Although it has only taken off recently, trivia in the United States dates back one century to the 1920s. Trivia was first used on radio entertainment and on game shows. For example, radio shows would add questions and answers to their programs, providing trivial information to their listeners. In 1935, the prize component of trivia was introduced with NBC’s “Vox Pop” quiz show. Vox Pop was a popular radio program of interviews, quizzes and human interest features that was on the air from the 1930s until the late 1940s. Vox Pop was the first on-air show that had an element of audience participation.
When television became popular in the United States, TV game shows took off in the 1950s. During this decade, the quiz shows Dotto, The $64,000 Question, and Twenty One became extremely popular. Like anything else, the popularity of game shows came with controversy, as it was learned that game shows were providing their contestants with the answers. After a congressional investigation and change in the laws, game shows like Jeopardy! were introduced and well-received among audiences.
Then in the late 1970s, Trivial Pursuit and other trivia board games were developed, only adding to the popularity of trivia and quiz games. In 1979, Chris Haney, a photo editor for Montreal’s The Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports editor for The Canadian Press, invented the game Trivial Pursuit over a couple of beers at Haney’s apartment, but it wasn’t until 1982 when they released the game to the public. The game was a roaring success, generating over $800 million in sales in 1984 alone. Since its creation, the game has sold over 100 million copies and has been played by an estimated 1 billion people worldwide.
During this time, bar trivia began becoming popular in the UK as a way to lure customers into bars during their quieter nights. In fact, during the 1970s, pub quizzes were a staple at Irish pubs. It wasn’t until the 1980s when bar trivia arrived in America and became popular. Unlike UK bars, the demographics at bar trivia in the United States skews younger. Also, the games in the United States tend to be more informal and social that the very competitive pub quizzes in the United Kingdom. For those new to the concept of bar trivia, it is a quiz night or a live hosted trivia experience at a bar, event space or restaurant. Most trivia in bars is held in a series of about 5 “rounds” that involve 5-7 questions each per round, and people are in teams made up of anywhere from one person to a team as large as six players. Traditional trivia in bars follows a format in which the host reads off questions, and guests answer on sheets of paper. There are some tech-savvy trivia night events, where handheld tablets are used, so scoring is instant and automatic.
New TV shows started to pop up in the 1990s, such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Win Ben Stein’s Money. Who Wants to be a Millionaire was the first U.S. network game show to offer a million-dollar top prize. As a result, the show made television history by becoming one of the highest-rated game shows in the history of American television.
Today, trivia is available in almost every form – from radio to TV shows to phone apps, board games and trivia pub nights. The aforementioned phone app can be credited to HQ Trivia, an app and mobile trivia game, released on August 26, 2017, in which players can play for free in daily trivia games through which they can win or split the prize money. Similar to a TV show, HQ Trivia airs daily at 6pm. During the show, the host asks a series of increasingly difficult multiple-choice questions, each with three possible answers.
Throughout Fresno every week, there is a multitude of trivia nights.
Sequoia Brewing Company has trivia every Monday night at 8pm.
On Wednesdays, Tioga Sequoia Brewing Co and Santa Fe Basque host trivia nights. Tioga Sequoia Brewing Co’s trivia night begins at 7 pm and Santa Fe Basque hosts a trivia night at 8 pm for teams of 1-6 people.