Decided to write this article after the lockdown extension, as it’s a pretty good social relief without anyone having to leave their homes. This article will assume you’re not tech savvy and will detail the process to make it work.
Social gaming for all ages for an unsociable environment.
$5-$210, low end for patient bargain-hunters, high end for impulse collectors.
Low for the IT savvy, medium for others
Over the lockdown, I’ve run a few gaming sessions playing Jackbox and they each went very well, drawing in both gamers and people who had never played a computer game in their life.
After the lockdown was extended, I decided it would be good to gather my thoughts and process so that other people can run their own sessions and have social gatherings without gathering or awkwardness.
Jackbox is a set of party games, such as quiz games, where a computer is used as the main window, then anyone can join using their phones as the controller, which then updates dynamically with their quiz answers, clues and even a drawing window on some games. It’s always a hit at parties when they start to wind down but usually requires that everyone be in the same room.
However I realised early on by combining it with Zoom and sharing the screen then remote play was possible, allowing people to join over the internet.
Just as an FYI, I have no ties to either Zoom or Jackbox, and nothing to sell. This is just a helpful article. Also it means I’ll link places where you can get it cheap (if they exist at the time of posting).
More information on the games themselves can be found here:
- A Host Computer* (Desktop, Laptop or Tablet that runs Windows, Mac OSX or Linux)
*I have only tried this using a computer, Zoom works on mobile devices, as does Jackbox, so maybe it would work with a mobile device as the host but that remains untested.
- A mobile device per person as a controller, and a separate device to join the Zoom meeting for remote players/groups
– someone could have an iPad to join the meeting, and their phone to play the game
– another household could have one laptop to join the meeting and multiple people viewing it with a phone each
- Friends (or at least people willing to play)
Buy the Games
This article will assume your host device (the one that actually runs the games and shares the screen) is a computer, such as a PC or a Laptop. Jackbox supports many platforms including mobile operating systems such as Android, as well as gaming consoles like Playstation and Xbox but I do not know how well the screen sharing will perform on the latter options.
On the computer, when you buy the games, regardless of where you get them from, they’ll be attached to a game platform such as Steam or Epic which hold your game licenses, and distribute the downloads. So bear that in mind when you make the purchase, we’re going to assume you have neither but if you do use one or the other, make sure you get keys for that platform.
My platform of choice is Steam, Steam has been around for decades. Epic is new. There’s nothing stopping you from using both. Some people will have strong opinions on why one or the other is better but I stick to one simply because I can’t be bothered having two, with my games split across platforms with multiple logins etc etc.
One thing to keep in mind is that Epic is trying to build up its market, and as a result they give away A LOT of free games, so that may be a consideration if you want to track the giveaways and build a collection of games without spending any money. Additionally they also throw a lot of money at developers to make temporary exclusives, which is a bit of a dick move.
Again, this article will assume you’re using Steam, but the instructions won’t really differ much between the two.
When it comes to buying games these days, they’re usually in the form of a digital license attached to a game platform, so you buy the games from the platform itself, or from various places on the internet and are given a key. You type this key into your platform and it saves the license and gives you the ability to download and install it.
This means that you can buy your games almost anywhere you can find them, such as alternative websites like GOG, G2A and HumbleBundle. And much like the competition between retailers like Harvey Norman and Noel Leeming, one website could have the games on special while the other doesn’t.
These are a selection of places you can buy the game, click through and search for them to find the best price, just make sure you’re getting the version for your platform (in this case, Steam).
Once thing to bear in mind is that the license is not transferable between platforms, if you buy it on, say, PlayStation Store, you can’t install it on your desktop computer.
The Jackbox Website
The Jackbox Website sells their game for $30USD per pack, but only for the US market. You can’t buy it from here if you are in NZ.
At the time of writing there are no promotions on the game here.
Steam sells the Jackbox directly for between $30-$37 per pack. If you are choosing this option then you can either buy it on their website, or buy it during the next step AFTER you’ve installed the software.
Some of the packs are themselves in even larger packs (such as the The Jackbox Party Quintpack, which contains the first five packs) which may have their own independent promotions.
You don’t need to check if you are buying the Steam version if you purchase from here.
At the time of writing there are no promotions on the game here.
The Humble Bundle
The Humble Bundle is a software sales service where a portion of all their sales go to charities.
There are two ways to purchase from them, via their Store or via a Bundle.
Their store operates in the same way as the rest of the stores.
The bundles are large packs of games with a tiered price structure that allows you to choose the amount you want to pay and as long as you beat the average price, get all the games in the tier you select (thus if you pay more than the average then the average goes up for future buyers). This is probably one of the best ways to get these packs and other games, but only when they’re offered.
The last time the Jackbox pack came up at the Humble Bundle you were able to get the first 6 packs for $29NZD.
If you purchase from the Humble Bundle, then you will be given a key for every game you purchase that you then type into Steam.
At the time of writing there are no promotions on the game here, neither individually or as a bundle.
Epic Games started their own store after the success of their game Fortnite and are a distribution platform of their own. Thus if you buy your games from here, then you will need to install their platform.
You cannot buy Steam games from here but the install instructions below should be pretty similar.
At the time of writing the packs are all on promotion, starting at $13 for the first pack, through to $26 for the latest.
I include G2A here but cross it out intentionally. G2A are a reseller marketplace, if you buy the games then you will get them but possibly harm the developers. As a buyer you are unlikely to get scammed here.
It is strongly suspected that the sellers on this platform use stolen credit card numbers to purchase the games from elsewhere, then resell the keys. The owners of the credit cards then charge back the payments and the developers lose out, whilst the marketplace sellers get free cash.
Thus the games here are much cheaper, it’s possible that there are many legitimate sellers on this platform but it is impossible to determine.
I include this here as a savvy consumer will search for other places to buy games and stumble across this location and wonder why it wasn’t included when the games are so cheap.
At the time of writing the packs are all on promotion, starting at $4USD for the first pack, through to $19USD for the latest.
Once you have purchased the games, move on to the next step.
Install the Games on the Computer
Once again, I am assuming you’re using Steam as that’s what I use, and also that you are using Windows. However the process should be the same for the Epic Store and other operating systems, you’ll just have to go a level deeper for the client (but you’re likely already used to that).
Now that you’ve bought the games (or plan to buy them on Steam) you will need the Steam Application on your computer. Hop on the Steam website at steampowered.com and press the green “Install Steam” button at the top right. Then the Blue “Install Steam” button in the middle to start the download.
Or just press the link below directly to the download:
I won’t delve into the actual install, as it’s just a standard Windows install, so we’ll skip right to, “The software is installed and has now been opened”. If you need help with an installation wizard, please seek assistance.
Steam will probably update on first run, just wait, until you’re prompted with the login screen. From here you can create a new account, or login to your existing account. If you bought your games on the Steam website, you will already have an account, please use this to sign in.
Otherwise, press “Create a New Account” at the bottom.
I’ll fast forward again, as creating the account should be straight forward and something most people will have experience in.
Now that your account is created, login and you’ll either be confronted with the Store or your (empty) games Library.
If you haven’t yet purchased the games, intending to do so here, then press Store at the top right, and Search for the games and purchase them. You can skip the next step if you do this.
If you have already purchased the games and they are in the form of keys, press the “Games” menu up the top then “Activate a Product on Steam”
Follow the instructions, agree to the terms, then enter your key into the box. Unfortunately you can only do one code at a time if you have bought several packs at the same time. It will process for a moment, add the game to your Library then ask you to Download and Install it immediately. Follow those instructions and it will install the games on your computer.
If you accidentally click out of this, then you can instead navigate to your Library, and find and install them there. By either right-clicking on the game in the list, or selecting the game then pressing the big blue Install Button.
After working through the prompt the games will then install to your computer. Once they’re downloaded and installed they’ll show white, as can be seen above, and the Install button will become a Play button.
Feel free to get in touch if any of this didn’t work, but bear in mind I don’t gain from this at all, so don’t exactly want to spend four hours showing you how to register for an account.
At this point the games should be installed on your computer, and accessible both from the regular application interface (such as Desktop Shortcuts) as well as through Steam. If you run the game from the regular application interface and Steam isn’t opened, Steam will open first, then the game will be opened.
I would recommend running at least one of the games, this will both ensure they’re working and also allow them to install any first boot prerequisites (which will automatically install themselves).
Install Meeting Software
I’ve been using Zoom but you’re free to use anything you want, basically the meeting software is the online webcam meeting software that you’ve possibly already been using to work from home during the lockdown.
Another common option is Microsoft Teams.
One thing to note is that on a free account, Zoom often has a 40 minute limit to a single meeting, but an unlimited number of meetings. This means that when that limit is up, you’ll have to end the meeting and restart it and have everyone join again. This can occur mid-game without much drama, and each game lasts around 10-20 minutes. I will cover more about that at the end.
You simply need an application that will allow you to share your screen (as the host) and sound to the other players, and ideally allow them to feedback (whether via speech or chat). Just bear in mind that if you use an obscure application that the other attendees may be resistant to registering and/or installing the client on their computers.
Pretending you don’t have anything, download and install Zoom using the link below:
Then run it and you’ll be prompted on the first screen.
From here you can login if you already have an account, sign in using a Single-Sign-On partner (such as Google or Facebook) or press the Sign Up button on the bottom right, which will pop your web browser for registration.
Once again skipping the registration process we’ll fast forward to you having registered if need be, and logged in.
Within the Zoom Interface, jump on the Meetings tab and find “My Personal Meeting ID”. This is the recommended meeting information to use. The reason being that if you are on a free account, and you need to boot people after 40 minutes, they can easily rejoin using the link they already have once you start the meeting again.
If you generate a meeting for the game, then the details for joining the meeting can change and you’ll need to once again distribute this information.
If you have a paid Zoom account, then this does not apply as you are not subject to the 40 minute limit. In any case, press Copy Invitation and send it to your players, this will contain both a link direct to the meeting, as well as the Meeting ID and Password to join it manually.
Start the Meeting
Assuming you’re intending to start the session now (more likely you’ve booked a time in with the other players so we’ll just fast forward to then).
Open Zoom again, log in if need be, and from the main menu hit the small drop down box next to New Meeting and set it to “Use my Personal Meeting ID”, then press the New Meeting Button. This ensures that the meeting information people use matches that of the details you sent them earlier.
From here people will then be able to join the meeting using the ID you sent earlier. Immediately you’ll be prompted to join with Computer Audio (and you can flag this to automatically happen in the future).
Sharing audio is not mandatory, but will make communication easier when trying to juggle both your game and your chat window. It’s also up to you whether you share your video, but that can be a hassle when people pop up on your screen over the game.
Finally you’ll start being prompted when people try to join your meeting, you’ll need to approve them so that they can see your screen. If you aren’t being prompted but you’re independently being told they’re waiting (such as over text messaging), then click the Participants button and you’ll be able to see anyone waiting in the queue and approve them from there.
At this point you should have a running meeting, with participants. People, including yourself, may or may not be sharing their audio and video. You’re ready to start playing.
Start a game and share your Screen
Open Steam, then Library and select a game, then press Play OR open one from your regular application interface such as from the Desktop.
The game will open and probably take over your screen, from here you’ll need to use a keyboard shortcut to switch between applications, press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard and press Tab, then keep pressing Tab while holding the Alt key to find Zoom.
Alt-Tab. This will jump out of the game without closing it and move you to another open application, resulting in something like this, where you can see your Taskbar, Zoom AND the game in the background.
Now press Share Screen and select the game window. It should have the name of the game as its caption, despite it showing up on other items. Finally make sure you Tick the “Share Sound” button, else the other participants won’t be able to hear the game and press Share.
The other players should now be able to see and hear the game, and you will be back on the game itself with this bar hovering up the top, which then shrinks to just show the Green and Red section. If you hover your mouse over it, the whole bar will once again show.
Play the Game
You are now ready to actually play, in some cases your game may be showing in Windowed Mode, which results in it quite small on your screen with everything visible behind it.
If that happens, go into the game selection screen, then Options/Settings:
And switch it to Full Screen and close the window:
You can now use the Arrow Keys or Page Down on your keyboard to switch between the available games. If the game doesn’t response to your key presses, use your mouse to click into it. What has happened is that Zoom has displayed the game but Windows hasn’t given it context, so your key presses are going into Zoom rather than the game.
Select the game you wish to play, based on preference, description or the number of players it supports and press Enter or use your mouse to click Play:
The game will open then navigate the prompts to get to playing a game, in the example below I’ll press Enter or click Multiplayer to go into Multiplayer Mode:
Which starts a game. Every player then navigates to https://jackbox.tv on their phone, types in their name and the four digit code that appeared on the screen to join.
Which joins the players to the game and transforms their phone into a controller:
Finally the first person in gets given the “Everybody’s In” button on their device, and they press that to start the game.
Press that button once everyone has joined and the game starts. The games themselves will run you through a tutorial you can skip, but otherwise the rest is just follow the onscreen instructions.
Ten or twenty minutes later, your game is over. You’ll usually have an option to immediately start a new game with the same players, but if you decide you want to play a different game Press Esc on your keyboard and confirm leaving the game. This will return you to the main menu for that pack to choose another game. If you want to play an entirely different pack, press Esc on your keyboard again, or select Quit and confirm.
Because we selected the game itself earlier for sharing, this should kill the share.
Repeat the steps from “Start a game and share your Screen” to open a new pack, share your screen and play again.
Zoom Time Limit
On a free account, Zoom has a 40 minute time limit for a meeting. It’s for this reason that I recommended sharing your Personal Meeting ID. Once you get to the last 5 minutes, a timer will appear warning you of the limit. If you are nearing the end of a game, you should have time to finish it up then refresh the meeting, but if it won’t be finished in time, press Esc on your keyboard to pause the game. Then Alt-Tab to switch to Zoom without closing the game.
You can then warn the players and ask them to reconnect using the same method as earlier (as your Personal Meeting details don’t change). End the Meeting, restart it, allow everyone to rejoin, then share the screen of the game once again.
If you paused the game, press Esc to unpause the game. do NOT press Enter, that will end the game.
Good Game Matrix
This was a matrix of my personal opinion of the games in packs 1-6 (I don’t yet have 7), how many people can play and what pack they’re in: