Monday, June 23, 2008

Trivia generation gap

My alter ego Devon noticed something about the categories of questions in subsequent Trivial Pursuit (TP) editions, and had a discussion with me about it.

Devon: The first edition of TP had what I think are more cerebral categories, or at least more academic sounding, such as Geography, Art and Literature. In later editions you have People and Places, and Arts was rolled into Arts and Entertainment. And with more pop culture categories in other editions, I've read that some trivia fans lament this "dumbing down" of the questions.

Dave: I wouldn't used quite harsh a term as dumbing down, but there is definitely a trend in replacing field-specific knowledge questions with generation-based, pop culture questions.

Devon: How do you distinguish between those two types of questions?

Dave: For field-specific knowledge, one can imagine a history buff, a science geek, a well-read bookworm, a well-travelled person, etc. These can be people of any age. They don't have to be working in that field, just have an interest. Through reading anyone can gain field-specific knowledge.

For generation-based knowledge, it is based on what one experienced during a specific time, usually while in the teens to early thirties. For example, the "baby boomers" have more knowledge of the pop culture trivia related to the 1950's and 1960's than say their parents or their children.

Devon: In other words, field-specific knowledge can be had by a larger group of people, and generation knowledge by a smaller group. So why would trivia game makers opt for something that caters to a smaller group?

Dave: It turns out there are much more people who are knowledgable about generation specific trivia than people who are knowledgeable about a wide variety of general trivia. One might say that generation specific trivia is in fact the "general" trivia that everyone knows a lot about, because it was something they grew up with. But field-specific trivia is more specialized, and very few people are good with arts and science and history and sports and entertainment.

Devon: What would be your ideal categories for a field-specific trivia game?

Dave: I would love to have a Science based Trivial Pursuit, with the six categories being Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Technology, and Multiplicity (other branches of science).