Did your family spend the recent holidays gathered 'round the hearth, screaming about what to watch on Netflix? Did cries of "Not Terminator again!" and "No Ozark!" fill the air, before your mother finally settled on The Irishman, because Scorsese is always an excellent choice when small children are present? Well, then you might be interested in the Jackbox Party Pack, a selection of irreverent party games that's streamed straight to your TV. (I mean, if your family insists on gathering in front of the television, why not force them to engage in a game?)
Jackbox comes from the creators of You Don't Know Jack, which you may recall as one of the first "edgy" trivia games out there. (It was sort of the precursor to black humor games like Cards Against Humanity and Exploding Kittens). The company has since expanded well beyond You Don't Know Jack, and now offers a whole slew of games: Stuff like Drawful, which is sort of an absurdist twist on Pictionary, and Quiplash, which challenges players to come up with witty answers to questions like "What's the worst theme for a pinball machine?" (Example responses: 1. A colonoscopy 2. global warming.) There's also the amusingly named Murder Party. (Though to be honest, isn't every large family gathering always just on the verge of being a "murder party," in a way?)
Glancing at the site, there are at least 30 goofball games on offer, and you can buy them individually or as a bundle. And as they're all virtual, the price is actually pretty reasonable. (The Jackbox Party Pack gives you six games for $300.) The games can be streamed through a variety of devices — everything from the Apple TV to your iPad to your Xbox to your Nintendo Switch. One nice feature, is that you don't need a jumble of fancy controllers to play — a person's phone is their controller.
I have to say, on one hand, the games do seem quite entertaining, and I was a fan of You Don't Know Jack back in the day. But on the other hand, having everyone use their phone as a controller...doesn't that kind of detract from the idea of actually engaging with each other, if everyone is still staring down at a screen? But that's probably super old timey of me. I guess I'm just more of a "let's all write some inappropriate things on scrap paper and then make everyone play charades" kind of gal. Because is there anything more fun than watching a 9 year-old nephew pull "circumcision" out of a hat, and then having his mother scream at everyone for not being family-friendly? Just me? But now that I think on it, I'm sure there's a way to make the 9 year-old read "circumcision" off of a phone. Actually, judging by the trailers for the Jackbox games, it kind of seems like making a 9 year-old say "circumcision" is the way every game begins.
As I said, the games do look pretty funny, and the design also looks very cool. I kind of wish they didn't involve more phone-staring, but then, what in life doesn't involve phone-staring anymore? Anyway, one day soon we won't even be in the same room for family gatherings, and we'll just beam ourselves into each others' homes and fight over Netflix as holograms. So.