Is the Smart Phone Killing the Pub Quiz?

So you are at your local pub quiz night, and the quiz master is in full flow. The latest question is a tough one, and the members of you team are all in disagreement. As you put heads together to come up with an answer you spot some guy on the next table with a smug look on his face and an iPhone in his hand. The problem is that as mobile phone technology advances, and people can access information at the touch of a few buttons, then the temptation to cheat to win the local pub quiz is ever increasing. And if one team can do it, then why shouldn’t you all get in on the act?

Whatever happened to the British sense of “fair play” and “good sportsmanship”? It seems that in the heady atmosphere of the pub quiz, when the booze is free flowing, where team rivalries run large, and teams strive to be the most knowledgeable, the idea of cheating by using mobile phones has become more and more commonplace. With only a few points making the difference between claiming victory and bragging rights, the availability of the whole internet of information on a smart phone, can be a boon to those otherwise struggling with trivia.

But surely this ruins the spirit of the quiz, that people pit their brains, memory and intellect against the barrage of questions thrown out by the quiz host. And not all information surfers are made equal – some may not have phones, some only have text messaging, whereas others have instant access to Google and Wikipedia. How fair is it to those who cannot cheat on a level playing field?

Have A Policy – Make It Clear Where You Stand

It is important to be sure that before your quiz starts you state your position and that you have a policy on mobile phone use. Most commonly it would be that phones should be switched off, and out of the players immediate area. You should appeal to player’s better nature and sense of fair play, and ensure that perceived use of phones for cheating be frowned upon. You might want to declare up front that anyone seen using a phone will be banned, or have x number of points deducted in the event of a win or draw.

Alternatively you might take a laissez-faire attitude and allow users to check out and research on the internet. If so, you need to set your questions appropriately to ensure the quiz is still a challenge of intellect and skill rather than the ability to hit Google for facts.

The Golden Rule

Whatever your stance on the use of mobile devices in your pub quiz, try not to become too overbearing. Whilst it might be fair do deduct points for cheating, it is no fun and detracts from the overall pleasure of the evening if you have to evict and bar several teams on suspicion of using their mobile phones to cheat. Realistically it is almost impossible to prevent cheating from happening, all you can do is try and instill a sense of fairness, and limit the scope and opportunity for it to occur.

Remember the golden rule is that your quiz evening should be an entertaining and enjoyable event. If you fail on this front then people will not come back regularly.

The Quizmaster’s Challenge

The challenge now faced by quiz masters and compilers of pub quiz questions is to create questions which are not so easy to simply look up on the latest WAP enabled phone.

Consider for example “Family Fortunes” style rounds, where the players have to guess the top 5 answers in a particular category – with bonus points for guessing the correct top answer in the category. For example, “We asked 100 people to name a well known astronaut”. The emphasis is less about what the “correct” answer is, but what the people surveyed might have said. Depending on the demographics, answers might range from the obvious answers like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the ridiculous but popular such as Buzz Lightyear!

Alternatively true or false rounds on totally obscure facts might also provide the right level of challenge. Also questions which rely on an aggregation of information such as "How many films has Tom Hanks appeared in which won oscars?" will stretch even the most adept internet nerd.

A skilled quizmaster will be able to rise to the challenge and find questions to test the best brains rather than the best technology.

Share Your Experiences

So what are your experiences of mobile phone cheating? How do you deal with the issue? What solution works for your quiz night? I would love to hear from you on this topic so please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.



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