The one with the cheeses . . . or wedges . . . or little pieces of pie. Call them what you will. Trivial Pursuit was conceived on 15 December 1979, when photo editor Chris Haney got together with sportswriter Scott Abbott over a brand new Scrabble brand crossword game.
Trivial Pursuit was launched in 1981 and finally provided a game for those of us who knew more about useless topics than any human being had a right to.
Each of the spaces on the board was one of six colours, corresponding to a category of question – Geography (blue), Science and Nature (green), Sports and Leisure (orange), History (yellow), Entertainment (pink) or Arts and Literature (brown).
One of the other players (or teams) asked the corresponding question on one of the hundreds of included question cards. A right answer meant another roll of the dice and another question. A wrong answer, and the next player took control.
The object of the game was to fill up your pie-shaped playing piece with wedges in each of the colours. These pieces could only be won on a space illustrated with that pie piece – and there was only one per colour on the whole board.
Players circled the wheel endlessly, screaming in frustration when that stupid die wouldn’t roll right to get them into that last stupid spot for that last stupid wedge. And then, when they finally did get in, if they got the stupid question wrong, oh, the tragic comedy.
With all wedges in place, players headed for the centre of the board, where their cutthroat opponents were allowed to pick the topic of the final, game-winning question (“He’s rubbish at history. Give him a yellow!”).
The game caught on quickly, passing briefly into fad status in the early 80s as trivia buffs were suddenly crowned kings of the game table. Several sets of alternate cards and new game boards were produced – Silver Screen, All-Star Sports, Baby Boomer and so on – and the less world-wise were even thrown a bone with a Young Players Edition.
And to put this argument finally to rest, the name of the original set was “Genus” (meaning “a group with common characteristics”), not “Genius” (meaning “smart folk”).
The Trivial Pursuit fad cooled off a bit after a few years, but it didn’t matter. The game had already passed into the ranks of timeless classics, joining the ranks of Monopoly and Scrabble as must-haves for any home.
New editions continue to be produced, covering topics as specific as Warner Bros., Disney and Star Wars. And somewhere, at this very moment, there’s a budding genius (not genus) begging anyone who’ll listen to sit down for a quick game and a chance to show the world that knowledge really is power – not the kind of power that wins wars or sporting events, but keep at it kid. One day you’ll be able to buy and sell them all!
More than 30 million Trivial Pursuit games have now been sold worldwide in 18 languages and 32 countries.