Board games have been around for a very long time. Small girls in Pompeii are known to have played prototypes, yet we’re still not bored with the board game format as the continuing success of global titles like Cranium and Trivial Pursuit indicates.
Trivial Pursuit often surfaces as a post-Christmas dinner family tradition and in fact it was dreamed up in December 1979 by a couple of Canadian media men, picture editor Chris Haney and sports journalist Scott Abbott. The friends were playing Scrabble at the time and decided to create their own game. The format, of a ludo-style progress round the board plus brain tickling questions when you land on a square, was soon a hit. Trivial Pursuit was trademarked in 1981 and was dubbed “the biggest phenomenon in game history” by Time magazine.
Its success – and 30,000,000 games left the production line between 1983 and 1985 – can be attributed to the selection of good quiz questions. Different editions of Trivial Pursuit appear regularly, and there’s even a Star Wars Classic version where the orange category means quiz questions on “droids, creatures and aliens”.
It’s big business but by cleverly mixing serious questions with some trivia quiz questions, the Trivial Pursuit boffins keep it topical (the London Olympic 2012 edition surfaced last year) and fresh as each season they buy thousands of new board game trivia questions.
Cranium, marketed as “the game for your whole brain”, is another contender for the title of favourite British board game. So question cards range from Creative Cat, where you have to draw things, to Data Head, where you remember facts. Two Microsoft men, Richard Tait and Whit Alexander, devised the game in 1998 with its range of quiz questions and tasks to create something where “everybody has a heroic moment”. The game certainly did when Hasbro bought out Cranium Inc in 2008 for 77.5 m dollars.
At the entertainment end of the board game world Pointless, based on the BBC quiz show, turns convention on its head by asking people to work out the least likely answer to quiz questions, a sort of reverse Family Fortunes. Those in charge of buying the board game trivia questions that make the frame undoubtedly enjoy their work and the satisfaction that comes from knowing that the least recognised character in Toy Story was Wheezy the penguin.
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