Thursday, 4 July 2013

Winning at Trivial Pursuit

I think that I’ve alluded to my love-hate relationship with Trivial Pursuit™ in the past. Well, I don’t want to go over ground that has been so well trodden in the past, but I would like to tell you about a book I picked up the other day. I was in a charity shop a couple of days ago and I couldn’t help noticing a book with the enticing title “Winning at Trivial Pursuit™”. Immediately I wondered whether you’d simply find the words –Learn the Answers, Stupid! – printed on each page. Now, your Dave is not the kind of person to stand there in a charity shop, reading half a book before deciding not to buy it anyway, so I bought it, and took it home for a closer look.

As it happens, ‘learn the answers, stupid!‘ is one of a few suggestions that it doesn’t make. In fact Jeff Rovin, the author of the book, pours positive scorn upon the idea of doing such, and sees it as very much against the spirit of the game. Well, that I can understand, and even respect. However at the same time as telling you this, he devotes no fewer than 10 pages to techniques you can use to psych out, and put off your opponents. A slight case of double standards there, Jeffrey, I think.

I’ll be honest, a lot of the tactical advice it gives is of the ‘Sybil Fawlty – Specialist subject – The Bleedin’ Obvious’ variety. It’s certainly not a great book, but it’s not without its interest though. Anything I read that goes into the psychology of question setting, and getting into the mindset of the person who set the questions in order to help you answer them will always have my attention, whether I think it’s complete tosh or not. It’s an American book, and so where it discusses the questions it is discussing the original American question sets, which were greatly revised and changed for the British versions. Still, it was interesting to see just how much the original setters pandered to their own personal pet topics. For example, in the Art and Literature section there are more questions about Playboy than about any other magazine. Penthouse is third. In the Entertainment category I can understand having more questions about Gone With the Wind and even Jaws than any other films, but the Poseidon Adventure? Even more than that, The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!? I can’t be certain, but I’d guess that the setters were committing the question master’s cardinal sin of showing a huge bias towards their own pet likes and dislikes.

I don’t play Trivial Pursuit ™ very often anyway, but I have to be honest, I still think that the best tactic, and the surest way of winning, is the same as with any other quiz. Know more of the answers than the other feller.


Paul Steeples said...

Interesting post. I'd be interested in when the questions were written, however. There was a period when disaster movies like the Poseidon Adventure were very popular, so it may be more a case of setters going for what was temporarily popular than what they particularly liked.

Londinius said...

Hi Paul - how are you?

Fair enough - but I still say - The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! - ? Shome mistake shurely?