Among the most popular games I often play with friends are any of the various JackBox games. For those unacquainted with these games, they are a series of party games that you and your friends play by submitting answers via your phone. The main game is installed on a computer, the computer communicates with the server, and your phones all connect to this same server for the duration of the game.
One example of the games you might find in this series is QuipLash, a game where you and a random member of the group are given prompts and must come up with the best reply you can think of on the spot, submit it, and then wait for all your peers to judge who had the best quip. Altogether, these games usually provide a great night of laughs for everyone… usually.
What I’ve noticed in the many times I’ve set this game up and had different groups of people play it is that because of the game’s reliance on the group to come up with answers and judge them, its enjoyability heavily relies on who you play with. If you’re with a group of close friends and everyone is hitting it out of the park with their submissions, it’ll be a great night. If you try playing with a group and they’re not in a particularly creative mood or just don’t have the same senses of humor, though, it can turn into a pretty underwhelming experience.
While most games are designed to provide some enjoyment alone, and occasionally include multiplayer, these games focus exclusively on the multiplayer and are literally unplayable alone. Even in many online multiplayer games, there still exists the ability to play alone on a server full of bots, but here, there is no way to progress without having multiple phones link up to the server. This creates a scenario where the game relies entirely on you, your friends, and your abilities to make it an enjoyable experience. Where other games provide a challenge, entertainment, or predetermined narrative, the JackBox series does none of these on its own. It instead exclusively acts as a conduit for multiple players to create a gaming experience among themselves, something that I cannot recall happening with any other form of video game.