Becoming a quiz show master – writing trivia for Pin My State
By Ameya Murukutla
How many of us have watched a quiz show on TV and thought that the questions were ridiculously easy to write? I thought that all that one had to do was to add how, what, when or why in front of a fact to have a trivia question ready to go. So, when I was hired by the CRI GameLab to write 300 questions for a game, designed to celebrate the rich diversity of Indian states and union territories, I assumed the task to be a piece of cake. The game is called Pin My State and in the game the players would have to answer a set of questions in different categories about the different States and Union Territories of India. Now, after finishing the task of writing the questions, I have newfound respect for game show writers and quiz masters.
India is a large country which boasts of a multitude of cultures and customs. Each state has its own unique history which shapes its modern-day populations. To write credibly about all of them was a challenging albeit interesting task. I started writing the questions by myself and realized that I was being insular. I wrote more about the things I knew and places I lived in. Academia has taught me to google efficiently but I wanted something more than just a review of different Indian states. I wanted to capture the experiences people had while travelling through the country and the impressions that different cultures left on them. With these lofty and cliched ideas I mailed a few friends and relatives that I would be interested to know more their trips and vacations in different parts of India. I had expected a few responses, some vague ideas and a lot of long winded mails about life changing experiences they had on said trips. I was pleasantly surprised over the next few weeks by the positive response and the amazing details about food and culture that my friends gave me. Sure, I had some mails asking me if I had changed careers and occasional load of vacation pictures sent my way but among all that were amazing ideas and facts about places I had never been to. The fun part is that this mail has snowballed and spread through my social contacts. I still get calls from people who heard about the quiz from a friend saying that he/she has an amazing question for me.
Even with great ideas I had a few roadblocks ahead. A quiz is engaging and informative only if it is relevant. Esoteric facts and dry dates from historic events are only fun for a select few. The questions must be prefaced but mustn’t be long, the options should be coherent but still not too easy and finally the topics should be popular but should not be stereotyped. I can only hope to have hit the mark on balancing difficulty with level of interest the questions generate in players.
Next came a chance to take the game for a test drive. Since I was travelling to India I asked the team if I could test some of the questions. I had already taken to accosting unsuspecting people at parties with trivia questions but felt a more organized approach to testing was warranted. The Bangalore based branch of the company Progress allowed me to test the questions on a Friday afternoon. The twenty players were wonderfully diverse state-wise, and the following hour and a half was lively but borderlined on becoming combative. The questions which garnered the maximum discussion were about food and this fascination reflects the passion we Indians share over our amazing cuisine.
I had an amazing time being a part of this game and I thank Jesse, Radhika, the GameLab and Includo for giving me this amazing opportunity. For me this game has started a journey of discovering amazing things about my country and I plan to keep that going.