Jackbox Games

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Jackbox Games

Jackbox Games or the Jackbox Party Pack is an online game that is available on many different platforms, the most notable being Steam. Jackbox Games heavily relies on audience participation, making it a great choice for any party game. In essence, it’s a conglomeration of several different mini-games in which players might work together or work against each other to achieve a specific goal. Only one person needs to have the game, and they can project it onto a screen that everyone looks at; all other players can participate in the game by going onto the site jackbox.tv on their mobile devices and typing in the unique room code displayed on the common screen. In a way, Jackbox Games is akin to the modern version of the BBS. There is one centralized location that one host takes care of, and players can “dial in” to engage with others.

Because of the virtual format and the accessibility, Jackbox Games especially flourished during the time of the pandemic and provided the much-needed social interaction everybody craved when they were stuck inside their homes. Brooke Hofer, the vice-president of marketing, commented that “We exceeded our total 2019 [player] numbers in the months of March to June 2020 alone.” 

People Playing Jackbox Games <Business Insider>

Circuit of Culture

The circuit of culture, as Paul du Gay describes it, is a tool to analyze how a certain artifact is used within the context of its broader culture. To fully interpret this, we must look at it through many different perspectives, including consumption, identity, representation, production, and regulation. By analyzing each of these components, we can analyze the producer’s intentions behind marketing a specific site, text, practice, or object and what impact that may have on the audience or the consumer.

These components of the circuit of cultures, as du Gay defines them, can be found in an analysis of Jackbox Games. 


First of all, we will analyze the form consumption takes in Jackbox Games within the circuit of culture. Consumption describes the ways that the audiences use the product. Consumption doesn’t stop with the consumer’s decision in buying the product. Rather, the ways and reasons the consumer interacts with the product are just as important in fully analyzing the consumption of the product. Jackbox Games enhanced the consumption of their product by making the games accessible through a mobile device and by providing so many different avenues for an audience to engage on a broader scale.

To begin, let’s analyze their decision to make the game accessible through a website on a mobile phone. Even as simple as the decision may appear by today’s standard, it was an incredibly monumental one during its creation. Around 2014, when the company was about to collapse, the cell-phone angle was finally implemented. During this time, people were just getting comfortable with their cell-phones, so this decision definitely saved the company. On top of that, there was a recent change in regular video-game consoles in which they could now be connected to the internet, and cell-phones followed suit, allowing players to connect to the games via only a bowser. Having to download an app could deter a lot of casual gamers as it is, so the fact that there only needs to be one host of the game with everybody else only having to log onto the short url Jackbox.tv makes the consumption of this product so much more efficient and accessible. Think about it: nowadays, people already carry their phones everywhere they go, so having the ability to play the game from your phone eliminates a lot of the unnecessary responsibility to engage with the product.


Furthermore, there is also an option for audience members to play while watching their favorite live streamers play Jackbox Games, again expanding the ways in which the consumers could engage with the project. Jackbox provides an feature for all the audience members to join as one entity after the game has started, and this feature could house up to 100,000 members. The audience members could then vote collectively for certain options or answers that could dictate a part of the game, as if they were one real player. While these games were meant to be played on a more intimate level, with people that you could build a deeper connection with, they also provide a way for the public streamer to form a connection with the audience. Most times, when a streamer goes live on a platform like Twitch, the stream could often feel one-sided and disconnected. So, Twitch streamers are constantly trying to find ways for the audience to be more engaged with the content. This paper by Joseph Seering et al. explores the phenomenon of audience participation games and states that they “challenge traditional assumptions about gameplay by blurring the line between audience and player, allowing audience members to impact gameplay in a meaningful way.” Jackbox Games perfectly fits within this definition of the audience participation game and is able to blur the line between the Twitch streamers playing the game and the audience members watching. Thus, the one-sidedness of the Twitch stream is lessened and the audience would feel more hesitant to turn away because now they feel more of a “responsibility” in the stream. Therefore, Twitch streamers would want to use Jackbox Games more for heightened audience engagement, and the audience members would also be more inclined to get the games themselves, after watching the game being framed in such a positive light by their favorite streamers. Overall, this leads to a broader and more efficient form of consumption of Jackbox Games. 

Streamers Play Jackbox Games <Twitter>


Identity is the consumer implementing a
certain meaning with the product. Because of this, there is now a connection
between buyer and the product. It is not about the way the product embodies the
broader population, but in the case of the circuit of culture, identity is
about the personal connections the consumer ties with the product.

Because people often view video games as a form of escapism, it’s easy to argue that
video games socially isolate the player and diminish the spaces for genuine
social connection. However, this is not always the case, and Jackbox Games is able
to form the identity for a strong social community with anybody you play it
with. Jackbox Games utilizes what David Antognoli defines as the “bar trivia
format” in his essay. According to Antognoli, the
bar trivia format is “an effective format for video games in community spaces,”
and “the essential elements of this format are distributed interfaces for participants
and a centralized communal output source for facilitating the game.” Therefore,
there is a portable nature in Jackbox Games in that it is able to create that
strong community space wherever it is played. Amanda Farough’s and Rachel Kowert’s paper seems to agree with with this
idea because Jackbox Games is under their category of a video game that creates
a “third place,” or “a space that is ‘neither for work nor home but rather
informal social life.’” They state that “it is the new shared playground space,
accessible nearly ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere…’” We can relate this to the
nature of Jackbox Games in that there is already that accessibility of the game
“anytime, anyplace, anywhere,” and it has the ability to create that third
place to foster deeper social connection when it is played. In essence, it is
not about the specific circumstance in which Jackbox Games is used, rather it
has the ability to create an identity of a strong community space at any point
it is played. It doesn’t matter when or where, the players can always expect to
develop deeper connections with others once they open the first game.  Also, whenever they come back to the game, they
remember their happy experiences laughing with the people they played it with,
again exemplifying the identity of the social bond Jackbox Games creates. 


is how the product’s meaning and purpose is relayed onto the consumer. It is
different from identity because it is no longer tied to just the individual or
group identity anymore but extended to reveal the corporate and consumer intentions
behind the product which is reflected in their representation of the product.

As previously
stated, Jackbox Games allows its players to form tighter social bonds, but how
exactly does the game represent its content in such a way to do this
successfully? First of all, Jackbox Games usually allow for players to select
their own personal avatars when they enter the game. These avatars don’t
necessarily resemble humans, like the geometric shapes in Quiplash for
example, yet every avatar is completely unique from the others. This allows the
players to preserve their own individuality when entering an augmented
community space. In essence, Jackbox represents individuality through this
simple choice of choosing your avatar (or even drawing your own avatar like in
Drawful), which also allows for greater immersion into the community space the
game creates.

Jackbox Games represents most of its games with a single goal with the journey
being more complex and variable. By doing so, all players could have something
to agree on ultimately, however Jackbox Games intends for the the players to
build deeper social connections by representing a complicated journey for them
to do so. The goal of a particular game may always remain the same, but the
process it takes to reach the goal would always change depending on the people.
Therefore, through this shared experience, stronger social bonds would form. Whitney C Blackburn-lynch and
Matthew Sleep

provide a case study in the effects of the game Bomb Corp, in which
players must work together to defuse a bomb through changing clues and
difficulty levels. Students who played this game learned valuable experiences
“of working in a team and the value of communication to solve these puzzles.”

Ultimately, because of the games’ intention to create these stronger social bonds, Jackbox Games is more applicable to so many situations, whether it be in the classroom or in a corporate team. In a post made on the official Jackbox Games website, Belia Portillo provides a guide on how to adapt Jackbox Games to a campus event. She emphasizes hwo the games could be adaptable across multiple different platforms (remote or in person) and accessible to even a large group of people. No matter the format, the content of the game would still be effective and be able to foster the strong social connections, especially in organizations like fraternities or sororities that appeal directly to an assumed large subset of the audience. With more applicable areas, the success of Jackbox Games can only grow. 

Quiplash Avatar Icons <Jackbox Games>


Production is exactly the method in how the product is put toward of given to the audience and how that can lead to efficient consumerism. 

Jackbox Games has an effective means of production that keeps consumers interested enough in their party packs to continue buying the next one. With every Party Pack, there is a selection of new games with unique concepts, however there are also continuations of previous games found in other party packs. For example, there is an original Fibbage but also a Fibbage 2 and a recent Fibbage 3 that just came out. These later versions have minor changes, but the core of the game is still the same. Therefore, the game producers/ developers aren’t overburdened with creating too many fresh games, and they have the option to recycle and revamp preexisting games to still fill the minimum of the Party Pack. 

Also, another factor contributing to the longevity of the Jackbox Games production is its remote nature. Because Jackbox Games produces the games in a way that they could be played online, Jackbox Games have survived the age of the pandemic and social distancing. During the time of social isolation, people often turned to video games or online means for social interaction with others. Because Jackbox Games has this identity to create community spaces and foster deeper social connections, as previously discussed, people turned to this game in particular. In fact, according to this Washington Post Article, many changes had to be made to the production to account for the large surge of players because of the pandemic. Jackbox had to “seek a new hosting service for its site because it was crashing from the increase in visitors.” So, the company had to make quick changes to fix bugs and stabilize the infrastructure of their games. However, because of that experience, Jackbox Games is very secure in their production of fresh games every year that can exist in an online or offline format. 

Fibbage, Fibbage 2, Fibbage 3 <Jackbox Games>


There are certain rules in the distribution of the product that must be upheld to ensure longevity of the product. After all, a close connection of the consumer to the product would not be possible without a careful distribution of the product. Therefore, there must be insightful regulation of the distribution of the product to ensure that it is received correctly.

Because of the popularity of Jackbox Games among families and Twitch streamers, the content needs to be monitored constantly to make sure a family-friendly rating is constantly upheld. Though, usually, the games within the Party Packs have content that is up to the player to complete. Thus, the regulation of the content is usually in the power of the player. For example, in the game Quiplash, players can fill in their own answers to the prompts shown in the game, so they could put in virtually anything, no matter the family-friendly nature of it. However, there are options in the settings for a family-friendly content filtering and manual censoring. According to a blog post from the official Jackbox Games website, this is especially useful for streamers to protect their chat from “internet trolls” and “unwanted invaders.” When the family-friendly filter is toggled on, suggestive prompts are taken out of the game and a rating of E10+ (Everyone 10+) is put onto the game. Therefore, even though a lot of the content regulation is usually up to the players, there are stricter content regulation options that Jackbox Games provide for a more family-friendly audience. 

Quiplash Gameplay <Steam>


Like the BBS, Jackbox Games greatly transformed the social scene and formed a strong social community and even when the people cannot see the others in front of them. Also, like the BBS, Jackbox Games touch all aspects of the circuit culture through aspects like its accessibility, virtual format, content regulation, etc. However, hopefully unlike the BBS, it doesn’t die out anytime soon, and it would remain on the party game scene for the years to come!


Image References:

Content References:

1.      Antognoli, David. “Reconceptualizing Video Games for Community Spaces.” Essay. In Augmented and Mixed Reality for Communities, 165–80. Chicago, Illinois: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2021.

2.      Blackburn-lynch, Whitney C, and Matthew Sleep. “Creation and Implementation of Mental Wellness Initiatives in First-Year Engineering with Faculty Development.” In Slayte. Minneapolis: American Society for Engineering Education, 2022. http://www.slayte.com/.

3.      Favis, Elise. “Playing Remotely: The Massive Success of Jackbox Games during the Pandemic.” The Washington Post. WP Company, August 18, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/08/14/playing-remotely-massive-success-jackbox-games-during-pandemic/.

4.      Farough, Amanda, and Rachel Kowert. 2022. “Digital Playgrounds: Our Kids & Video Games”. Carnegie Mellon University. https://doi.org/10.1184/R1/21388569.v1.

5.      Gardner, Matt. “Jackbox Games Brings the Party Back–and This Time, It’s Global.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, September 19, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattgardner1/2022/09/16/jackbox-games-brings-the-party-backand-this-time-its-global/.

6.      Meslow, Scott. “How Jackbox Changed the Party Game Forever.” GQ. GQ, October 17, 2018. https://www.gq.com/story/how-jackbox-changed-the-party-game-forever.

7.      Portillo, Belia. “How to Keep Your Stream Safe While Playing Jackbox Games.” Jackbox Games. Jackbox Games, February 8, 2021. https://www.jackboxgames.com/how-to-keep-your-stream-safe-while-playing-jackbox-games/.

8.      Portillo, Belia. “Jackbox Party Game Night at Your College or University.” Jackbox Games. Jackbox Games, November 16, 2020. https://www.jackboxgames.com/jackbox-party-game-night-at-your-college-or-university/.

9.      Seering, Joseph, Saiph Savage, Michael Eagle, Joshua Churchin, Rachel Moeller, Jeffrey P. Bigham, and Jessica Hammer. “Audience Participation Games.” Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1145/3064663.3064732.

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