Ticklish testgum: Why You Don’t Know Jack is the best Facebook game of 2012


It’s the Jack Attack segment, You Don’t Know Jack’s version of fastest finger first. The question “Tic-tac-toe” appears, asking me to match it with the correct answer. As I wait patiently for the right response (“match three in a row”, of course), the phrase “tick the tacs” flashes. Immediately, two of my friends buzz in with their answer, losing $1,000 each, and I am left laughing out loud in tears. Ah, the classic YDKJ trap question.

There are two types of Facebook games: the ones that force you to spam your friends with invites in order to make progress (I am talking about you, Sims Social), and the ones that make you come back every day in order to beat the daily high score (Robot Unicorn Attack). The Facebook version of YDKJ falls into the latter, and is a rare example of how a long-running retail franchise actually plays better on a social networking platform.

Let’s face it, how many of us have actually played a proper full-player match on the old retail versions of YDKJ? It’s logistically difficult to bring like-minded friends together at the same time to play an irreverent trivia game, and if you’re playing the console versions, not every gamer has enough controllers for everyone.

YDKJ for Facebook solves this problem with its clever use of asynchronous multiplayer, and by making the game much shorter. Each Facebook trivia episode is only five questions long, and can be completed in about five minutes. This new system has its pros and cons. The staple “screwing” feature of YDKJ (forcing an opponent to choose an answer), has been removed. In exchange, the “Gibberish Question” makes a return (previously impossible on the console versions), and the Jack Attack sequence now allows any number of players to obtain the correct answer.

Even if you can’t find enough friends, the game fills up the missing slots with credible AI opponents, which is a first for the series. It’s entirely possible to enjoy the Facebook game by yourself without any friends, but you will be missing out on one key aspect: gamesmanship. Want to brag about your high score to your friends? Share it on Facebook! The game even has a few achievements that deliberately require you to post your scores on each other’s walls.

A recent September update gives players an incentive to perform well: you can now earn game tokens based on your performance. These tokens can be used to purchase the aptly-named “performance enhancers” to boost your score during a match, as well as extra games. All players will automatically earn a free game each day, but if you want to play more than once per day, you need to purchase them with tokens. Free-to-play gamers can slowly build up their tokens through continuous play, while pay-to-play players can purchase a lump sum of tokens at one go. It’s a fair and balanced system that gives no clear advantage to paid players: they simply can play as many games as they want, whenever they want, but all content is still fully accessible to both F2P and P2P.

The Facebook platform also allows the developers, Jellyvision, to produce faster and smoother updates. About two to three new episodes are released each week, ensuring that even paid players will never run out of fresh content to play. Some of the new questions are based on recent current affairs events (eg. Snoop Lion, the London 2012 Olympics, Mitt Romney), which should be an incentive for everyone to always stay updated with the news.

YDKJ Facebook’s only drawbacks are its frequently America-biased questions. One particular Jack Attack requires you to match the names of American theme parks with their geographical locations AND American state codes. Seriously, these type of questions are impossible for non-Americans like myself to answer.

Still, this Facebook iteration of a beloved series is unquestionably its best version yet. True to its name, after each match I found myself frequently googling and searching Wikipedia for the answers to my failed questions. A game that is hilariously fun and entertaining, playable in short bursts, frequently updated, and actually makes you learn something? YDKJ isn’t just the best Facebook game of the year, it’s what a Facebook game should be.

You don’t know jack indeed.

If you have a Facebook account, you can start playing You Don’t Know Jack here. It’s free.

Author’s edit (26 September): Corrected some mistakes regarding the history of YDKJ’s features, and the maximum number of players for the older versions.

Have your say. Add your comments:

  • Kevin Schaller

    As much as I agree with your article, I would like to point out that when you’re talking about “old retail versions of YDKJ,” there are some factual errors in your piece (sorry, I’ve been playing the different incarnations since roughly 1996). First, the older retail versions only allowed three contestants per game, and was primarily a PC title (not reaching the PSOne until 1999/2000, and then not again until 2011). The “Wrong Answer Of The Game” came about with the retail release in 2011, though there were a flood of specialty questions beforehand that have not come back, such as “ThreeWay” and “Jack BINGO.”

    Maybe you didn’t get those versions though; I have no idea where exactly you’re writing from. But please make sure you’re checking some of the background of the games. This series has been kicking around (at least in the US) since 1995, which is plenty of time to become acquainted with announcers like Cookie, Smitty, Buzz, and the rest of the gang. Seriously, if you want to experience /everybody/ I’d check out “Volume 4: The Ride,” it’s a personal favorite. :-)

  • http://twitter.com/GamerCents Gamer Cents

    When the game was announced for consoles back in 2010 I HAD to get it for my 360. Even better, it would be compatible with my 4 remotes from Scene It?. It’s a favorite party game at our home for our parties. Definitely a great investment for party hosts. And the facebook game was genius.

  • Dan

    You said, “Even if you can’t find enough friends, the game fills up the missing
    slots with credible AI opponents, which is a first for the series.”

    I’m fairly certain they’re filled in with other people who played the game but aren’t your friends.

  • http://nogamenotalk.com GFoppy

    Thank you for the corrections. My memory of the earlier games are fuzzy and it is quite hard to fact-check them since I don’t have the discs any more. The only console version I played was the PS3 one released back in 2010. I remember playing the various PC versions sporadically over the years (including the 1995 original).

  • http://nogamenotalk.com GFoppy

    I have suspected this as well. Some of the wrong answers in the Jack Attacks are so damn hilarious that it seems like they were made by human players.