fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Security - It's Not Jeopardy: The Aftermath

Back in late January, I devised an initial set of rules for a game I called Safety: It’s Not Jeopardy. Based on some feedback on the National Puzzlers’ League facebook page, I made some minor tweaks to those rules, mostly to randomize how players passed questions. I also somehow changed the word "Safety" to "Security" and wrote 60, rather than 42, questions, but blame those changes on a faulty memory.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.)

  3. 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?

A: Emirates

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.
Tags: games, trivia

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