As bars and restaurants around the country shuttered due to the coronavirus, the future of a popular trivia company was at risk.
But the people who spend hours crafting rounds of tricky questions, digging deep into their stockpiles of random knowledge, wouldn’t go down so easy.
After the Geeks Who Drink workforce — including roughly 1,500 part-time quiz masters and about 40 full-time staffers — was laid off across the country this month, former employees rallied together to turn their pub quiz experience into a Twitch livestream. So far they’ve run it for free twice, with the last one attracting 4,000 participants.
“We just couldn’t let it die.”
“For many of us, this is all we’ve done for the last eight, 10, 12 years,” said Ken Brill, former Geeks Who Drink director of marketing. “We just couldn’t let it die.”
Even in this new medium, the core of what the company does is the same, he said, despite a few changes. Instead of sitting at the bar or in a booth with a group of friends, trivia fans fire up the Twitch livestream and host side-bar conversations on Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Discord chat. Some quiz masters have even set up elaborate videoconferences with teams from their regular bar.
“It’s fun to watch these digital hangouts evolve and get more elaborate as this quarantine goes on,” Brill added.
While the livestream does feel different than being in a bar, rushing to scribble down your answers as your teammates argue over what country borders some unknown sea, it’s comforting for regular pub quiz patrons to experience a digital copy of the familiar. Originally, bar trivia was about having fun with your friends without your phone; now, many are watching the game play out on the very devices they were supposed to put away IRL to prevent cheating.
You still have a quiz master — so far it’s been former Geeks Who Drink chief editor Christopher Short, who is also a . He’ll banter and read off the questions or play movie and song clips as his colleague Taylor Wynn produces the stream filled with Photoshopped slides. But no one’s keeping score for you. You can tally up your own points, but all you’ll get is self-congratulation. It’s all for fun rather than the typical prize of free beer, but that’s satisfying in its own way. If you don’t want the answers spoiled until they’re revealed by Short, it’s best to close the Twitch chat window. If you want to chat with your team in between questions, best to lower the stream’s volume or put it on mute.
Geeks Who Drink plans to keep running the trivia livestream on Tuesdays and is contemplating adding a second day. For those who can’t make the scheduled time, volunteers have been uploading recordings to YouTube. (If you’re in it just for the questions and want to fast-forward through the chit-chat, those recordings are for you.) Part of the business has long been running team-building events at companies, and Geeks Who Drink plans to continue to do that with private trivia livestreams, as well, for up to 150 people. Even when things do get back to normal, and former employees get their jobs back, Geeks Who Drink will likely continue the livestreams.
“There’s a silver lining here, which is that, it’s opening up new ways to experience what we do,” Brill said.
The coronavirus shakeup has been a rollercoaster ride for the company, which just hosted its biggest event of the year, the Geek Bowl, on . More than 1,500 people, many flying in, competed for geek glory. One week later, everyone was out of a job.
“We joked literally at the event, one of the first jokes was, ‘Welcome to Geek Bowl, America’s last public gathering.’ Turns out, that joke either has aged extremely well or has aged extremely badly. I can’t decide which,” Brill quipped.
You can play trivia on Twitch at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesdays. It’s free to play, but you can also be kind and donate to those spending 16 to 24 hours a week preparing the quizzes. For more information about private livestreams, email Geeks Who Drink.
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