No Question That Pandemic Has Been A Boon To Quizzers

Trivia buffs have easily made the move from physical to online quiz events.  

KOLKATA, India — When you can’t get to the quiz site, the only thing to do is bring the quiz to you.

This is what Indian quiz buff Movin Miranda did once the pandemic lockdown went into effect in March 2020.

Miranda, who works in industrial product marketing in Kuala Lumpur, started the Asian Quiz League, modeled after the World Quizzing Championships (WQC), which Miranda has attended over the years. The Asian Quiz League, which started in November, has 32 teams from Asia, Australia and the United Sates vying in online matches.

WQC, a 240-question written quiz on eight subjects, traditionally has been held at various venues around the world, but in 2020 the championships were conducted online, attracting over 2,500 contestants. India has been the most represented country for several years.

Quiz underway on the closing day of the Kolkata Quiz Festival 2019. (Kolkata Quiz Festival)

Pat Gibson from Ireland, a four-time WQC champion, said since the world’s population has retreated indoors, online opportunities that have opened up during the pandemic have made it possible for him to compete against quizzers from Kolkata, Los Angeles and Rio, with no travel costs — “a not-so-minor miracle.”

In years past, around the second weekend of January a group of avid quizzers would make a beeline for Kolkata, where, over a couple of days, they would huddle inside an empty swimming pool, trying to coax nuggets of information from impossible corners of memory.

Similar scenes (minus the swimming pool) could be seen in Bangalore on the last weekend of June, and in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Pune on other designated weekends as quiz enthusiasts gathered to pack their brains with trivia.

Intense quizzing, high concentration at ASKQANCE 2019, Bangalore’s annual quiz festival. (Karnataka Quiz Association)

In the absence of large social gatherings, the field is now flush with online sites, including XQuizIt, Nexus and TackOn.

GyaanSpace, which has been around since 2016, offering knowledge solutions for school, college and corporate quizzes, has hosted over 150 online quizzes across multiple platforms since March — about five times the number hosted pre-Covid, according to founders Titash Banerjea and Kunal Mandal.

Priced between $1 and $3 per quiz, GyaanSpace quizzes have short, accessible questions, and a run time of about an hour.

Not only has the site attracted a large crowd of regulars and newbies, but also a significant number of returnees who had stopped quizzing because they could not invest entire afternoons or evenings, or travel to take part in physical quizzes, Banerjea said.

“While we could only bring a certain number of people to our physical quizzes, given that they were school or college events, the online platforms provide an almost unlimited room to scale up,” said Banerjea.

Regional quizzing associations have used Zoom, Google Meet and Discord to offer their regular quizzes. In addition, with more quizzers paying to play, funds have been raised to help support workers who have lost wages during the lockdown and for victims of natural disasters.

On the downside, there is suspicion that some participants are using Google to search for answers. For regulars like freelance writer Bedbyas Datta, it has been demoralizing to know that what he gets by putting his brain to work for several seconds, someone else is getting by quickly punching in some keywords in Google.

ASKQANCE 2019, Bangalore’s annual quiz festival. (Karnataka Quiz Association)

London-based writer and journalist Samanth Subramanian said, “The joy of piecing an answer together with one’s teammates” is the No. 1 reason why most quizzers agree to spend entire weekends in virtual meetings.

Dr. Arul Mani, professor of literature and a veteran quizzer, is amused that the need to thwart “Googlers” has forced quiz writers to put more effort into framing questions.

It remains to be seen whether the proliferation of online quizzes and increased adoption of their quick and snappy formats will be a challenge to live quizzes post-pandemic.

Banerjea thinks that once social mingling is possible again, about 20 percent of online participation will translate into physical participation. Among the remaining 80 percent, he believes, many may be women who sometimes feel intimidated at men-dominated live quizzes.

Ananya Upadhya, a 19-year-old law student, has started an initiative called “A HERd of Quizzers,” to mobilize social media platforms to bring more diversity into quizzing.

Ananya Upadhya, the force behind A HERd of Quizzers (Anjana Krishna)

“It has evolved into a space for women quizzers to host quizzes which can be accessed by others as well,” said Upadhya. “That’s how we started the Instagram page where we host regular quizzes on women in various fields.”

Jyotesh Singh, who is taking a business management course in India, said he would still recommend quizzing to every young person he meets because very few things come close to the “thrill of knowing that you know more than other people.”

(Edited by Anindita Ghosh and Judith Isacoff)