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The Untold Truth Of JablinskiGames

Let's all agree on something right up front: Jack Black is a national treasure. That's something everyone can get on board for, right? From film to television to rock music to the world of video gaming, Jack Black throws himself into each new project with his trademark sense of humor and epic amounts of enthusiasm. 


In late 2018, Jack Black launched a YouTube channel called JablinskiGames, ostensibly focused on gaming fandom and history. Naturally, many people were excited to see a celebrity of his stature getting super nerdy and engaging with the larger gaming community. However, in classic JB fashion, JablinskiGames has proven to be pretty different from other gaming channels. To properly get into what sets JablinskiGames apart from all the rest, let's take a look back at Jack Black's wild career and many of the gaming and comedic elements in his life that have led him to this point. 

The origins of young JB

Jack Black was born in 1969 to parents who worked as satellite engineers — in other words, actual rocket scientists — and he knew from an early age that he wanted to be an actor. Turning to the performing arts as an outlet after his parents' divorce, Black reasoned, "I knew that if my friends saw me on TV, it would be the answer to all my prayers ... everyone would know I was awesome."


In an interesting and humorous twist of fate, one of Black's earliest acting gigs actually foreshadowed the gaming legend he'd become. In 1982, at the age of 13, Black starred in a commercial for the Atari 2600's Pitfall. Even at such a young age, it's easy to see the kind of manic charm and genuine excitement that would come to define many of Black's iconic performances in the future. This was only his first taste of fame, and he never really slowed down after that. He would eventually drop out of college to go after his dreams of being a performer full-time. 

Jack Black, the actor

If you're reading this, then you're likely someone who regularly absorbs pop culture. In that case, you're probably familiar with Jack Black's acting career. However, that doesn't make his rise to fame any less fun to chart.


After years of small roles in shows like The X-Files and films like Mars Attacks!, Black's breakthrough performance was arguably his turn as Barry, the pretentious record store clerk in High Fidelity, the 2000 film adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel. Of his performance in the film, The A.V. Club commented, "Watching him in High Fidelity, right from [the] moment in which he first appears, is like seeing a dog have its leash removed at the park." One of the standout moments of this particular role is when Barry takes the stage and performs Marvin Gaye's classic torch song, "Let's Get It On," giving mainstream audiences a taste of Black's signature singing style (more on that in a bit).

Since then, Black has starred in several major films. He portrayed author R.L. Stine in the big screen adaptation of Stine's Goosebumps series and voiced the title character in all three of Dreamworks' Kung Fu Panda movies.


Tenacious D reigns supreme

In the early '90s, Jack Black met a musician and aspiring actor by the name of Kyle Gass, then a fellow member of the Los Angeles theater troupe called the Actors' Gang. The two hit it off and formed a comedy rock band called Tenacious D, eventually landing a brief HBO series and an album deal. Their resulting self-titled debut record was a Platinum-selling hit. In a retrospective review of the first album, Junkee referred to it as "a loving parody of rock and roll that expertly skewers the genre and the self-important types that populate it."


Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, the debut feature film for the musical duo, sadly ended up being a flop at the box office. However, the film and its accompanying soundtrack album did have its defenders, with The Guardian's Philip French calling the movie "aggressively foul-mouthed and deeply self-indulgent and likely, like the band itself, to attract a cult following."

Luckily for the world, the failure of their movie did not end the dynamic duo. In 2012, Gass and Black reunited for a fourth album, Rize of the Fenix, while 2013 saw the opening of an annual music and comedy festival curated by the two gurus, Festival Supreme. Their fourth album, Post-Apocalypto, was released in 2018, accompanied by an animated series on YouTube starring the pair.


The band continues to tour, spreading the glory of rock across the land.

Jack Black, the video game star

Released in 2009, Brütal Legend is a true cult classic, one of those games that you either love or you simply haven't played yet. Accompanied by a truly rad heavy metal soundtrack, this genre-bending mix of hack and slash and real-time strategy elements was developed by Double Fine Productions, the masterminds behind Psychonauts. The game boasted a killer voice cast featuring the likes of Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Tim Curry, and Ozzy Osbourne, as well as Tenacious D co-conspirator Kyle Gass, with the lead role portrayed by none other than Jack Black. Naturally, Black brings his trademark energy and love of all things METAL to the character of battle axe-wielding roadie Eddie Riggs.


In a retrospective celebrating the tenth anniversary of Brütal Legend's release, Bloody Disgusting wrote, "While the setup here is decidedly silly, with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and exaggerated characters, this is still an earnest love-letter to everything heavy metal ... where there's an in-universe justification for nearly every single gameplay mechanic."

Brütal Legend had a bit of an uphill battle in its journey to release. Following a legal battle with Activision, the game's original publisher, as well as a demo and marketing that didn't properly advertise Brütal Legend's real-time strategy gameplay, the game ultimately opened to sales that were poorer than expected. Luckily, this didn't spell the end of Jack Black's involvement in the gaming community.


The launch of JablinskiGames

In December of 2018, Jack Black posted the first video to the newly created JablinskiGames YouTube channel. The video, which lasted less than a minute long, was mostly focused on Jack's issues with his adjustable gaming chair. However, Black came out swinging, with the stated goal of being "bigger than Ninja ... bigger than PewDiePie!" Within just one week of the channel's launch, JablinskiGames had garnered over one million subscribers. This massive response prompted Black to post his second video, in which he thanked his fans for adding the channel and promised viewers that he was "just getting started."


Jack finally got up to some gaming in his third episode, but not in the way most viewers would have expected. In this video, Jack and his son Sam went "old school" with a visit to the Pinball Hall of Fame. This episode was the first short (but sweet) dive into what the JablinskiGames channel would really have in store, showcasing Black's genuine enthusiasm for gaming history and the rapport he has with his son.

Ah, but there's a twist

One of the more notable aspects of JablinskiGames' content is the fact that Jack doesn't always get up to a ton of actual gaming. In fact, a recurring joke in his weekly updates is that, even in episodes where he does in fact get up to some gaming, he'll start many his videos by apologizing to viewers and saying, "No gaming videos this week."


JablinskiGames' videos have occasionally taken on a structure more suited to vlogging, with Jack posting an extremely brief video about what he's working on next or just cracking a joke. He'll even occasionally film from where he's shooting his next movie, as was the case of a video from the set of the Jumanji sequel. In other words, Jack Black has basically become one of the most popular YouTube gamers to not always be super invested in the act of, you know, actually playing games, which is kind of hilariously on-brand for the always-chill actor.

A father and son enterprise

Another major component of JablinskiGames' output that immediately sticks out is the amount of time focused on Jack's relationship with his son, Sam, who films and does the editing on the majority of the video entries. Even when there is a lack of strictly gaming-focused content, as pointed out by Study Breaks, "Black is showing himself having fun with his son, and who [would] bash wholesome content like that?" These sentiments were echoed by Forbes' Mason Sands, who said that "watching Black and his son play these games and approaching them with a childlike excitement familiar to any gamer replaying his or her favorite game, was an enjoyable and nostalgic experience."


The father-son sweetness isn't simply confined to the actual gaming videos, either. In fact, early in JablinskiGames' run, Jack devoted a video to his son's visit to the orthodontist, accompanying Sam to his appointment and joking around with the office's staff. The camaraderie between the two is instantly relatable and is likely a big reason why people tune in to the weekly videos, aside from the undeniable star power of Jack Black. 

The videos have a kind of home movie quality to them, which immediately sets them apart from the glossy over-produced content one would naturally expect from a celebrity's YouTube channel. As Jack Black himself said of the first video, "I just want to clarify that there is no production behind this. This is all my son." 


The legend comes full circle

In many ways, Jack Black's gaming career finally looped back around on itself with a video in which he actually played Brütal Legend. The video, which features a humorous introduction from fellow YouTuber Ricky Berwick, shows Black seemingly playing the game he starred in for the first time since it was released. For anyone thinking that JablinskiGames is a gimmick, this is the perfect video to watch. Seeing this playthrough, there's no way someone could believe Jack Black is anything less than a real video game fan, such is the enthusiasm he displays throughout the entire thing. It's especially a trip to watch Present Day Jack's excitement as he watches himself in the game's live-action intro.


However, it wouldn't be a JablinskiGames video without a twist that normally doesn't occur in other YouTube gaming channels. The playthrough is cut short when Black's controller battery begins to run low. As much of a bummer as it is that the video doesn't run any longer, it somehow feels right that Black didn't plan ahead for this eventuality. Still, for several glorious minutes, viewers got a double dose of that JB magic, and the Legend came full circle.

Come for the gaming, stay for the dad jokes

One of the very best things about JablinskiGames' unpretentious, lower-quality videos is how relatable they truly feel for the viewer. As pointed out by Newsweek, JablinskiGames' output "isn't necessarily the most polished thing on YouTube, but its raw energy makes up for it ... The higher-ups at Google want [YouTube] to rival television, with high-end production quality ... Jablinski seems like it's using YouTube as an excuse to do a fun family project." And honestly, the feeling of this series being something for the father and son duo to bond over makes it even more endearing to watch.


Black frequently cracks jokes at the camera and is clearly having a great time making these videos, so his enthusiasm naturally becomes infectious. Watching a JablinskiGames video feels like one of your buddies (or a cool stoner uncle) invited you over so you see what they've been up to. Maybe you'll get around to playing some games together, maybe you'll end up hanging out at the zoo or chilling with Metallica's James Hetfield instead. Either way, it's a weekly appointment that's well worth keeping.