You Don't Know Jack last edited by MrSensible on 11/09/18 08:03AM View full history


You Don't Know Jack is a trivia party game co-developed by Jellyvision (now Jackbox Games) and Berkeley Systems and originally published by Sierra in 1995 for PC and Macintosh. It is framed as a quiz game show in which one to three players can compete to earn virtual cash by answering a series of trivia questions. You Don't Know Jack is notable for its comedic presentation and dialogue, most of which is delivered by the show's fictional unseen host "Nate Shapiro" (voiced by YDKJ creator/director Harry Gottlieb).

The original version of You Don't Know Jack (sometimes referred to as "Vol. 1") was a critical and commercial success. An expansion called the "You Don't Know Jack Question Pack" was released in 1996 and adds four hundred brand-new questions, making a grand total of over 1,200 unique questions once it is installed. The base game and the Question Pack were also bundled together as "You Don't Know Jack XL: X-tra Large" later the same year. Both the original YDKJ and the expanded "XL" version have been collected in numerous additional series compilations over the years.

A PlayStation release titled "You Don't Know Jack" was released in 1999; however, this version is actually a console port of You Don't Know Jack: Volume 3 with a number of updates and other changes to accommodate the console's hardware.


Selecting a question category
Selecting a question category

You Don't Know Jack is exclusively controlled via keyboard. At the start of a new game, a sign-in host named "Cookie" asks for the total number of players (one, two or three), after which each player enters their own name. Cookie then asks players to select between either a shorter seven question tournament-style format or a full twenty-one question game. Each player is assigned their own "buzzer" key on the keyboard, allowing players to buzz in before selecting their answers. The majority of YDKJ's questions are multiple-choice, with four possible answers selected using the number keys.

Rounds 1 & 2

The game allows players to select from three different question categories at at time during a game's first and second rounds. In multiplayer games, the player with the most recent correct answer chooses the category for each question (except for the first question's category which is randomly assigned to a player). If none of the three categories are selected after several seconds, one will be chosen at random by the host. Once a category is chosen, the host reads its associated question, and players are given several seconds to buzz in before attempting to answer.

A typical multiple-choice question
A typical multiple-choice question

Answering a question correctly earns a certain amount of cash based on its relative difficulty. In Round 1, standard multiple-choice questions are worth $1000, $2000 or $3000, and these amounts are doubled in Round 2 if playing a full-length game. However, answering incorrectly (or buzzing in and failing to select any answer) deducts the same amount from a player's total score, which can be decreased to negative dollar values. If a question is incorrectly answered, any players who have yet to buzz in still have the option to do so and select one of the remaining answer choices.

Screw Your Neighbor

In multiplayer games, each player is given a Screw along with a chance to "Screw Your Neighbor". Buzzing in and then using the Screw allows a player to force one selected opponent to answer the current question. However, if the Screwed player answers correctly, they win cash as usual while the player who attempted to Screw them loses the same amount.

Players receive only a single Screw during short games. For full-length games, each player receives a Screw at the start of Rounds 1 and 2.

Special Questions

This version of YDKJ contains two special types of questions which sometimes appear instead of the standard multiple-choice variety during Rounds 1 and 2.

A Gibberish Question answered
A Gibberish Question answered
  • Gibberish Question: Fill-in-the-blank-style questions that are based on a "mondegreen": a misinterpretation of a phrase that rhymes with or sounds phonetically similar to the original. These questions require players to manually type their answers using the keyboard after buzzing in. Players must enter the correct version of a well-known but misheard phrase to match the question; for example, the phrase "sock a guy, save me" is a mondegreen for "Rock-A-Bye Baby". These questions have a thirty-second time limit and initially are worth $5000 (double in Round 2). The host provides additional clues as time passes without a correct answer, but the cash reward also decreases by $250 ($500 in Round 2) every one-and-a-half seconds. Players cannot use Screws against each other during Gibberish Questions.
  • Fiber Optic Field Trip: A rare once-per-game question type that only appears during full-length games. After calling a random individual from the phone book, the host asks them to write their own multiple-choice question worth $5000. The host then transfers the new "guest host" to the show's producer so they can compose their question, which is presented at the start of Round 2. Fiber Optic Field Trips are triggered by receiving a Gibberish Question as the third or fourth question during Round 1, guaranteeing that either the seventh or eighth question will initiate a Field Trip.

Other Features

  • Don't Be a Wimp: This equalizing feature is activated during multiplayer games if any player gains a very large lead over the other competitors. If this feature is active and a question is passed on without a single buzz in, the host points out the lead player's score advantage, prompting the audience to shout "Don't Be a Wimp!" and forcing the lead player to answer the question.
  • Burned: The host may punish players that buzz in too quickly on multiple-choice questions by completely hiding the question itself, leaving the player with only ten seconds to type in their answer. The Burned feature is triggered by buzzing in at the very moment a question appears on-screen; this also prevents the player who buzzed in from using a Screw against other players. If the Burned player manages to answer the question correctly, the host expresses their disbelief but will still award the cash as usual.

Jack Attack

The final round of every game is the "Jack Attack," a word association game based on a particular theme which is provided as a clue prior to the start of the round. Players' total scores are hidden during this round.

A correct answer for the clue
A correct answer for the clue "A Match Made In Cartoonland"

Once the Jack Attack begins, a word, name or phrase is displayed in the center of the screen. Potential answer phrases are also shown one-at-a-time somewhere else on the screen, which quickly begin fading away before the next possible answer appears. Players can attempt to buzz in when two question and answer phrases matching the overall theme appear on-screen simultaneously; for example, if the clue is "nicknames" and the central question phrase is "New York City," then a correct match would be "Big Apple". Each successful match earns $2000, while incorrect answers subtract the same amount per buzz in.

The question phrases shown in the center will remain there for several seconds, slowly growing larger until either they are correctly matched with an answer phrase, or the game cycles through seven potential answers with no correct matches. There are a total of seven unique question phrases per Jack Attack, some of which may be repeated if not matched correctly on the first attempt.

The Jack Attack ends after either (A) all seven question phrases have been matched correctly, (B) seven to fourteen total question phrases (including repeats) have been displayed, and/or (C) all question phrases have been either matched or attempted twice. At the end of the round, each player's final score is revealed, and the player with the most cash wins the game.


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