Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
How You Don’t Know Jack Relieved My Depression
I’m a massive gameshow fan, have been since I was very young. At least part of the reason for that is because I’m a big trivia nerd. It probably comes from watching Jeopardy with my father growing up. My old man seemed to know just about everything, and I often tried to get the correct question myself. I also developed quite a sense of humor, which I don’t think Jeopardy had much to do with.
Between my love of trivia and comedy, I don’t think it surprised anyone that I took to You Don’t Know Jack like China takes to copyright infringement. I absolutely loved You Don’t Know Jack XL. I’m pretty sure I’ve played through every single question, enjoying Nate’s smooth sarcastic delivery on our Fiber Optic Field Trips even as he insulted me, my ancestors, and any possible progeny I might have. Playing with my friends was often a hilarious misadventure, doing our best to break the game, only to find that the minds at Jellyvision had already thought of that. PROTIP: Don’t be rude to Nate during a Gibberish Question.
Sequel after sequel came out, and I simply could not get my hands on them fast enough. I’d frequently blow through every question in the games in less than a month. Buzz was initially annoying in Volume 2, but he grew on me, and the invention of the Dis-or-Dat was one of the best things to happen with the franchise. I had great fun with Guy in YDKJ Sports, even though that’s my WORST subject ever, and rocked the house with Schmitty and Cookie in YDKJ TV and YDKJ Movies, respectively. Volume 3 brought Cookie to the forefront and confronted players with Impossible Questions even as it enticed them into Three-Ways.
Volume 4: The Ride is considered among my friends to be the best You Don’t Know Jack game yet made, with the widest variety of minigames, themed games, multiple hosts, and an ultimate goal: reach the bottom. The 5th Dementia added online play for the first time, Headrush was a version of the game aimed at teens, YDKJ Offline compiled all the great episodes from the brilliant online YDKJ Netshow, and YDKJ Louder, Faster Funnier contained even more Netshow questiony goodness. Volume 6: The Lost Gold was disappointingly short, but by this point, it seemed like YDKJ was over. The YDKJ TV show, while still being awesome despite or possibly because it was hosted by Pee Wee Herman, horrendously flopped, only airing six episodes.
There was a brief resurgence as an online game before Jellyvision released another full You Don’t Know Jack game, this time for major consoles as well as PC. And You Don’t Know Jack appears to be back in the swing of things again, having released a popular Facebook version, and they’re working on iOS and Android versions of the game now.
And I still play all of my old copies of these games from time to time, even though over the years it has gotten progressively harder to do so – it is damn near impossible to get YDKJ Sports or The 5th Dementia working without an old computer running Windows 98 or enough computer skill to install, setup, configure, and run a virtual machine on your computer. But I figure it’s a small price to pay to enjoy some of the greatest trivia games ever made.
And thank heaven I can still play them, because for whatever reason, whenever I’m depressed, I find myself jonesing to play those old You Don’t Know Jack games again.
Over Christmas, I somehow managed to injure my back, to the point where I have to walk hunched over all the time, and sleeping is very, very difficult. And I’ve been forced to put up with it for almost three months now, because my health insurance is a joke, and in our country, you have to be wealthy to be able to afford health care without it. I make too much money to qualify for government assistance, and not enough money to be able to get health care. Ain’t that a bitch.
And yeah, I’ve been depressed about it. There isn’t much joy to be found in trying to convince your new co-workers you’re competent and skilled when you walk around like Igor all day. I’ve been kind of out of control lately, doing things I will only describe here as extremely out-of-character for me, and I’ve even managed to alienate a dear friend.
And through it all, the urge to play You Don’t Know Jack has been overwhelming. Even when playing other games for assignments here on Leviathyn, I’ve taken 30-minute or hour breaks to play a few rounds of The Ride or Offline. There’s something about it that’s comforting and uplifting, despite all the game’s attempts to be otherwise. Proving that my mind and memory are still as sharp as ever, combined with laughter being the best medicine, seems to concoct a brew that makes me feel better about myself and my troubles.
But more than that, there’s one moment that recently stuck with me. In the later games where Schmitty hosts, like 5th Dementia and Louder, Faster, Funnier, Schmitty, played by Phil Ridarelli, will often preface the question by simply saying, “Forward. March.”
And I started thinking that was a brilliant motivational phrase. I can’t sit here feeling sorry for myself, I have to keep moving forward. Fix the problem instead of just dwelling on it or worrying about it. Chin up. Eyes locked. Forward. March.
While I haven’t made any headway finding a way to fix my back problems, my attitude has improved tremendously. I post that simple, two-word phrase to my Facebook and Twitter just about every other day as a reminder that I can’t stop my forward momentum. I have to keep going because it’s the only way to make things better.
It probably wasn’t Jellyvision’s intention for that phrase to have that effect, they just wanted a clever way to say “here comes the question.” And they likely never intended the game to be therapeutic, either, that’s just a lucky bonus.
But it is DEFINITELY Jellyvision’s fault that I can only hear that phrase in Schmitty’s voice.