November 27, 2009

Adventures in bad trivia games

In honor of Thanksgiving, let me share a little family story: When I was a youngster, we were into games. Some favorites in the future-quizmaster household: Boggle (better than Scrabble, IMO), Sorry! (ceases to be fun past the age of 12), Clue (often inconvenient, since it needs at least three players), rummy cube (classic), the Hawaiian Punch game (honorable mention). We had a big closet of 'em, one of the joys of living in a large suburban house.

So in 1984, when American culture went through a brief spasm of trivia mania, and Trivial Pursuit became a significant sensation, my parents were quick to jump on the bandwagon. We tried playing as a family, but being well under puberty age, I had a lot of trouble with that dastardly original Genus edition. I somehow had a fighting chance with the blue questions—the Geography category, I was big into maps—but otherwise, it was a bloodbath (figuratively speaking; we weren't like that). Papa Quizmaster tended to find something better to do the second he got frustrated; Mama Quizmaster usually claimed victory.

The Pressman toy company (which would later get this song stuck in my head for 20 years) saw an opening and created a kid-oriented, galactic-themed trivia board game, Trivia Adventure. My parents bought it, we tried playing it, and discovered it was the single worst game ever invented by man. The questions came in two levels; Mom and Dad started me on easy, but when I was asked, "Is the Moon made of green cheese or rock?," they bumped me up to the supposedly challenging level. That's where I encountered tidbits like "What liquid are ice cubes made from?" That was it; Papa Quizmaster was so disgusted he brought the game back to Toys "R" Us. Shortly after, Trivial Pursuit issued its Young Players edition, and the appropriately unimaginatively named Trivia Adventure faded from memory.
Until last month. Walking through a street fair on the UWS, I encountered a battered copy of Trivia Adventure on a blanket, for sale. Nostalgia was stirred; I picked it up and examined it. The woman attending the booth said she'd give it to me for $3. It now sits in my living room.

Sucks, blows chunks, bites the big dick of hell: However you want to say it, this is a horrible trivia game. It's not just the stunning simplicity of a question like "What fruit is used in apple pie?" It's that far too many of these questions are too vague to really work, especially for children: "What do some women wear on their earlobes?" (sexist to boot). "What is the state of Florida most famous for?" (I'd say alligators or old people or election controversy, but they were looking for oranges). "What planet has many rings around it?" (perpetuating a common misconception). Pity the genius child who correctly says "Uranus" for the last question.
Another problem: the inconsistency. The easy "A" level includes both questions like the ice-cube one and "What movie featured apes as rulers and humans as slaves?" Or, amazingly, "Who attempted to run across Canada on one leg to raise money for cancer research?" (which, under other language, has been asked before at the Big Quiz Thing). This is an actual example of a complete question card:

"A" (easy) level
What is the name of French currency?
How many dots does the symbol for the word "therefore" have?
"B" (challenging) level
What are the Academy Awards give for?
Who led the German Nazi war effort in World War II?

Insane. I mean, not that the average five-year-old would find the "B" level a piece of cake, but the "A" levels seem flat-out impossible for any child who isn't a math prodigy living in Provence.

I have not played this game since (re)purchasing it, and most likely never will; I have far more important trivia games to waste my time with, as you are no doubt aware.

41 comments:

Bill Scurry said...

We owned that shit too, in the Scurry Household of 1988. Me and Janice are on our way over to play right now.

AZ Girly said...

Therefore/dots - are they talking about algebraic proofs...? Is it 3?

The Big Quiz Thing said...

Yes, three dots. The fact that you had to ask proves how stupid a question it is.

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