The Return of You Don't Know Jack

If you grew up in the '90s, chances are you played a computer trivia game called You Don't Know Jack. It was published by the guys behind the ubiquitous flying toaster screensavers that now grace VH1 specials, featured practically no graphics whatsoever, but because of its wiseass humor and fast pace, it and its many sequels were among the most fun, most popular, and most-loved games of the decade. Well, now it's back.

The first YDKJ emerged in 1995, and it became a multimedia sensation: they released dozens of expansion packs and sequels, CDs of fake commercials from the games, a multiplayer online game, and even expanded to a television show starring Paul Reubens (the man behind Pee Wee Herman). However, the TV show didn't last long, the net game ended after the crash of the tech bubble and contraction of many tech companies, and the game itself lost steam, perhaps due to overexposure, perhaps because it was no longer the '90s and graphic-free snark simply didn't have the same appeal.

Now, toward the end of the 2000s, it is making its return. Maybe it's nostalgia or maybe it's just the world coming to its senses, but its time seems to have come again. Ten months ago, the makers of You Don't Know Jack began running daily "DisOrDats", and three months later they began weekly mini-episodes with all the classic smarm and snark they ever had. Billing itself as "The Game Where High Culture and Pop Culture Collide," You Don't Know Jack's questions are general trivia translated with a pop sneer:

"If 50 Cent was actually worth 50 cents when he was born in 1975, adjusting roughly for inflation, what would his name be today?"

"What do Hester Prynne and Captain America have in common?"

"Suppose Ozzy Osbourne had been organized enough earlier in his career to keep a written agenda. Which phrase would best complete this entry? 'February 19th 1982: Pick up dry cleaning, ___ the Alamo.'"

"Which other character from Spongebob Squarepants could join Spongebob in the do-it-yourself reproduction department?"

"According to Dante's Inferno, which level of hell will David Blaine end up in?"

(Answers: $1.87, they both wear the letter A, urinate on, Patrick the starfish, the 8th)

It's frankly pretty hilarious. The gag writing is at a professional level -- far, far higher than that of the SNL season opener, which I wish to God I hadn't watched -- the questions and their multiple-choice answers are very well-written, and it's an insanely diverting way to spend a bit of time. Sadly, there is no multiplayer option yet, but rumors are that the online games will be adding new features soon, so I'm still hoping that the game will evolve back into an online multiplayer arena. Speaking from personal experience, American workplace productivity from April through February is still unacceptably high; in all times of the year that don't involve March Madness pools people tend to sit at their desks and actually occasionally get work done in the middle of the day.

With a little luck and a little help from our friends at You Don't Know Jack, there's an excellent chance that could change. The thought makes me giggle with glee.