everything that they need to do to participate can be done from their phone, which they were going to be staring at anyway.
This makes every Jackbox Party Pack the perfect game for people who don’t play games since the best of them have include games like Quiplash, where every player is given a joke prompt and everyone votes for the funniest response. I have spent many hours playing Quiplash with friends, and it never, ever, gets old.
I’m writing all this now because today’s the day The Jackbox Party Pack 6 is released, and I’m terribly excited about it because it comes with a new version of my second-favorite Jackbox game, Trivia Murder Party. It’s got a very silly hook—you’re all prisoners of a disembodied voice a la Jigsaw from Saw who is forcing you to play trivia. Get a question wrong, and you have to play a devious mini-game—memorize a pattern, do some simple math, or pick a cup and hope your friends didn’t poison it. Fail, and you die—but dying just means that you’re a ghost with a better chance of winning in the end. It is, in other words, a remarkably inclusive game that’s designed so people who just know a lot of crap don’t dominate. It’s also goofy as heck and seasonally appropriate for October. Get either the new one or the old one (in the best Party Pack, the third) and play it this Halloween. You’ll have a great time.
It’s honestly kind of astounding that every Jackbox Party Pack has at least one guaranteed good time—an old favorite like Fibbage, or a runaway hit like Trivia Murder Party—fit for any occasion or level of sobriety. I’m a fan, but I also respect them because they’re, above all else, accessible. It can be hard to talk people into a game they’ve never played before. If it’s a tabletop game, people can be wary of physical trinkets and cards, always suspicious that playing the game might be more involved than they want it to be. If it’s a video game with a controller, anyone who doesn’t play video games might want to tap out at the sight of said controller.
Jackbox games meet people where they are: Mostly on their phones, being smartasses, laughing, lying, and talking their way to a good time.