As countries around the world react to COVID-19, holing up and hiding from civilization has become the best thing we can do to slow the spread and ease the burden on our healthcare systems. But yeah, hanging out at home for days, and possibly weeks at a time? It's not going to be easy.
If you're like me and live alone, it's especially important to find outlets for socializing. Games can be a respite in this way, and I think The Jackbox Party Pack series is especially great for an unprecedented moment like this.
They're lovely bundles of accessible party games. Only one person needs to own the game and others can join in from any device with an internet browser, be it a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or another PC.
They're ideal for roping in people that don't play games at all. No one in my family even understands what my job is, but beg me to break out the Jackbox every holiday we're together. And even though we're miles and miles away from one another right now, with a little setup and instruction, I can have the whole crew drawing lewd pictures remotely in next to no time.
This is far from a definitive list of the best Jackbox Party Pack games. That debate would probably break the PC Gamer Slack channel. Think of this list as more of a primer, or an accessible starter pack for PC gamers to get non-gamer friends into the fun without much hassle.
If you don't own any of The Jackbox Party Packs, they tend to sell for $30 on most digital marketplaces, but I'll just use this space to call on Jackbox Games Inc. to put those suckers on sale. Do the right thing. It's your humanitarian duty to help as many people as possible make raunchy jokes with their tech illiterate parents from across the world.
How to stream Jackbox over Discord
Playing remotely is easy. You just need the Discord client installed locally. The rest is explained in great detail over on Discord's official support page, pictures and all. But it's really pretty simple. If you're in a voice or video channel and a game is running, you'll see a "Go Live" button in the bottom left of the Discord UI.
Participants only need to join the same room and click on the host's name. A prompt to view the livestream should pop up.
As someone that worked an IT help desk for five years, a simple explanation probably won't suffice for everyone you're hoping to rope into a game. You might need to help a few people install an app, either on a portable device or PC. Make sure everyone's set up and familiar with Discord by using a remote desktop assistance tool like TeamViewer.
Now, onto the best games to get started with:
Fibbage 3, Fibbage (Enough About You)
Fibbage is something like an inverse quiz game. Players are presented with an incomplete phrase or factoid and prompted to make up and answer that sounds legitimate, but is actually false.
The prompts then make the rounds to the rest of the players, who are tasked with guessing the real answer, the fake but legit sounding answer a snake in the grass. If the fib attracts some players, it's points to the fibber. Fibbage 3 gets our recommendation for the inclusion of the Enough About You mode, which makes all the prompts about the players themselves. Who knew lying through your teeth would be such a good way to get to know someone?
Drawful 2 might be the only Jackbox game you need. Everyone gets a ridiculous prompt, like "magic janitor" or "car with ears and feet" and then has a small window of time to draw something almost bound to be, well, awful. Drawful.
Players guess what they think each drawing is and then vote on what they think is the right answer. Points are awarded for the artist if people guess correctly, but points also go to other players if their guesses attracted more votes. It's a fast, absurd Pictionary remix and one of my favorite party games, period.
Players draw silly t-shirt graphics and come up with original slogans, only for each to get randomly matched with other player's graphics and slogans. Each round, players vote for their favorite combo until only one t-shirt stands. It's a great game for absurd mashups, where each player personalities gel and clash in some hilarious, disturbing ways. I'll never forget the t-shirt my mom and I inadvertently teamed up on. A desiccated corpse underlined by the heartwarming slogan, 'God is love."
Mad Verse City
Rap battle ad-libs. Everyone I play this with is universally awful at coming up with rhymes on the spot, which makes hearing the robots read them back to the crowd extremely awkward. Players vote on their favorite each round while the ad-libs get more freeform. It's very dumb, a great game for trying (poorly) to rib one another.
Split the Room
Players fill in half of a hypothetical question to make it as difficult to answer as possible, then show them to the room. Everyone quietly inputs their answer and the more evenly split the votes, the more points go to the question maker. Split the Room is a game about short-circuiting your friends' brains. It's a joy to witness, torture to take part in.
Trivia Murder Party 2
It's trivia with a murderous twist. Players answer trivia questions, but if they get any wrong, they're sent to the Killing Floor where they must fight to stay in the game by playing a random minigame. It creates waves of tension that tighten and go slack like any good murder mystery should.
Quiplash gives players absurd prompts (Something you'd be surprised to see a donkey do) and give as silly or earnest an answer as they like. It's a competition to see who can be the most clever and funny of the bunch, with players voting on the answers that they like best.