Matthew Belinkie, Rachel D, Peter Fenzel, Ryan Sheely, and Matthew Wrather met this weekend for the annual lakeside retreat of the Overthinkers, and spend most of it taking trivia quizzes online. We discuss our favorite questions of the weekend, why we’re drawn to trivia, the scenarios in which you take trivia quizzes and their social, professional, and gender dynamics, and what kind of knowledge trivia represents.
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- Matthew Belinkie
- Rachel D
- Peter Fenzel: @fenzelian
- Ryan Sheely: @ryanmsheely
- Matthew Wrather: @mwrather
I have to disagree that trivia rewards intellectual curiosity. IME, trivia rewards a width of knowledge but not a breadth. To be good at trivia, you need a few facts about everything. Knowing a little about a lot of movies helps you. Knowing a lot about a few movies is useless. It also rewards random, and often irrelevant facts– it’s recollection rather than understanding. Trivia is also age dependent (I’ll know different stuff than my dad), and it tends to reward the most popular of popular culture.
I don’t like trivia. I don’t have a breadth of knowledge. I know a lot about a few things. (In fact, most of my pop culture knowledge these days comes from OTI). Category about Persona 4? I can ace that! A category about JRPGs in general? I’m screwed. Same goes for most other categories. Now, my dad is the type who knows a lot about everything. He is great at trivia and he loves it. My sister too. We went to a pub trivia night last time they visited and they were the MVPs of the team. I’d say our entire family is pretty pop culture aware and intellectually curious, but it’s in different ways. The one thing the trivia lovers have in common is a love of NPR. I’m not sure what that means.
A comment about Pokemon Go/Ingress jumped out at me from this Podcast. I live in Brisbane, Australia and there is lots of public infrastructure such as power poles and electrical boxes that have been painted by artists that usually have something to do with the area they are in. Nearly all of them are Pokestops. I have a great time running around and finding all of this trivial stuff that I didn’t know was in my neighbourhood.
On my way home the other day I saw one that is painted with an Ingress theme. So the game is now transforming the real world. It will be no time until you hear people saying “I caught an Onix down there by the Bulbasaur statue!”
By the way, really loved how much you guys seemed to enjoy making this one. The laughter was infectious.
That Magic line of thought near the end of the podcast was amazing, and I agree wholeheartedly on the importance of creativity and knowledge to be a good deckbuilder.
I have actually cited skills with Magic: The Gathering in all of my interviews and had to expound on all the little details and skills the game teaches you.
Curious Pete, what are your format/deck of choice? You seem familiar with the intricacies of delver/tempo decks, so are you a legacy man?
Hi Mox! I used to play a decent amount of both Limited Constructed on Magic Online from about 2006 to about 2011, but at this point that was a number of years ago. I stopped playing Magic mostly due to cost, but I still watch a lot of YouTube videos on it and keep up with the formats (I’m a loyal Channel Fireball viewer).
The format I played the most was old Extended, and my favorite constructed deck was playing Hive Mind in the Thopter Depths meta. It was very fun to play an non-interactive win condition against that could just frickin’ destroy you so hard if you tried to play its game. And a lot of people I played in the 2-mans and 8-mans weren’t great pilots of Thopter Depths – I Echoing Truth’d a lot of Marit Large’s.
Hive Mind combo at the time was a bit more fun and not something you ran with multiple other combos in the same deck.
The deck I played the longest and spent the most time building was Extended Merfolk – so you’re right about me being fond of tempo decks. Early in Llorwyn I opened a Garruk Wildspeaker in a draft, and that was a really high value chase card at the time, and I managed to trade it and maybe a few tickets for four Cryptic Commands, which ended up saving me a lot of the cost of building that Merfolk deck.
I was never really interested in Legacy because Wasteland is a miserable card that is unfit for leisure activities.
I’ve played Magic off and on since Revised (I bought a TON of Fallen Empires packs when they came out, because they were so cheap and I figured my luck opening bad cards in them had to change. Oops.), and my proudest Magic moment other than rolling deep and tipsy with a horde of comedians to a midnight Innistrad prerelease, was getting to round 2 of a Type 1 tournament at my local store in Fair Lawn, NJ (this was way before it was called Vintage), with a deck I built myself that mostly just looked to power out a Juggernaut on turn 2 with a Sol Ring and follow up with Serra Angel. I remember people gathering around me and thinking they must have thought I actually knew what I was doing at the time (I didn’t, really. I was like 14 years old.).
Actually, no, my proudest moment was definitely beating that mean jerk in the basement of my game store who kept killing all my friends with his Millstone / Mana Drain / Counterspell deck, using a 110-card red and white deck that curved out with garbage Icatian one- and two-drops and pikemen. Mill this, buddy! Swing for 2 damage!
Trivia gives a false sense of superiority.
Why do people learn all the pokemon, or comicbook lore, or scifi/fantasy lore? Because it’s easy, and gives this aura of “oh, look at all that knowledge that they can muster up at the snap of a finger. So educated, so empowering.”
It’s easier to read up on the history of Game of Thrones than, say, the Middle East.
Don’t get me wrong, you have people armoring up in useless real world histories., like WW2 or Japanese swords. Useless in the sense that they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. They’re not trying to be scholars or advance the field. They’re just trying to impress people with some trivia.
With that said, trivia as a pass time, like playing cards or checkers, can be and is fun.
The discussion of trivia and fiction toward the end made me think of the Jorge Luis Borges story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” Trivia found in an encyclopedia about a fictional world gradually replaces the “real” world. The story seems to suggest that such “trivia,” whether factually true or not, ultimately constitutes our reality.