The Death of the Pub Quiz?

R.I.P to the Traditional Pub Quiz

The Bowl Inn by Pingstone via Wikimedia Commons

For countless years, regular attendees of the traditional pub quiz have wrestled with questions ranging from the mainstream and factual events in life to the frankly ridiculous and niche morsels that only devotees to lesser-known hobbies will ever know. The magic that keeps people enthralled with quizzes is the chance to shine at a particular section, perhaps display some surprising knowledge, and generally have a good old debate over facts, figures and guesses. All in all, a pub quiz is a great excuse for people to have a break from the technology-blitz of the modern world, and keep alive the joys of argument and communication over a few drinks in the local pub (becoming rarer as the rate of decline in the pub industry continues to accelerate). The end of the quiz is a chance to hear those answers that have been agonised over throughout the course of the evening, cheering when correct, and various muttering’s of “I knew it” or “I said that!” accompanying the wrong guesses.

The fly in the ointment has come roaring along in the shape of mobile technology; more specifically, the new era of the Apple iphone, Blackberry and various smartphones which posses the ability to connect to the internet at the touch of a button. Only a short time ago, I attended a local pub quiz, popular with customers from a wide range of ages. What was instantly noticeable was the blatant use of mobile internet to look up answers to many of the questions, on the part of much of the younger contingent present. Some teams didn’t even attempt to conceal the fact that they were cheating; on the table next to ours, two of the girls were openly looking up and passing on answers to their scribe.

To a certain extent, it is understandable to see cheating in an environment where money is the prize for winning; greed has always inspired many unsavoury actions through history, and so in the grand scheme of the world, cheating at a quiz does not rank high up the scale. However, not does it only make it incredibly unfair for the honest teams who resist the urge to look up answers, despite the sight of other teams jumping the gun, but also makes it unfair for the older generation, for whom knowledge comes into its own right over intelligence in such an environment, who suffer the indignity of teenagers producing answers to questions regarding film, music and events that particularly benefit the older participant.

What enjoyment can be produced by looking up answers, without the debate and anguish that goes along with having answers on the tip of the tongue? It is akin to sitting in front of Million Pound Drop Live or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with a laptop displaying the Wikipedia page. The enjoyment that such people get from this pursuit must be tempered by the knowledge that only through being able to use the internet quickly can they actually excel at something that requires some actual knowledge.

So what can be done about it? At present, pubs attempt to check the history of the winning team’s phones, introduce rounds that contain music and picture recognition, or simply rely on honesty from the participants. In many cases, proactive staff members and constant rounds of patrolling can limit the effectiveness of using a phone to cheat. However, even in breaks, it is possible to go outside and look up answers to past questions. Rooms that block mobile signals are expensive to set up, and likely to encounter considerable opposition.

It is arguable that if the pub industry doesn’t adapt to the threat of the smartphone to the pub quiz format, the pub quiz may well soon become defunct, lost in the annals of popular entertainment. There is no easy solution to this issue; the situation relies on the rejection of having technology 24/7, and a surge back towards traditional methods of socialising without the constant accompaniment of a high-speed connection to the internet.

My suggestion? As a team, find the comfiest, most secluded corner of the pub, away from those who are only there to use their typing speed. Turn off your phones … and lose yourself to the old-fashioned pub quiz, replete with emotion, enjoyment and relaxation.