Why Trivial Pursuit Is the Quintessential Family Game


Dina Shlufman

The Game Set-Up of the 2016 Classic Version of Trivial Pursuit.

Dina Shlufman, Staff Writer

POV: It’s Thanksgiving. You welcome a break from the political and/or religious discussion and an unnecessarily choleric dinner to play a game as a family. “Hmm, what to play…” you ponder as you shuffle through the messy stack of 2000s board games. You determine that Monopoly has too many rules, Life is too pointless, and Clue is too confusing. What’s left? Trivial Pursuit. You decide it’s worth a try and set it up. As the game continues, the competitive energy steadily rises until you enter a battle to the death. Only one team will make it out alive.

So, what is it about this game that makes it so appealing? Well, to understand this, you first need to understand its history. It was co-created by Chris Haney and Scott Abbot, who lost some letters from their Scrabble game and drunkenly decided to create a categorical trivia game. From this we learn 2 things: 1. Scrabble has too many pieces to act as a functional game and 2. My favorite game has to be so simple that it could be created by two drunken middle-aged men. 

Filled-Out Trivial Pursuit Widget

Ok, so if the game is so elementary that two drunk men could make it, then what’s responsible for that shot of adrenaline you feel when you reach the right answer? Simple: it makes us feel useful. You likely can’t go up to someone on the subway and yell esoteric knowledge at them, such as “It’s only 7,900 from the equator to the North Pole!” or “Paraguay and Bolivia are the only two South American countries to not have a coast!” The beauty of trivia is in its universality. I used to think that it was a game of intelligence, or at the very least judged how cultured you were. But, that isn’t at all the case. Trivia simply utilizes your useless knowledge. It makes us feel smart. It makes us feel cultured. It feels applicable to the outside world. Think about it: trivia is used at bars, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings, school, company events, and so much more. This is due to its malleability. Trivia can be played anywhere, anytime, with anyone, and with any topic. You don’t need to understand any complex rules or even have a board; you simply use what you know. Even shows like Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Family Feud have been profiting off of people’s ego. As humans we want to know the answer. We want to prove ourselves. We want to win, even though knowing the answer might not show that we’re any better than the other teams. 

Trivia is the only game in which wasting your life away watching The Good Place on Netflix can be used as an advantage when faced with the question “What European language is spoken in Senegal?” and you remember that Chidi Anagoyne, the Senegalese character can only speak French. Although the questions might not accurately show your intelligence, the beauty of the game simply comes from seeing everyone, regardless of race, age, or any other factors bring all of their life experiences into play. It is a game that connects us by transcending both time and borders. This is what makes trivia the indisputably perfect family game.