How to Create a Trivia Game

By Mark Salzwedel
A unique kind of trivia game

The most popular types of party games are trivia games. Some of you may be faced with an assignment that calls on you to design a trivia game. In that case, you need to keep your deadline in mind and shorten the steps below. If you find that you love hearing and sharing trivia and you want to share that love with others, designing a trivia game may be very fulfilling. Whether you have to design a trivia game or because you want to, there are some time-tested procedures for coming up with a great design and prototype.

Choose the theme. The theme will cue players to the style and content of the game. Themes can be general (like Trivial Pursuit with questions in geography, history, entertainment, literature, sports & leisure, science & nature) or very narrow (like Lost, the Game with questions about the ABC TV show).

Design the components. You may take the common route of designing a board with a track for pawns. You may want to get more daring and make it a card game or a tile-laying game. For your prototype, you can start out with paper components and work up to more durable ones as needed.

Design the mechanics. The easiest is to use a die players can roll to move across your game board.

If you are designing a trivia card game, you can deal hands to players or have cards drawn one at a time. You can have the cards relate to the person who played the card or to another player.

Lost, the Game uses tiles, so the shape of the game board changes each time it is played. Scene It has a simple game board with a track for pawns, but the trivia is delivered on a DVD with film clips.

Write the rules. Will players have to answer a question on every turn? How many questions? Will there be different categories of questions? These are just a few of the questions you will have to answer. The basic sections to the rules are the setup (how the game starts), the objective (what players must achieve), the turns (what each player can or must do on a turn), and the winning condition (when does the game end?).

Write the trivia questions. The easiest format is multiple choice, and the more choices, the more difficult the question. You can also try fill-in-the-blank questions, or questions that have an exact answer (such as a year, a ranking, or a name without any variations) that won't require a judgment call to resolve. You need to tailor the length of your questions and answers to the space available on your cards or other media where they will be listed. And write enough cards or questions so that the maximum number of players could play the game at least twenty times without reusing any. The original edition of Trivial Pursuit could play with six players and had six thousand questions.

Test the game. Play it by yourself first. Then teach it to friends and play it. Then watch people learn the game from written rules and then play it without saying anything. Over the course of the play testing, you will need to take lots of notes and keep revising the rules. You may find that players get bored. The questions may be too hard. Elements of luck and strategy might not be right. The game may take too long to play. Your rules may be unnecessarily complicated. The game may not have enough replay value, that is, it seems too similar each time it's played.

Tip

Get help. Designing a good trivia game on your own could take you years. Working in a team is more likely to give you a better variety of questions and fewer to write per person. If you're not personally interested in the information, or if the subject will be difficult to research, pick a different subject. Pick a theme and subject matter that will appeal to the people who are playing the game. A group of stay-at-home moms might enjoy a soap opera trivia game or a childcare facts game. If it will be played by members of your class at school, relate the trivia questions to the class subject, your school, or people all the players know.

Warning

If you sell your game or make it public (publishing on the Internet is public), make sure you obey the law, which includes properly acknowledging trademarks, not including any libel, and not plagiarizing questions from some other source.

About the Author

Mark Salzwedel, writing professionally since 1992, is a hypnotherapist, masseur and game designer in New York. He studied seven languages and worked in publishing, childbirth education, film/TV and foreign policy. Since receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from Macalester College in 1984, Salzwedel has studied biology, astrophysics and world religions.