I haven’t posted anything on my blog for so long that I’m at the point that I need to write about not having written anything. Chances are that I will have time once I’m back at university. Don’t hold your breath though. :/
Grey Matters, DPS Vasant Kunj’s annual inter-school quiz, was held this year on 1st August. I wish I could have been there to co-conduct it like last year, with Vivek. That was not to be as I was tied up this year with my internship. Vivek, I’m sure, had many mini-freakouts where he silently and privately cursed me for being a lazy bastard, and I won’t be surprised if he thought we’d be pulling off an all-nighter actually researching a majority of questions like we did last year. I have to thank Bhavika and Prateek for really saving our asses and doing a lot of the heavy-lifting with the research. And then Vivek and I piled on with our own set of diabolical questions, many of them hashed out over Skype sessions. I think we did a good job by the end of it. Massive, massive thank you to both of them for making this happen, and to Vivek who carried off what I hear was a well-conducted quiz. Without any of the on-stage stripping that I did last time.
So…click here to download Grey Matters 2012. I hear there was a massive upset in our speciality ‘6 by 9’ round in the finals.
Here are some things I had in mind – and which I discussed with Vivek – when we donned our hats as Game Makers:
- I hate long and pointless questions. I feel strongly that there is no need to waffle on with a 20-lines of details. ‘Workable’ does not mean adding as much information as you can, but adding crucial bits of information. And so, we tried to limit question lengths. Quizzing is a spectator sport – even when you don’t have an audience, if your question is so long that it takes three minutes to read out, other teams on stage will get tired. Participating in a quiz with long questions is like playing a test match – a noble profession, surely, but incredibly taxing. So we tried to keep the questions snappy while still trying to leave enough details to allow answers to be ‘worked out’ or guessed.
- The quiz is very trivia-heavy. Even when we have question on current affairs (questions on Olympics, US elections…) they have been phrased in a way so that it isn’t a direct “Identify this bloke in the news recently” type questions.
- Keep the rounds varied! This doesn’t just mean have ‘dry’ rounds and straight audio visuals. We mixed things up by keeping infinite bounce rounds, mixing audio/visuals at random into standard rounds, and having formats like ‘hangman’ with cryptic clues, progressive clues, 6 by 9. This keeps things interesting for everyone – as a quizmaster it lets you not get worn out; as a participant, it allows team members with different strengths to shine in different rounds. Everyone could be smart but some people work better with ‘raw’ questions, some are better at cryptic…and then the finishing touch of 6 by 9 brings it down to the wire by allowing for huge upsets (up to 100 points can be earned in that round).
- Ask questions about things that are usually not covered in quizzes. This is one of my pet peeves about quizzing in Delhi: contemporary pop culture is so short shrifted. Why should ‘music’ always mean 60-80s English rock and Hindi songs? I’ve yet to ever attend a quiz that has asked questions on contemporary music, beyond VERY mainstream stuff. The newest things I’ve heard ever at a quiz are early 90s Nirvana or Coldplay, and every other music question belong to before that era. Films, books…everything seems either pre 90s era usually. Upshot: there’s a huge confirmation bias in what quizzers ‘study’ or expect. Or that someone who likes more recent music would hate / suck at the music rounds of most quizzes in Delhi, and hence only people who are into old Bollywood / classic English rock will ever do well in those rounds. For instance, there was a question on identifying The XX feat. Florence Welch which none of the participants got…but guess what, many people in the audience from a random classroom that was called in to sit in the audience did! There’s a huge disconnect because there are so many topics that rarely ever get touched in quizzes, generally. Sure, Vivek and I have our biases too but we tried to avoid questions that felt ‘standard’, for whichever ones we came up with.
- We wanted to come up with questions on weird and wonderful trivia that nobody has ever heard of. The perfect question for me as a question setter is one that nobody can answer…but one which when you hear the answer for, makes you go “THAT is fucking cool”. So, by trivia I don’t mean asking what’s the name of Kim Jong Il’s eldest son…but asking a question in which I get to tell you that Kim Jong Il wanted to solve starvation by breeding giant rabbits, and that his eldest son is in exile in Macau after trying to smuggle himself into Japan on a fake Dominican Republic passport because he wanted to visit Disneyland Tokyo. So what if nobody gets the answer! If you like quizzing, you learn something new and weird…and as a quizmaster, it gives you even greater pleasure when something like this gets cracked. Think of it as making…a quiz version of Cracked.com.
Tell me what you think of this quiz! The feedback I’ve got so far says many felt the difficulty level of written preliminaries and initial stage rounds was vastly different from that of the finals round. And I hope you learn something new and enjoy it. :)