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."
The You Don't Know Jack series is a trivia game, but with questions delivered in a way where "high culture and pop culture collide!" In other words, instead of asking questions and answers in a straight forward manner, they are asked in a roundabout sense that ties in a completely unrelated subject to mask the original question and answers. Players that are right gain money; those that are wrong lose money.
Early games in the series allowed players to choose from three categories, with each question being a different monetary value. Some games functioned more linearly and had episodes that play preset questions one after the other. You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream is unique in that it uses the linear format, but the questions are usually randomized save for a few instances.
Most games also have a "Screw Your Neighbor" feature, where-in a player can "screw" one of the other players and force them to answer the question, even if they don't know the answer. Some games have slight variations on this, such as You Don't Know Jack Volume 4: The Ride allowing players to fire screws into the screen and obscure the question and answers, and Full Stream changing the screw functions entirely to affect everyone - including the audience.
There have been a few consistent rounds and round types that have appeared across multiple games in the series. These range from Dis Or Dat, where you categorize items into two seemingly unrelated groups; and the Gibberish Question, where a nonsense phrase is read out that rhymes with something more well known and players have to guess it.
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- Anagram Questions: These exist only in 5th Dementia and The Lost Gold, and follow the same rules as the Gibberish Questions; however, instead of trying to figure out a rhyme, players must rearrange the letters given into a saying, name, or another group (as in the famous example of "genuine class" being an anagram of "Alec Guinness"). Unlike in other question types requiring a typed-in answer, the answer to an Anagram Question must be spelled exactly right to win the money. This type of question has appeared in the Facebook version, as well, with the difference being the players are given four choices.
- HeadButt: Only existing in HeadRush, these also follow the rules of the Gibberish Questions. Players are given a word equation such as "color of pickles + opposite of night" and have to put it together to form a name or other group (in this case, the colour of pickles is "Green", and the opposite of night is "Day", so the answer would be "Green Day").
- Fibre Optic Field Trip: These only exist in Vol.1, Sports, Vol.2, and Movies, and only appear in full-length (21-question) games. A random person is called from out of the phonebook and asked to come up with a trivia question. Fibre Optic Field Trips are initiated during the first half of the game, and the trivia question hosted by the special guest is the first question of the second half.
- Celebrity Collect Call: These exist in Vol.2 only and follow the same basic format as the Fiber Optic Field Trips. The host calls a celebrity who is asked to come up with a question. Celebrities include Tim Allen, Florence Henderson, and Vanessa L. Williams. Sometimes, the conversation between the host and the celebrity lasts a very long time.
- Pub Quiz: This replaces the Fiber Optic Field Trips and Celebrity Collect Calls in the British edition of the game. Instead of calling a random person in a city, the host calls a bartender in a random pub within the UK to host the question.
- Trash Talkin' with Milan: Only existing in HeadRush, "Milan the Janitor" (voiced by Igor Gasowski) hosts a standard multiple choice question about grammar.
- Bug Out: This exists only in 5th Dementia. The goal is simple: Bugs will crawl and display a choice. When you see a choice that does not match the clue, buzz in. In a multiplayer match, if you are right, your opponents pay you money, but if you are wrong, you pay your opponents.
- Fill in the Blank: Instead of having four answers to choose from, you have to type the answer out.
- Sequel Question: Some questions have questions that refer to them and are guaranteed to appear immediately after them. When this happens, all three selectable categories will refer to the sequel question. In The Ride, 5th Dementia, Mock 2, You Don't Know Jack 2011, iOS, Ouya, Party, and You Don't Know Jack 2015 all questions are arranged into 'episodes' whose questions always appear in the same order. This allows for a question to refer to any previous question, and for running jokes to be made. In You Don't Know Jack 2011 as the question sets are set into episodes, you will get questions that are 20 or 30 questions after the first. ('A Harp out of Harp' related to Cookie's party episode.) In Full Stream, there are also Sequel Questions, most notably in a series of questions with a "Special Guest" (see Guest Host Question below).
- Pissed About A Question: A special kind of sequel question. This exists in both Offline volumes. Jellyvision creates new questions about angry letters they have received from irritated players. Each of these questions is based upon a letter from a viewer who complained about the previous question.
- ThreeWay: Found only in Vol.3 and the first PlayStation version. Players are given three words that have something in common (for example solid, liquid, and gas) and several clues that only relate to one of the words (for example, "______ Plumr"). Players must match the clues to the proper words. The possible answers flash up on the screen, and the player must buzz in when the correct answer appears (in this case, "liquid").
- Wendithap'n: This exists in Louder! Faster! Funnier!, Mock 2, The Lost Gold and its German version; You Don't Know Jack VOL.4 (as Wann War Was?) and it follows the same rules as the ThreeWay. The player is given an event (either in pop culture history, or in sequence order) and must decide if several other events occurred before it, after it, or never occurred at all.
- Guest Host Question: Someone else hosts and gives a question. Only appearing in Vol. 3, The Ride & Full Stream, the last of these as a "Special Guest" Question with Jimmy Fallon (which bleeds over into the rest of that particular game).
- Impossible Questions: Only appearing in Vol. 3 and the first PlayStation version, Impossible Questions are worth very large amounts of money, but as the name implies, they are almost always very, very difficult. An example of an Impossible Question is one which asks the players what colour eyes the bald guy has on the box of You Don't Know Jack Sports, the number of years between the invention of the can and that of the first practical can opener within a two-year range (high or low), what number between one and nine Cookie is thinking of, or what the third word is in the third scene in the third act of Richard III. In a case of double-bluffing, one question, 'What has four legs, a tail, and barks?', has the category 'It's a Dog!' and the answer 'a dog'. The Lost Gold had a variation of this question as well, not formally named and consisting of Pirate-oriented questions, for example, "What was the name of Blackbeard's Parrot?" This was connected to the game's plot - as explained in the game's introduction, a pirate has been cursed to haunt the game until its players accrue enough 'booty'. The pirate has thus secretly arranged the pirate-themed questions, which he believes are still common knowledge, in an attempt to speed up the process, not realizing how obscure and archaic his knowledge has become.
- Super Audio Question: A sound will play, and the player is asked a question about it.
- Whatshisname Question: In this question, the host is trying to remember a certain name. A clue is provided every few seconds, and the players must buzz in and type the name. In HeadRush, this question type is known as Old Man's Moldy Memories and in You Don't Know Jack 2015 as Foggy Facts with Old Man both featuring the character of "Old Man", voiced by Andy Poland in which he hosts the question.
- Picture Question: Similar to the Super Audio Question, but based on a picture rather than a sound.
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.
The You Don't Know Jack series is consistently presented in a game-show format. This is most evident in how the sign-in process is presented as a green room, with the only graphics being a large "On Air/Stand By" sign. Numerous crew members, including the host, can be heard in the background during the sign-in process talking among themselves, performing singing rehearsals, of just abusing each other. Sometimes, if a player waits around long enough, they would start playing satirical parodies of commercials that often promote a ridiculous product, such as scented suppositories or foreign language cassettes to help you learn how to speak American.
Throughout its lifespan, the show has been sponsored by strange and often ridiculous companies, with equally bizarre products or services. Initially, these sponsors served little purpose other than for comedy effect, but starting with You Don't Know Jack 2011, they began sponsoring the 'Wrong Answer of the Game.' If a player correctly identifies a wrong answer that relates to the sponsor, they will "win" a ridiculous prize associated with that company, along with bonus cash that goes to their score.
In You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream, the show is partnered with the streaming service Binjpipe. However, given the implications made by the 'Escape the Simulation' episode, it is possible that the show is all a fabrication created by Binjpipe for Cookie Masterson to host.
The final round of the game is called the Jack Attack. A word or phrase will appear in the middle of the screen, and multiple answers will appear one after the other for a brief moment. When a player sees an answer associated with the given word or phrase, they buzz in and either earn money if they are right or lose money if they are wrong. Answers usually follow a specific rule - or clue - as determined either by the player if they had the option of the game otherwise. For example, the clue might "Hail To The Chef" and the associated word is Hell's Kitchen; therefore, the correct answer could be Gordan Ramsay.
Once the Jack Attack is complete, the final scores are shown. The player with the most money is declared the winner... Even if-
YOU DON'T KNOW JACK!
In a number of You Don't Know Jack games, there are several Easter Eggs that carry over and are expanded upon each time.
One of the most common and popular Easter Eggs in the series is the Gibberish Question Easter Egg, also known as the "Fuck You" Easter Egg. Starting from the first game, if a player types in "fuck you" ("fuck off" in some regions) at certain points of a game - generally during a Gibberish Question - the game will swear back at the player and punish them. In a game of three players, this means it can be done up to three times in a row with different effects each time. The exact results for each iteration of this Easter Egg have stayed largely consistent over the years, but the 'story' to each Easter Egg has been expanded upon and exaggerated for more hilarious results.
The first player to trigger the Easter Egg will have a LOT of money taken away from them (usually $150,000 but the amount can vary) and their name changed; the second player won't receive anything instead being told that it's "not original;" the third player will cause the host to shut the game down. Additionally, players can mash the keys to receive extra dialogue; usually the host telling the player off for doing so.
In most instances, there isn't much to the Easter Egg other than the hosts showing their disappointment at the player for swearing at them. You Don't Know Jack Vol.2 is largely the same, except Old Man steps in to take over from Buzz. Old Man appears again in Movies, TV and Vol.3 though largely just to be a nuisance to the hosts. Later games introduce other characters to take part and have comically expanded upon stories behind them, such as Headrush featuring Abraham Lincoln and a goat.
Lost Gold is the first game in the series to do something different; both the first and second players have random large amounts of money taken away from them - with the first player still having their name changed, while the third player causes a "mini-game" to appear called 'Gorilla Hunter.' This mini-game cannot be beaten as there are no targets and no way to reload your ammo, effectively soft-locking the game.
In You Don't Know Jack 2015, upon entering the game with the name "Fuck You", Cookie will change the players name before telling them off. The first time a player does this, they have $1,000 taken away before play starts; the second time, they have $50,001 taken away - although this amount doesn't carry over into actual play. On the third and all subsequent times after that, a screen showing a goat will appear, effectively ending the game before it has even started. In all instances, however, Cookie will still change their name.
Full Stream is the first game to not feature any punishment; instead giving the player a description of the Easter Egg's history on their phone/tablet. This description also includes a link to an unlisted YouTube video that serves much the same purpose but with the "Wrong Answer of the Game" chicken in the background, which ends up exploding at the end. If the player enters their name as "Fuck You," it will be changed to something else prior to the game starting.
Later entries in the series began adding in unique reactions for either the host or sign-in host to say upon a player entering a specific name. Most games from You Don't Know Jack 2011 onward feature Cookie acknowledging some pretty unassuming names, such as Gavin. There are also a few specific ones, such as "Fard" (pronounced foh-rahd), a long time fan of the You Don't Know Jack series that even worked on the Facebook version. Another is "Cookie" - an obvious nod to the host, Cookie Masterson. All of these name references only ever play once, however.
In both The Ride and You Don't Know Jack 2011, an extension of the above-mentioned "Fuck You" Easter Egg can be triggered when entering your name. In The Ride, the sign-in host will kick you out of the game instantly before it has even started. In 2011, they will instead show their disapproval of the name before changing it. Additionally, some sign-in hosts will also acknowledge a player's name and/or mock it; or if a player takes too long to create one they will give the player a name on their behalf. In most You Don't Know Jack games, using the name "Jack" will trigger a special intro where in You Don't Know jack 2015, the host will tell you about how long they have been waiting for this to happen, and then proceed to put out a weird noise they were keeping secret.
Starting from You Don't Know Jack Vol. 2, on certain days or at certain times, the sign-in host will mention the time of day or the special holiday if you are playing on that specific day... and then sometimes grumble about the game being played at that time or on that day. These usually vary from something simple like a Saturday night to more specific days, such as April Fools Day, American Thanksgiving and President's Day.
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The series has had a variety of hosts over the years. Each host is remarked for their fast and witty sense of humor and their ability to mock players for doing badly.
- Nate Shapiro - known as the original You Don't Know Jack host; cousin of Buzz
- Buzz Lippman - known as the host of You Don't Know Jack Vol. 2; cousin of Nate
- Guy Towers - known as the host of You Don't Know Jack Sports
- Cookie Masterson - originally the sign-in host, became a main host starting with You Don't Know Jack Movies; the most recognized host in the series
- Josh "Schmitty" Schmitstinstein - started hosting with You Don't Know Jack TV and has hosted the second most amount of games behind Cookie; became a sponsor announcer starting with You Don't Know Jack 2011
- Bob - known as the host of Headrush.
Aside from the hosts, there is a whole cast of crew members that work behind the scenes. Though not all of them are known to be helpful.
- Helen - one of the lead producers; has been present in just about every game of the series
- Bob - one of the producers; not to be confused with the host of Headrush
- Old Man - first appeared in You Don't Know Jack Vol. 2, an old man that more often than not causes trouble for the hosts
- Sandy - the sign in-host for You Don't Know Jack Louder! Faster! Funnier!
- Donny - the sign in-host for You Don't Know Jack 2011; speaks in a warped version of English with over-extended words
- Pirate - the sign-in host for You Don't Know Jack Vol. 6: The Lost Gold; he is cursed to remain within the game unless the player/s can amass $1,000,000 in total.
Listed below are the major releases in the You Don't Know Jack series:
- You Don't Know Jack Volume 1 - the original high-culture meets pop-culture trivia game; hosted by Nate Shapiro
- You Don't Know Jack Sports - a game themed around sports trivia; hosted by Guy Towers
- You Don't Know Jack Volume 2 – the general knowledge sequel to the first game; hosted by Buzz Lippman
- You Don't Know Jack the NetShow – 1996-2000
- You Don't Know Jack Movies – a game themed around movies; hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack Television – a game themed around television; hosted by Schmitty
- You Don't Know Jack Volume 3 – the third general knowledge installment; hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack Headrush – a teenager spin-off title; hosted by a one-off host named Bob
- You Don't Know Jack Volume 4: The Ride – the fourth general knowledge installment, now featuring themed episodes; hosted by Nate, Buzz, Guy, Cookie and Schmitty
- You Don't Know Jack Offline – a disk-based version of the NetShow from 1996-2000; hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack (PlayStation) - a PlayStation release of the game from 1996, featuring questions from Volume 3, Movies & Offline; hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack Louder! Faster! Funnier! - hosted by Schmitty
- You Don't Know Jack 5th Dementia - the first version of the game to feature online functionality; hosted by Schmitty
- You Don't Know Jack Mock 2 – the second PlayStation game, set in a galaxy themed dimension with questions from The Ride, Louder! Faster! Funnier!, & 5th Dementia; hosted by Schmitty
- You Don't Know Jack Volume 6: "The Lost Gold" – the sixth general knowledge installment, set in a strange dimension and with the goal to make enough money to free the pirate trapped inside; hosted by Schmitty
- You Don't Know Jack 2007-2008 (Online beta game on the You Don't Know Jack website) – 2007–2008
- You Don't Know Jack 2011 – a version released for PS3, X-Box 360, Wii and PC, this format would be re-used for later iOS and Facebook versions of the game; all versions hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack Facebook - An online version featuring online play, in-game currency, and the ability to play online with users of both this game and the IOS game. Shut down on 2015
- You Don’t Know Jack (iOS) - Paid Mobile Version of YDKJ. Both have been shut down since 2015 and are not playable on IOS 11+
- You Don't Know Jack 2015 - an evolved version of the 2011 game, part of The Jackbox Party Pack; hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack: Full Stream - a version available in The Jackbox Party Pack 5; hosted by Cookie Masterson
- You Don't Know Jack tabletop edition (from Tiger Electronics) – 1998
- You Don't Know Jack (Game Show) – Real show that aired on ABC – 2001
- You Don't Know Jack Party – Controller on the phone to play YDKJ 2011 – 2013
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- The game has it's very own Twitter!
- In You Dont Know Jack 2011, Question 4our has it's own story. in summary, 4 gets shot, and is replaced with an f, making it four. In addition, the next YDKJ game, You Don't Know Jack 2015, the question segues have a ghost 4our, and an easter egg that shows 4our's dead body floating above a river.