Friday, March 06, 2009

A great idea, executed badly.

Yesterday, Sunny and I bought ourselves a copy of 'Trivial Pursuit – Electronic Edition'.

Trivial Pursuit is one of our favorite board games of all time. Unfortunately, general knowledge trivia games don't work very well when the players are from two different countries and cultures. We quickly realized that buying an American version of the game put me at a major disadvantage, and buying a British version did the same to Sunny.

Basically, I can name the last ten British Prime Ministers, but I'd have a problem with US Presidents.

Anyway, the electronic version seemed to answer all our prayers. Firstly, it only cost twenty-five bucks versus forty or fifty for the regular version. Secondly, you still get a board, dice and playing pieces, but instead of a big box of question cards, you get a gadget that displays questions on its screen

This was a big deal for us, because while the gadget comes with 600 pre-loaded questions, you hook it up to your PC, go to the Trivial Pursuit website and you can download another 1800 questions for free. The reason this was a big deal is that the questions are split into mini categories that fit into the main categories, meaning we could tailor the questions so neither one of us was at an advantage or disadvantage. Basically, we could pick 'world history', instead of American or British history…and if one of us picked a category that we would have an advantage in, the other could pick a category that they liked to balance things out.

Unfortunately, the game has such a blatant problem that for half an hour I was convinced I'd read the instructions wrong. You see, I'd downloaded a ton of mini-categories, which covered everything from Mythical Creatures to Marvel Comics, and when I turned on the gadget and selected 'new game', it picked six of these mini-categories to use for the whole game. While you can pick which six mini-categories to use manually, you're still stuck with them for the duration of the game.

What I don't understand is why there isn't a setting to pick a mini-category at random each time you pick a main category. For example, 'Horror and sci-fi movies', 'TV comedies' and 'popular fiction' all come under the 'entertainment' category…so why can't I have it set so that when I land on an Entertainment square, the gadget picks a question from one of those mini-categories at random like in the traditional card game? Why do I have to play the game so all the entertainment questions are about one particular thing?

It really sucks because it completely destroys the reason Sunny and I bought this version, and it doesn't make sense for the average player either.

Basically, imagine being in a room with a bunch of other people and all trying to agree on what six categories to use for the whole game. Sure, you can argue that letting the gadget pick categories at random makes things 'fair'…but let's just say that if Sunny and I are playing and 'Marvel Comics' comes up…those questions might as well be in Greek for Sunny.

The whole point to Trivial Pursuit is the variety of the questions, that's why the main categories have such broad names like 'People and Places'…when you're forced to throw away that variety for no reason, it just takes a lot of the fun out of the game.

Long story short, when there are only six categories to land on, I want to land on 'Entertainment' and have to answer a question on anything from classic literature to horror movies. What I don't want to do is replace that 'Entertainment' category with the 'Reality TV' category. Sure, give me that option, but don't force me to do it for no reason.

This honestly makes no sense to me. It feels like the creators of this version thought "How can we take an absolutely awesome game, introduce an awesome new feature, but still make the game much, much worse for no reason?"…and that's exactly what they've done.

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