Scenes from a Quiz Night

Wednesday, March 20, 7:56pm We were four of us walking down the barely lit passage on the side of the building. The guard had lazily pointed us to a large open door near the back of the building. The interior was a studio-type area and there was a group of three women dressed in white who had arrived ahead of us and we followed them up a narrow set of stairs to an elevated lounge area with chairs and tables. We recognized some of the faces already there so we knew we were in the right place. No, we weren’t there for some illicit meetup of any sort; we were there to participate in something a bit more geeky. We were here for a quiz night.

Quiz nights (or pub quizzes, as they’re known in Britain) at their heart are simple affairs. You get a bunch of friends to form a team and you go to the event venue for a night of answering questions on various topics, competing with other teams. There’s usually food and alcohol involved too. This particular quiz night we were attending was Geekfight, a monthly event which was coming back from a three-month hiatus. Their questions usually revolved around pop culture and traditionally geeky exploits. That means you knowledge of the minutiae of movies, TV shows, comic books and other such channels of geek culture.

We’ve arrived early since we didn’t know where the venue was and didn’t want to get lost. Aside from the organizers we are the only team already present. We jokingly said that maybe that meant we could win the event for once. I’ve been participating in quiz nights for more than three years now by my reckoning, but we’ve never finished first, the closest being a previous Geekfight where we tied for first place and I dropped the crucial tiebreaker question.

We’re looking to change that tonight though. Each quiz night is usually divided into several rounds of questions, with each round following a certain category of questions. For Geekfight, the categories are announced ahead of time so we know that tonight’s questions will be all about movies and we figure we have a solid chance. Two more of our group arrive so that we hit the Geekfight maximum of six members per team. We order some pizza from the pizzeria out front since the venue doesn’t serve food.

The place starts to fill in with other teams just as we’re finishing our pizza, though we don’t really mingle. “I feel like a lot of the people here know each other except for us,” one of us jokes, which starts a healthy discussion on our being introverts and our Myers-Briggs classifications. Still, we recognize many of the teams and attendees by face and by team name, and a few by name. A number of these players and teams also attend another of our regular haunts: quiz nights at Amici Greenhills which is held every first Thursday of the month. Amici’s question set is a bit wider and less involved with details as compared to Geekfight but still focused on pop culture, and the food is usually much better.

It takes a while before all the teams are assembled (probably had the same trouble as us finding the place) so the event starts off a bit later than the 9pm call time. The organizers have a projector set up to show slides against the far side of the room. The host (a guy who looks like one of our ex-officemates) calls out the rules and categories. Each team is approached by a scorer and is given a small whiteboard and a marker to use to show their answers. The host is going to call out each question as they appear on the slides and give the teams some time usually around 30 seconds to scrawl an answer onto their boards. After some time the host counts down from 5 then asks the team to raise their boards. The host will then call out each answer (or not, depending on how lazy he’s feeling) before going to the next slide to show the answer. Each round will have ten such questions.

Rounds one and two. The event kicks off with a round on Sports Movies which gets us scratching our head over questions such as what team Tidwell played for in Jerry Maguire [1] and what Kevin Bacon movie has him recruiting basketball players in Africa [2]. Halfway through the round I predict that we’re going to get a Dodgeball question and sure enough the very next slide asks us to name the gym opposite Average Joe’s in that movie [3]. The second round is on Science Fiction movies which leads to me struggling to remember the name of Emmet Brown’s dog in the year 1955 in the movie Back to the Future [4] (it’s not Einstein!) and the technical name for the liquid metal that composed the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day [5]

Unlike Geekfight and Amici which focus more on pop-culture topics, the first time we went to a quiz night was at a venue that tended towards more academic subjects – which was how we found out about our team’s unfortunate weakness to geography and history questions. That was at the first establishment to start running quiz nights in Metro Manila: Murphy’s, an Irish pub in Makati which still runs their quiz nights weekly every Tuesdays. It’s still pretty fun and challenging, so we still go there every few weeks or so, but the best our group has done there was third place.

Rounds three and four. Geekfight continued with a round on Gangster Movies, which sees us naming the lead character in Scarface [6] trying to guess the two leads of the 1976 movie Bitayin si Baby Ama [7] and luckily one of knows the name of the movie where Brad Pitt plays famous outlaw Jesse James [8].

The next round was a picture round, each slide showed a scene from a movie and we were to identify both the name of the place and the movie it appeared in (2 points each slide, so this round was worth twice as much as others!). The first question was a scene from the local movie Ang Nawawala which by coincidence some of the people who worked on it were at Geekfight that night! When we were shown a shot of Luke Skywalker leaving behind his dead Uncle and Aunt, I wanted to write “Lars Water Farm” or something like that instead of Tatooine and it turns out that we did indeed have to be more specific (part of quiz night is knowing when to override your team!) I felt a bit redeemed later when I successfully named the Firehouse from Ghostbusters.

Breaktime! After the first four rounds, it was halftime. We scored 26 points (out of a possible 50), which left us a sixth place out of 16 teams. Not bad, but certainly not good enough, we had to step it up. We took some time to vote on a category to joker. The joker was a common feature of the local quiz nights; it basically meant that each team gets to choose the category they’re most confident in and the team would earn double points for that particular category. Before my vote, it was split between Animated Movies and Rom-coms I just went with Rom-coms.

Rounds five and six. Rom-coms happened to be the very next round too! We had to think about who played the lead roles in the remake of the Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn film Sabrina [9] and we had to fill in the When Harry Met Sally quote “Waiter, there is too much pepper on my [blank]. But I would be proud to partake of your [blank]” [10]. We did fairly well in the joker round, only slightly worse than our best round which was the next round on War movies. The War movies round has us naming the ships in Master and Commander: Far Side of the World [11] and failing to identify the Oliver Stone war movie filmed in the Philippines [12]

Rounds seven and eight. The last two rounds were good for us so we just have to do well in the last two rounds (Fantasy and Animated Films). Shouldn’t be too hard right? You’d think so. The fantasy round had questions on old fantasy films we hadn’t seen such as Willow and recent films we weren’t fond of like Kingdom of Heaven. The animated round featured questions like who voiced Wreck-gar in the 1986 Transformers movie [13] and what was the name of the kart racing gaming in Wreck-It-Ralph [14] alongside questions on stuff we hadn’t seen like an obscure animated short that won some Oscar and a picture question asking us to identify which movie a character came from (we didn’t get the answer; it was, embarrassingly enough, The Little Mermaid.)

Wrapping up. When all the rounds were done, we had score 29 points in the second half, with only one team scoring more points than us (30) in the second half. When we perform badly, we usually don’t bother waiting for the final rankings to be called out, but I felt like there was an outside chance of us actually winning here since most of the top scores were clustered together. It turns out that we finished with 55 points, just below the fifth-place team with 57 points, so it was the same rank we had in the first half. =/ Interestingly, the 1st and 2nd placers are tied, as are the 3rd and 4th placers, so an additional tie break question had to be done. (I’ve been there before!)

Ah well, we’re used to not winning anyway. Yet we still keep coming back to quiz nights, Geekfight and Amici and Murphy’s. We enjoy the challenge I guess, and we love digging deep trying to find the answers to those trivia questions. Yes, we enjoy it even when we have trouble figuring them out. But next time we’re going to win for sure! (Or so I keep telling myself)

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This might be the longest post I’ve ever written. Here are the answers to trivia questions marked in the post body:

[1] Arizona Cardinals

[2] The Air Up There; the person to grab our whiteboard started writing down “The Gods Must Be Crazy” until I talked her out of it

[3] Globo Gym

[4] Copernicus! I could only remember that it was some older scientist so I just hastily scrawled “Newton” as time was called. I got mocked for this because my teammates know I’m a big Back to the Future fan.

[5] Memetic polyalloy

[6] Tony Montana

[7] Rudy Fernandez and Alma Moreno. All the teams actually assumed one of the leads was Bembol Roco

[8] The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

[9] Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond; the guy who answered for our team kept beating himself up because he mixed up Julia Ormond with Juliette Binoche. I didn’t know who either of those two was at that time

[10] paprikash, pecan pie

[11] Acheron and HMS Surprise

[12] Platoon

[13] Eric Idle

[14] Sugar Rush

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