Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What was behind the fifth tree??

Fair warning to Colin Mac, you might find the punchline disappointing :-)

In addition to nightly trivia games our trivia web/chat site held a monthly tournament. Each players score accumulated over a month and the top 30 players were privileged to compete in the tournament game. In our early days as an independent site we even had prizes! I think we mailed em out the first few months and afterward it slipped. The prize was a rather fine glass trophy engraved with the players name and the month/year. The prizes were supplied by a player who lived in Hawaii. She mailed em parcel post to me in Melbourne and I mailed em by parcel post to whichever country the winner lived in.

Truth be told I was never really happy with the tournament idea; I've always felt that trivia games should be fun and dignifying the concept with a monthly competition injected way too much competition. It certainly led to some acrimonious disputes over a hosts answer to a question. But we added tournaments because a competing site had them. Never a good idea to let the competition force your hand.

One acrimonious dispute that led to some threats against yours truly, threats I never took seriously, involved a question I wrote. The question was, what's the most common rock eaten by humans? My answer was salt. Perhaps an ambiguous question but most people understood it. Not so Cosi. His answer was Castlemaine (maybe it was Brighton) Rock, meaning a hard sugar candy. I disallowed the answer and you'd have thought I'd insulted the purity of his mothers character! I kid you not; a year later he was STILL coming into the chat room when I was hosting and indulging in the ultimate lose lose game; that of baiting the host.

By that time we'd long since migrated away from MSN and were running on an IRCX server in my living room. We had the ability to kick players off the server and ban them for varying periods of time.

You don't last long as a host if you exercise that power arbitrarily. Even though it was a free service from the players point of view if not mine it was still necessary to adhere to a standard procedure no matter how irksome the taunter. Thus, each time Cosi appeared, he'd go into his standard routine and I'd go through the three steps. Warn, warn, warn, bang! It got so that most of the regulars, most of whom had never hosted, wondered why I didn't ban on sight!

In addition to hosting I played. As the author of both the game software and the chat client I felt it advisable to play so I could see how it looked from that side of the fence. And, given that all our hosts were unpaid volunteers, how would it have looked if I hadn't played games?

Who am I kidding? I enjoyed the games and the banter as much as the next player!

I had an unfair advantage that no player ever suspected. Nope, not a backdoor into the game software so I could see the question and answer even before it went to the chat room. Nope, my advantage was that I was 4 feet of cable away from the server and so I saw the question a split second before anyone else, connected through dial up modems halfway around the world, did.

We had some formidable players; Leigh for one, Bruce, Maree, Ewe, Brenda for others. One month, I think it was January 2001, I qualified for the tournament. Bruce volunteered to host the game.

Now the thing you have to understand about Bruce is that he's a dag. I know exactly what I mean by that expression as would most of my Australian friends but it's very hard to define. Try this quote 'Dag, daggy: Dirty lump of wool at the back end of a sheep, also an affectionate or mildly abusive term for a socially inept person.'. You're no wiser huh?

Being a dag Bruce could be relied upon to come up with a wildly tangential game. Where most people, approaching the writing of a trivia game, would come up with questions such as 'In what year was Oliver Hardy of Laurel and Hardy fame born?' Bruce was perfectly capable of asking how many cents he was holding! Any answer was pure guesswork and the awarding of points similarly haphazard.

To be fair to Bruce, he did stick pretty much to formula for his tournament game except for one category, Trees. Perhaps that innocent word referred to tree species; or perhaps to famous trees in Melbourne, or to trees from which celebrated outlaws dangled?

Not a bit of it! First question in that category was something along the lines of, where was the Drop bear[^].

We all puzzled over this as the clock ticked down (a typical round lasted 30 seconds). Came the answer, 'behind the first tree' and I imagine many a palm slapped against the forehead as we all, on our computers spread around the world, said 'Doh!'.

On went the game.

As we got toward the end of the game it became a competition between Leigh and I. After round 34 of 35 we were still matched with one question to go. First correct got 10 points, second and subsequent correct a mere 7. So the margin was going to be slim.

The last question was from the Tree category. Almost unfair to Leigh because by the fourth question I had seen the pattern. The answer was always 'behind the (question number)th tree'! So when that final question ran I was poised to type 5th! First answer and I won!

I think that was the only MindProbes tournament I won. *shrug* it was hardly sporting for one of the creators of the site to win anyway!

So what was behind the fifth tree? I have no idea; I don't remember.

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