Friday, 25 February 2011

What's killing quizzes ?

Its half term week in my corner of South Wales, and I was idly checking back on some past posts from the very early days of LAM. I noticed that a post I made in 2008, which had never had a comment on it previously , had now attracted a comment. The post was on my preference for home made quizzes over the quizzes that can be bought - and are bought by many pubs and clubs - from a number of companies. This comment had been posted in October 2010.

"Hi David

My name is Martin Green and I write pop culture and trivia questions for the 4,000 pubs and clubs that play one of 23 different quizzes produced each week by Redtooth.

Our main objective is to stop the smartest quiz teams from winning and killing the quiz nights.

You are living proof that this is working."

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this. Martin, if by any chance you're reading this I am sorry that I haven't responded before - I genuinely did not see your comment before yesterday.

I don't know how fair it is to say that the smartest quiz teams are killing quizzes. Oh, don't misunderstand me, I'm not going to bury my head in the sand and say that the same team winning a quiz week in week out wouldn't be a disincentive for other teams to turn up, but neither am I willing to accept that , if a quiz night dies the death, then this is the only reason why. For example, I can say for a fact that I know teams who have stopped attending quizzes for these other reasons : -

* A question master who either turns a blind eye to phone cheating, or is ineffectual at dealing with it.
* A question master who prefers the sound of his own voice to getting on with the quiz.
* Particularly loud and argumentative teams, who don't necessarily win all, or sometimes any of the quizzes, but just make it a less pleasant experience for others.
* A quiz made up of predominantly one category of questions above all others - entertainment for example.

There are others, but let these suffice for the moment.

I have a feeling that I understand what may have prompted Martin's comment. In 2008 I did comment once or twice on the fact that I had attended Redtooth quizzes, and found them not to my liking. If Martin is taking time and trouble to set quizzes for them, then I can understand that this comment would not be particularly nice to hear, but nonetheless it was how I felt.When I played in some Redtooth quizzes in different places, my opinion was that they were rather gimmicky, had a preponderance of entertainment questions, and questions such as family fortunes type ones which needed guesswork rather than knowledge. For these reasons I didn't find them very enjoyable. That's just my opinion, and as always, please feel free to disagree.I think I should say that I haven't played in a Redtooth quiz since 2008, and therefore am in no position to say whether the points I raised at the time still apply or not. Still, if you enjoy that kind of quiz more than the kind of quiz I enjoy, then that's great - good luck to you. Quizzing is a broad church. If Redtooth quizzes are deliberately constructed this way - as Martin suggests - so that serious or experienced quizzers are discouraged from participating, then that's OK too . Fair enough.

However I think its a little unfair to be portrayed as some kind of unhealthy influence on quizzing. The fact is that most quizzers who have reached a certain level do, I find, tend to be very careful about taking the risk of destroying their local quiz nights by winning week in week out, and scooping up whatever prizes may be on offer. If I talk from my own experience, in the Rugby club I set the quiz myself at least once a month, and always step in when nobody else will do it. Hardly destroying that quiz night, I'd say. In Cowbridge John and I deliberately only go very other week, so we can't ever win two weeks' in a row. On Sunday night we never accept the prize. I've no doubt that we're far from unique in this. Also, let's be honest here as well. Even if you stop quizzers such as John and myself taking part, in my experience there's only usually a couple of teams at most who dominate any local pub quiz. Yeah, change the names of the teams, change the personnel involved, but you're still going to have the situation of one or two flat track bullies dominating, but maybe winning by a couple of points each week rather than 10 or 20. Not that it matters in the slightest, but I think that John and I won 2 out of the 3 Retooth Quizzes we played - although its a long time ago now, and my memory may be playing tricks on me.

I'll be interested to hear anyone's views on this topic.


Will Jones said...

I think phone cheating is the main problem. The defence of those discovered: "the prize is only X GBP" or "everyone else does it".

Disqualification is the answer, but as with cheating in school exams, that never seems to happen.

Very often the cheats are inept, and still lose the quiz to non-cheating teams.

Londinius said...

Hi Will

I think so too, although I'll qualify phone cheating, and add to it ipad cheating ! Yes, I saw that going on in a quiz the other night too !


Gruff said...

"Our main objective is to stop the smartest quiz teams from winning and killing the quiz nights."

Hang on, I thought the whole point of a quiz was that the team that knows the most wins?

Shouldn't a better mission statement for Redtooth be:

"Our main objective is to provide a really good night's entertainment, so that everyone who participates leaves the pub having enjoyed themselves, win or lose"

The fact that it's not, the fact that Redtooth feel that good teams are the enemy explains such a lot. It probably explains why every Redtooth quiz I have been to has been rubbish. I avoid them like the plague. I go to a quiz in Bedford on a Sunday, it's great. The same pub runs a Redtooth quiz on a Tuesday. I went once, and never again.

Things that genuinely kill pub quizzes include:

- People who cheat being allowed to get away with it
- Sh*t questions
- Sh*t question masters
- Over-priced beer
- A quiz that takes no account of the make-up of the local crowd (sorry Redtooth, that's you).

Ben Dutton said...

I think I went to a Redtooth quiz this week - I'd not heard of them before this post - but it was full of entertainment questions and family fortune-esque questions.

My team scored 47 out of 60, coming in second, to a team of 6 who were all on their mobile phones throughout and scored 55.
When it was bought to the quiz masters attention, he said "no crime against using your mobile phone in a pub". The five points they lost were on the list question which was something you couldn't access easily online.

I did go to another quiz, and there, when one team was seen using their mobile, he called on the whole pub to chant "cheaters" at them. They didn't touch thier mobiles again: they came in joint last. I don't think they'll be back, though, either... so do you lose your customers or let them carry on?

Londinius said...

Hi Gareth - Hi Ben

Gareth, I wish you wouldn't mince your words ! Come on , tell us , do you like Redtooth quizzes or not ? !

Seriously, I know where you're coming from. I don't enjoy Redtooth quizzes, and they're not for me. I too was rather taken aback by their mission statement, which is why I made the post to share it with everyone. Personally I think people maybe play in that kind of quiz because they don't know any better - they don't know that there is probably an alternative within a short distance, which they would actually enjoy a lot more, but that's just my opinion, and as always . . .

Ben, its the sort of thing which I absolutely hate. Although at least, if I'm playing Devil's advocate, you know exactly where you stand with that pub now. You KNOW that people are going to get away with cheating in there, and so there is absolutely no point in going to the quiz. I like the name and shame idea - I wish more qms would do something like this. After all, lets suppose you were having a darts game in your local. If one player started standing 2 feet away from the board and just placing the darts in the treble 20 , the other players would all have something to say about it, I'm sure. What's the difference ?


Gruff said...

Sorry, I won't sit on the fence in future ;)

Hywel said...

I do like to indulge in your blog, Dave, but this post completely bypassed me for some reason.

I remember about a month ago, at a quiz in Oxford (probably best to leave the venue anonymous), one of the teams looking up potential answers in Hensman's Pears Ultimate Quiz Companion semi-discretely, under the table.

A first for me, they were obviously unaware of the smart phone revolution! Initially, it made me annoyed that the question master didn't step in at half-time but now I just laugh about it. Maybe the next time they return, it'll be the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Needless to say, they didn't have the last laugh!

Keep writing, it brings me and many others great pleasure.


Londinius said...


I don't care whether you say your site is commercial or not - you do not post free links to it on my blog without emailing me and asking first - and if I think you're on the up and up, then maybe I will actually post about it - but this is MY decision - not yours. Start you're own blog - you will get no free ride off mine.