Everybody loves a quiz. Well, everybody that knows anything, that is. Whether it’s Trivial Pursuit, or Who wants to be a Millionaire, or The Weakest Link. Quizzes are a great leveller – you either know something, or you don’t. The smart actuary who doesn’t watch much TV is likely to be no better than the boorish half-wit who does little else. The upper-class twit with his Oxbridge education probably knows less about sport than the avid working class footy fan. Perhaps there’s something in us that wants to believe we’re smart, or just more smart than the next guy. Or more smart than the idiot who doesn’t know that Mt Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales. Or that Pele is the only player to win the football World Cup three times. Or that Sir Jimmy Savile was appointed chairman of a committee to oversee the running of a hospital for the criminally insane in 1988.
Er, what’s that last one again?
You see, while most people enjoy the whole quiz thing, the British take it to extremes. The Pub Quiz is a national institution – you’d have to look hard to find a half-decent pub that doesn’t have a quiz night at least once a week. And while a lot of people go along for the fun of it, there are always plenty who take it really seriously. Seriously seriously. There’s usually a reigning winner at a pub quiz, and they’ll come back week after week to defend their title, if they can. Because the questions tend to drift off into the really obscure by the end of round one. You feel as though all the easy questions in the country have been used up already, like marbles filling up a bottle. And only the little obscure facts can then be used to fill up the spaces like water.
Of course, with the advent of smartphones, it’s become easier to cheat (especially with free wi-fi at most pubs). And so the quiz questions try and avoid this by becoming even more obscure, or less direct. Like picture rounds (famous people, abstract views of everyday objects), or cryptic clues (Seaside resort: Writers Insects, or Football club: Which Escort?). But even some of these are being cracked – the venerable music rounds are at risk from Shazam, while logos have met their match in Google Goggles. The BBC did a good piece on the sort of thing that quizmasters are up against here.
But even if you look past the pub quiz scene, the national obsession with all things quizzy continues on TV, with innumerable shows to pick from if this is your bent. From funny news (Have I Got News for You, 8 out of 10 Cats, Mock the Week), to funny music (Never Mind the Buzzcocks), to just funny (Chris Moyle’s Quiz Show), to knowledge based (QI, Perfection, Mastermind), to puzzle based (The Cube), to big money based (Million Pound Drop) to team based (The Chase). It’s never ending.
But then, we wouldn’t want it any other way – after all, somewhere in the world, there has to be a little pocket of people keeping track of all the things that no one else cares about. Until they get asked.