I did note that I took it for granted that I could write interesting, yet challenging but fair, trivia questions. Given the results, I was clearly wrong. I overfocused on what I thought was interesting and overestimated what people would know. Given how many fights Robert and I have had over the years over his fondness for the phrase "but everybody knows that" (generally referring to things that maybe four people in the known universe know), I should have known better. Or at least tested things more on a different set of friends.
The first set of players quickly got into not even attempting to answer the questions. A passer-by asked what was going on and one of the players said this was the hardest trivia game ever. Clearly, I had misgauged what people know. What bothered me was not that people weren’t getting the answers, but that it was clear they were not having fun. I did get some useful feedback and thought it was worth revising questions as much as I could overnight and running it again the next night. That did work better, but it was still clear that an interesting item of trivia does not necessarily make a good trivia question.
To give a couple of examples of questions I was surprised people didn’t get:
- Q: Bel Kaufman’s best known literary work is the novel, Up the Down Staircase. Who was Kaufman’s famous literary grandfather?
A: Sholem Aleichem – this falls into the category of things I assumed "everybody" knows, but apparently not so much. This is something I could have rewritten, perhaps by adding a mention of Sholem Aleichem’s most famous character, Tevye.
- Q: The only painting Caravaggio ever signed is Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. In what city can that painting be found?
A: Valletta, Malta (in St. John’s Co-Catherdral) – I didn’t necessarily assume everybody knows this per se, but I did assume a significant number of people know Caravaggio was a Knight of Malta, having been exiled to that nation after her murdered someone in a bar brawl in Naples. (And, for what it’s worth, people should know more about him, as he was arguably the greatest painter of the 17th century.)
- Q: In 2015, the movie industry of what country surpassed Hollywood to become the second largest in the world?
A: Nigeria. The intended trick is that Bollywood (i.e. the Indian film industry) is the largest in the world. But apparently the existence of Nollywood is more obscure than I thought. It’s not like I was asking about The CEO, a Nollywood movie that was the first film ever to premiere aboard an airplane. (Apparently, it was funded, in part, by Air France.)
To give an example of something I was able to rewrite to make it easier to guess:
Q: What Middle Eastern airline features a shower spa in its Airbus 380 first class cabin?
Here, the change was adding the words "Middle Eastern" to the question.
Anyway, the bottom line is that the game mechanism (which is what I had been primarily focused on) is basically sound, though could use a bit more tweaking. If I do the game again, I need to put a lot more effort into how the questions are written. I’d intended to have a mix of difficulties, but the only question which actually proved easy was:
Q: Who was the second man to walk on the moon?
A: Buzz Aldrin
I probably won’t run this again next year, but intend to the year after. My reasoning on next year is actually because I have an idea for something else, which is probably a mini-ganza, though it could be a (live) pub quiz. We’ll see as it develops.
I also want to note that I was pleased to see more games and puzzles run by women this year, though there is still a gender imbalance. Saxifrage collaborated with Cazique on a Jeopardy, for example. And, most significantly, Colossus ran the Extravaganza.