So, here we are again. Lockdown 3: Revenge of the Quiz. All that chat about how great it was to be done with 2020 and free to strut onto the broad, sunlit, vaccinated uplands of 2021 feels a little premature. We're back in the same straits we were back in the dark days of last March, with everything shut and no prospect of properly hanging out with anyone except whoever we happen to be sharing a fridge with until early spring. It's depressing and stressful.
And, just as then, the strong, comforting arms of the pub quiz are ready to hold us close through this winter of discontent. You might well roll your eyes and do a big tut. Too good for quizzes are we? Completely numb to the promise of an evening spent guessing which of your mates from home tweeted that they were "jst havin a rogan josh absolutely legendary curry haha" in August 2009? No you're not. Nobody is.
Why though? Why in this rolling crisis have we attempted to keep ourselves going with endless rounds of questioning? The complete lack of the 'pub' bit of the pub quiz would, you'd think, take away much of the appeal, but linking up with mates via trivia does make a lot of sense. Pub quizzes are an essential pillar of Britain's national character, but they're also a very handy way of getting otherwise flaky mates to coalesce around an activity. We all need a bit of direction at the minute, and a pub quiz sits right in the sweet spot of normality and novelty
Now we've burned through about as many straight trivia rounds as it's possible for a human mind to cope with, virtual quizzing stands at an exciting juncture. The yearning for the quiz – for trivia, for factoids, for giving a numerical value to our cleverness – abides, but now's the time to get creative. We've got some ideas for the best Zoom quiz rounds here.
How to do the whole thing properly though? Stick to these guidelines and you'll be fine.
Pick your platform
This is critical. One person needs to make a call as to how you're going to see and hear each other, and it has to be at least one day in advance of the quiz itself. A lot of people are using Zoom, but if you're worried about exactly how private it is after last year's hacking scandal and the way that trolls were able to get in on meetings they weren't invited to, you've got other options.
House Party is the other platform that's had a sudden surge in users since the lockdown, and while it feels a bit rinky-dink it's easy to use on your phone and fairly reliable. If you're going the full Roy Walker, you could stream on Twitch and get your mates to send over their answers via Google Forms to stop any cheating. As we'll discuss, though, the centralised quizmaster set-up isn't really the point of the virtual pub quiz.
Microsoft Teams is like Skype though with far, far better functionality and, less happily, the overwhelming whiff of an enforced corporate fun day. And then there's Skype itself, which got a much-hated update from Microsoft in 2017 and now feels like something Peter Kay would do a routine about. Remember Skype! Eh? What were all tharrabout??
If you can’t be bothered to pull together your own questions, there are a few neat quiz platforms to try out. Kahoot – ostensibly a learning app that’s been commandeered by bored, boozed-up lockdowners– hosts a large number of ready-made quizzes and allows you to make your own on a template too. Players (up to 10 with the free membership) download the app, input the game pin code and play the quiz through their smartphone or tablet by clicking on multiple choice blocks.
It gives the whole thing a more slick, professional air, and allows the host to actually play (a problem that people-pleasing perma-hosts will no doubt understand). You can update the membership to 20 players and access more quizzes by paying £4 a month, and the £200 a month pro account allows up to 50 players for real pub quiz vibes.
Please, tell your elders how to share their screen
You know how to show everyone the picture round you've made on Powerpoint. You click the big green 'share screen' button. That's it. My mum and dad have asked for a Powerpoint presentation explaining how to show everyone their Powerpoint, and I reckon they're far from alone in not quite grasping the whole 'share screen' thing. Walk any tech-phobic quizmasters through the process, and send them this brief FAQ section:
What do I click? Click the share screen button.
What's happening now? There's loads of little windows. Click the Powerpoint.
Where've you gone? I'm still here.
Oh yes, there you are. Yes, hello.
Get some questions together
Obviously. Don't make them too hard. Don't overthink it. That said, this is an opportunity for some creativity, and not the kind of noodling creativity you've become satisfied with while in lockdown – this is the kind of useful creativity that people will actually enjoy. Here's a round you can steal: go back through the your co-quizzers' Facebook statuses from about 2009 to 2010, pick the most hilarious, see if they can guess who wrote them in the first place.
Struggling? Pick a theme
Faced with the entirety of time and space to write questions about, you might feel overwhelmed. That’s OK. Reach into the great grab-bag of themes and fish something out. Not just ‘sport’ or ‘capitals’; you can do better than that. Worried your friends don’t share your fascination with the early years of steam locomotive engineering or the PC Music back catalogue? Two words, friend: multiple choice.
Really struggling? Steal as much as you can
We live in a different world now. The rules have changed. You're working from home. You're going outside once a day. But, as far as we're aware, the UK's lockdown measures do allow you to temporarily license the intellectual property of gameshows from the 80s and 90s on a non-continuous, non-profit basis [SUBS PLEASE CHECK]. DIY Family Fortunes? It's yours! Homebrew Catchphrase? Buddy, you got it! Dismantling a wardrobe to make a Tipping Point board? Not advisable but it's your wardrobe, friend!
Structure is everything
Much like a good film, the perfect quiz comes in three acts. Build in two drinks and chat breaks, and you'll be sound. Ideally, you want every household in the quiz to bring at least one round to the table, but you've got to have a hard cut-off at two apiece. Nobody wants a six-hour quiz. Picture round at the start, music round in the middle, job's a good 'un.
The music round
An essential element, but perhaps the most technically challenging part of the virtual pub quiz. Yes, you can play things off your phone into your laptop microphone. However, whether that works or not will depend entirely on whether or not your internet speed’s so slow it’s practically going backwards, as well as you not using your phone for Zoom/HouseParty/whatever.
The most sturdy method might be to chop the intros of your songs into a single audio file on Audacity or something like that, then send it over in the group chat. It does leave the music round open to being Shazam’d into irrelevance though, so be prepared to hand out heavy sanctions.
Another good option: YouTube recorder covers (stay with us here). There’s an abundance of terrible, ear-splitting recorder renditions of popular songs that will have contestants scratching their heads and, eventually, covering their ears. And if you choose to play them off YouTube, have no fear that Zoom players will be able to see the video – when you share your screen you only allow one window to be visible.
Snacks are not optional
You need to observe the points at which you'd usually send a mate to get some crisps (bog-standard pub quiz) or grab a plate for a free buffet of beige items at the bar (superior pub quiz). The whole enterprise will feel unfinished. Ideally, you're looking at one of those 12-piece platters of Indian snack items that you stick in the oven.
Combine quizzing with a highly dispersed beer festival
What with the way that morning, afternoon, evening, weekend and weekday are all very fluid concepts at the moment, it’s easy to completely lose your grip on when drinking is a particularly sensible idea. If you’ve been stuck inside for any length of time, you might even have run through all your front-line drinks and started dipping into odds and ends of vermouth and sherry.
Fortunately, loads of breweries are still doing home delivery of great big bags of cans, and subscription services like Beer52 will sort you out with a weekly drop of drinks. Co-ordinate bevs with your mates, compare notes, expand your palate.
The real quiz is the friends we made along the way
Don't get arsey about who actually won. There's no way you're picking up any prizes for the next few months anyway.
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