Quiz Nights around the World: Cebu City, Philippines

In April of this year, my travels took me to Cebu City in the Philippines. I wasn’t there for quiz business, but why not make the most of the opportunity…

I discovered a company called Cebu Trivia Nights and once it was clear that everything at their quiz night would be in English, I managed to organise a team of colleagues to go along. I was particularly satisfied that the quiz was being held at a restaurant that was, so I was told, famous for its crispy pork.

This was a quiz night unlike any other I have ever attended. This was to be no typical pen and paper quiz. Each team had a small whiteboard and a marker pen. All answers were to be written on the whiteboard, and held aloft after 10 seconds, at which point the glamorous assistants around the room looked around to work out who had got the answer correct and updated their scoresheets there and then. After each question the whiteboard gets wiped clean ready for the next question.

The quiz was split up into rounds (or “sets” as the host called them) with varying numbers of questions, but on a generally very specific topic. The host was amusingly camp, and an excellent presenter, and I think he may have also been the question writer (at least judging by the first two topics of the evening). The night I was there, the topics included: Characters from ‘The Sound of Music’, Contents of ladies’ handbags, Corporate Headquarters, Famous Explorers, Figures of Speech, In the News, and various others that I can’t recall now (but all, bar one, very accessible to a non Filipino like me).

There was a good variation in question difficulty – but a couple on the Figures of Speech round struck me for being extremely tricky. This is a topic I am quite good on, having done Latin and Greek A-Levels and enjoyed collecting a range of little-known terms for different figures of speech. I was very very surprised not to be the only person in the room to know Synechdoche and Tmesis.

My main frustration with the quiz was that every question was “either you know it or you don’t”. And because the answer to each question had to be given within 10 seconds there was very little time for conferring (more a case of thrusting the whiteboard and pen at the team member who looked the most likely to know it), and absolutely no time for trying to work something out or dig it out from the recesses of memory. For me, this is one of the joys of quizzing – working stuff out, rather than just knowing something straight off. I think this kind of quick-fire quiz is fun, but I would always enjoy a bit more variety in the pacing of the quiz.

Despite this frustration, I absolutely loved the quiz, as did the rest of the crowd, and these guys clearly have a massive following in Cebu and beyond. It was very interesting to take part in a quiz that operates in a completely different way to what we are familiar with in the UK.

The closest we come to this kind of “instant feedback” quiz is interactive keypads, which we use in some higher-end company quiz nights but we tend to use them in moderation and only for very specific types of round, rather than for the sake of the technology. For example, we’d use them to reward teams specifically for speed of response with their correct answers, or to allow them to gamble points on each question.

Does the instant whiteboard answering quiz format sound like something you would enjoy?

Quiz Nights around the World: New York City

Do other countries have pub quizzes? Well, yes, but not necessarily as we know them in the UK.

In January this year, I attended an event run by Noah Tarnow of The Big Quiz Thing (@bigquizthing on twitter) who, broadly speaking, is to  New York and Boston (and that general area) what QuizQuizQuiz is to London and the UK.

I met up with Noah the night before the quiz (once I had got enough information from my friend who was taking me to the quiz night to work out who was running it and how to track him down). We compared notes about the “pub quiz circuit” in our respective countries, and the US market is massively different. For a start you’ll need to call a pub quiz a trivia night to avoid suspicion that it will be like a quiz in the classroom at school. Amusingly, we both also had a shared fondness of the excellent quiz question: “Which country would you come to if you travelled due East from New York City?” *

The quiz itself was very much an event…not something that happens every week like a British pub quiz (although of course there are weekly pub quizzes in NYC, and occasional big show quizzes in the UK). Entry was £10 per person, and the bar was somewhat trendier than I’m entirely comfortable in. My team ended up being called Quizteama Aguilera, which is one of the most painfully common quiz team names over here, but my team in New York had never heard it before in all the quizzes they had been to, and thought it was funny (which it is, I suppose).

The set-up was impressive: big screen, DJ type person to play the music and visual questions, and a sparkly jacket for quiz master Noah.

There were 4 rounds if I remember correctly (possibly 5), of varying formats: straight questions (albeit very good ones), an “images from around New York” round, a speed round, and a stunningly witty  music round. You had to write down the song titles, and all the odd numbered answers were questions (e.g. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”) and all the even numbered answers were possible answers to those questions (e.g. “Stay Another Day”). There were quite a few gimmicks which went down very well with the crowd (jingles to announce “the three part answer” etc.)

There was a buzzer finale for the top three teams (not including my team, alas, as the topic was British Royalty).

All in all, a lot of similarities to a British pub quiz, probably closer to one of the full multimedia extravaganzas that we run for some of our corporate clients than a normal pub quiz, and an exceptionally high standard of quizzing from the teams. I can absolutely see how a low-key pub quiz might not take-off in the US, and that the gameshow style of The Big Quiz Thing is bang on for that market.

Next edition of Quiz Nights around the World will tell the tale of a pub quiz that I attended in Cebu City in the Philippines in May.

And if you have any tales of pub quizzes outside of the UK, please get in touch.

*Answer to the question: Portugal