I was lucky enough to attend the pub quiz at the Fox in Putney in its 2005-2006 pomp. Lucky on three fronts 1. it was a great pub quiz 2. I happened to be in a very good team so regularly went home with a bit of cash in my pocket 3. attending that quiz led directly to the job I have been doing for the last six years.
That was my first experience of a QuizQuizQuiz quiz, and it’s not idle promotion of our brand to say it was by far the best pub quiz I’d attended, and up to that point I’d attended quite a lot. I’d not necessarily been a furious all-year-round quizzer like a lot of my colleagues and their associates. If I found a good quiz in my area I’d do it and if my friends invited me along to one I’d do it. As much as I enjoyed quizzes, I sometimes held myself back from doing them because I tended to get a little nervous from the expectation of winning and also rather tetchy at any perceived injustices that might prevent said victory, be it poor marking, poor questions or the knowledge that other competitors were cheating. [Frankly, my former self would be a nightmare for my current incarnation as quizmaster.].
Still, it’s fair to say that I liked a good quiz, and I was good enough at quizzing, as is reflected by the fact that my participation at the Fox led to me getting this job – a very successful and enjoyable interview. The one downside of getting the job was that I could no longer take part in the Fox quiz. I had mixed feelings about the fact that my former team continued to prosper without me, too!
Because the job of running quizzes instantly took up at least two evenings a week, my participation levels dropped. My old team were still taking part in a quiz I was now helping to write, I was tired on my free evenings, I might be a bit quizzed out, also the days of the week I was booked out might vary, so I couldn’t find a regular night. In fact, I haven’t been a regular at a pub quiz since then.
But I have been to plenty of quizzes. And what this post is about (after my rambling introduction!) is what it’s like to attend quizzes when your job is on the other side.
Well, I’d like to say that my former tetchiness and nervous competitiveness had faded as I gained empathy for the tough job a quizmaster has to do, but, in truth, the opposite has happened. I’ve become more horrified at the prospect of not winning, more intent on picking apart bad questions rather than just answering them, more critical of long pauses and mispronounced questions. Even when my team has won, a sign of the success of the evening would be more likely to be me saying “That wasn’t a bad quiz” rather than “Woohoo! We won! I’m rich! Rich beyond my wildest dreams!”
I don’t feel too bad about that though. Running a decent quiz isn’t that hard (not that easy either, mind you) and when they fall below a certain level it is reasonable to hope for better. Indeed the last pub quiz I went to (quite a few months ago) left me thoroughly underwhelmed and grumpy. It had not been written on site (fair enough) but one could tell that whoever had written it (I’m not saying who) had done it without any enthusiasm. Also, an eight minute gap between Question 2 and Question 3 of Round 1 while the QuizMaster said farewell to his girlfriend was unconventional and, dare I say, not wholly successful as a technique for getting the teams to a fever pitch of quizzy delight. I’m sure my eventual disgruntlement had nothing to do with the fact that, for the first time in years (if not ever) my team had finished outside the Top 2. “Look, at the end of the day, if I haven’t won, there’s something seriously wrong with these questions”. Like any formerly good sportsman past his best, I blamed everything but myself …
But it is interesting what effect running quizzes and writing questions has had on my quizzing skills. Initially, I’d say, all was positive. Scouring the news all week and really getting into the mind of a quizmaster gave me a big advantage. The day I went to a local pub and won on my own by 12 points was the day I realised I had to know fewer facts.
Which is broadly how it’s gone. I’m still in with a good chance at any quiz I take part in, but success is not guaranteed. I think my style of question writing has changed somewhat, for one thing. I’m more looking for the fun fact in what is common knowledge rather than casting around for every possible news story which provides a question. Also, I’m doing more and more “written to order” multiple choice questions for machines/games etc where you tend to focus on a particular topic for a period of time, rather than cover everything under the sun.
So, how are pub quizzes for me now? Well, to be honest, I don’t go to that many anymore, which is rather sad. I still love a good pub quiz, but i wonder if the quality of QuizQuizQuiz quizzes has rather spoilt me. Which is not to say that there aren’t lots of good pub quizzes out there, I think it’s just my time to find them is less than it used to be. I hope that my job doesn’t entirely take one of my favourite hobbies away from me.
If you both run and take part in quizzes, how do you find the experience on both sides of the fence? Does it spoil or enhance the experience of an old-fashioned pub quiz for you?