Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bubbling with ideas : Fancy question formats from a pub quiz far, far away

OK, so this is the deal. I used to quiz with same folks who bore you with all the inane details of their latest mercenary exploits at some gender-confused engineering college in town -- hell, I even used to go to those quizzes. Religiously. And lose. But, hey, that's not the point. I was one of the cool folk, the creator of the Centaurian Scoring System  rivaled in length of existence only by the sperm whale and the bowl of petunias.

So that's by way of introduction. Since having quit my self-carpentered chair of crazy-new-quizzing-ideas (Chief Innovation Officer?) at the BCQC, I have to moved on, to frankly more useful endeavors. In an effort to distance myself from the effluvial delights of the boat club and its charmingly green waters, I have drained myself and my brain to the US. To MIT, Cambridge, USA more specifically.

Old habits die hard, so my Wednesday nights are spent quizzing. Or trying to quiz. You see, a hankering for mind numbingly pointless convoluted-ness is hard to satisfy, or so I am finding out. But I try. How you ask? Well Boston, in all its efforts to act Irish, has a number of bars that do the whole "pub trivia" thing and I attend one of these gigs. In fact the bar is on campus -- "The Thirsty Ear" is the name and a fairly passable evening can be had quizzing at that waterhole among fellow nerds who will happily argue about escape velocities of imaginary planets and match imaginary guns to first-person-shooters (we got a full 10/10 on that question I think). Anyway, the point is, give the hosts a chance, and add some beer and tasty tacos and you should be fairly set for the evening.

Some evenings are more passable than others, and in particular there is this British trivia host who will go that extra mile to add that wonderful word we all love to associate with quizzes -- "workability"! Now, not all questions are workable and not all the workable questions are good -- but there are a couple of innovations that the Indian quizzing scene would do well to copy. These would fit in perfectly with our scheme of things!

I was first alerted when the guy did the old guess the Google Doodle round that we all love so much. I mean, when everyone else is asking "who was the first person to achieve a .300 batting average" or something of the sort, this guy independently discovered one of our beloved question formats. Ever the able scout, I was seeing some talent here. Then he puts on the Google Trends type question, another format that I like a lot -- and which I saw used for the first time in India by Google's very own Suhel Bannerjee. This QM will not just put up Google trends and ask us to guess events, he will often have a "match the google trends line" to a list of proper nouns. Again something that we've done -- but not enough. A recent one asked us to match a bunch of google trend lines to "GMail", "Google Wave", "Google Earth" and so on, something that was worked out by people following the ups and downs of these products.

A really cool innovation is his usage of the Joseph Decruex meme. The meme essentially involves imposing the lyrics to current songs in old english and pasting them on a picture of this old french philosopher, lolcat style. So for example the song "Fuck Bitches Get Money" becomes, well see for yourself:

More such joy can be found here, and what's more there is no limiting the number of songs, english or hindi that can undergo Decreux-ization all under the name of workability! I dream of the day when I can stand up on stage and ask someone what song is referred to in "I CRAVE THY MATRIARCHAL STARE, YOUR OFFSPRING WITHERS" [1]

The second innovation that I particularly like is about listing pictures that have something in common and simply asking people to identify the reference (instead of long unwieldy "connects" which can occasionally get tiresome). So one recent example was this question that had famous make-outs in movie history, where you could only barely identify the protagonists of the lip-locks and we were asked to identify the actors and the movie in question. I mean, this was fairly entertaining, could be worked out and required quizzing acumen without being excruciatingly obtuse at the same time. There is something about the pub-trivia format that forces QMs to err on the side of the inane, and this is definitely one instance when this bias probably leads to a nice entertaining question format. Another example lists pictures of places that have a famous monument, and there was an interesting round where we were shown street pictures of the neighbourhood we live in and were asked to mark them on a map we were provided. This could potentially be done for a number of types of maps of various sizes, even perhaps a map on screen where teams choose to place a marker much like in the game Traveler IQ.

Last example innovation for the day is similar in spirit to innovation two. This is the "odd one out" format. What the QM will do is compile an often amusing list of things and ask you to pick the odd one out. This includes stuff like -- "Which of these is a not a real movie?" and there will be a list of titles you would hardly think were movies ("The Conquest of the Silken Beaver") and insert a fake one in there. Again, the possibilities are endless -- are there not lots of towns, people and food items with random names? Granted that this is not the most cerebral of question formats, and will probably appeal more to Derek and his ilk rather than us, but there is something to be said about making questions fun, even to the idiot who tunes in to watch Bigg Boss everyday! (wait, that's me. or at least was)

Anyway, that was me and my worthless gyaan from this part of the globe. I have not written a blog piece in a while -- let alone one about quizzing! If this is interesting do chime in on the comments and I'll try and write more about the quizzing scene at the bars (and questions even!) -- but given my extremely "light" academic schedule that might be hard to do, just yet.

Thanks for the attention, and keep quizzing!


The author was a quizzer who has passed on, who has ceased to be, who bereft of life lies in peace. An ex-quizzer if there ever was. Within his little cubby cage of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he tries to mould himself into a social scientist who studies technology, all while trying to spell "mold" in the american way and trying not to think of the green stuff that reminds him of the BCQC so much. You can pay condolences at abhishek.mit.edu 

[1] That was this song for those unwilling to think.


Ramanand said...

Nice post. This is why we sent you to the US (also because then you cease to be here).

Useful ideas and provides us cliched QMs with food for thought.

ludwig said...

Stump Trivia used to do a bunch of weeknight quizzes in pubs around Cambridge when I last lived there (2004!), not sure if they're around. One funny man used to do the ones in Asgard, on Mass Ave (near PuPu Hot Pot etc.) that we used to frequent quite a bit, owing to office in Kendall Sq. Give it a shot sometime!

Anand said...

We understand that quizzing happens in bars. Does it also happen behind bars ? But how would you know ?

Mike Justice said...

I directed "The Conquest of the Silken Beaver," and I take grave offense at your not recognizing the title as a major milestone in American Cinema.

Kidding. Good post.