I’m on ‘Mastermind Australia’ tonight!

Hello!

Tonight, something’s happening that I’ve been dying to tell you about since November last year. I’m a contestant on tonight’s episode of Mastermind Australia, which screens on SBS at 6:00 PM. And, a couple of hours after that, it’ll be up on SBS on Demand.

I was invited onto the show back in November, and after a bit of deliberation, I thought it would be a fun thing to ‘come out of retirement’ for. I also thought the experience could provide a really great case study for HowToWinGameShows.com; I could keep a chronicle of the whole journey –  all the way through, from go to whoa – and share it with HTWGS.com visitors afterwards. After all, isn’t that exactly what this blog is meant to be all about?

Yes. Yes it is. (Actually, that was a rhetorical question, didn’t need to write that last bit.)

Anyway, that’s what I’ve done. It’s a warts-and-all, behind-the-scenes diary of the whole experience… from the first time I was contacted to the day of the record (and its aftermath). It’s ended up being a 9-part series, and the first instalment will be up next Tuesday, after you’ve had a chance to watch Mastermind Australia… either at 6 PM tonight on SBS, or after that on SBS on Demand!

Oh, and in other news…

YES! Quiz champion (and the subject of our extensive interview back in September) Yogesh Raut has WON the 2024 Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions!

With his Tournament of Champions victory, Yogesh took home the $250,000 GRAND PRIZE and booked his place in the upcoming Jeopardy! Masters competition, where he’ll be facing off against some of the top-performing players in Jeopardy! history.

CONGRATULATIONS, YOGESH!!

‘Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions’ news…

Hello! I was very pleased to read the news the other day that Yogesh Raut has made his way through to the FINALS in Jeopardy!‘s 2024 Tournament of Champions!

Yogesh (who I interviewed for this blog last year) had a resounding victory over formidable opponents Emily Sands and David Sibley. The pivotal moment arrived during Final Jeopardy, where the clue asked about the only nation from its hemisphere to produce a U.N. secretary-general. All three contestants correctly responded with “Peru”, but Yogesh’s cash total of $21,400 was just too far out in front, and he’s now all set to battle for Jeopardy! glory against Ben Chan and Troy Meyer in the best-of-seven finals.

Good luck, Yogesh!

‘How To Win Game Shows: The eBook’ is HALF PRICE ($3.06 AU)! But for one week only…

Hello, just a quick one today to let you know that my eBook, titled (strangely enough)  How To Win Game Shows  is currently HALF PRICE at Smashwords.com!
that is, $1.99 USD, as opposed to $3.99 USD. BUT that’s only from March 3 until March 9, and only if you buy it from Smashwords, as part of their Read an eBook Week sale.
So if you’re an eBook reader and you’d like to take advantage of this and pick up the eBook for just $1.99 USD (which is, I’m told, roughly $3.06 AUD)… then you can! But only if you buy it from this link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/1296154, 
or by clicking on any of the links or images above.
Or this one. ————————————————————->
And should you decide to do that, I hope you enjoy it!
And in other news, quiz champion and Jeopardy! winner Yogesh Raut returned to the show last week, to compete in the Jeopardy! 2024 Tournament of Champions…
… appearing in last Wednesday (28/02)’s episode.
If you recall, I interviewed Yogesh for the site late last year, in a very wide-ranging discussion. At one stage we did chat about whether he’d return to Jeopardy!, should he be invited to play in a Tournament of Champions… so I’m very pleased to see that he has!
Far be it from me to give you any spoilers here, but if you’d like to know how he fared, you can visit the show’s official website HERE.
Aaaand that’s it for today. I’ll be back soon – very soon, actually – with the story of my latest game show adventure (just as soon as I’m legally allowed to tell you about it)….

My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 9 – The Conclusion.

Yogesh Raut

Hello!

When we left off at the end of Part 8 of our interview, Yogesh and I were discussing some of the feedback he’d received after his Jeopardy! run…

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YR: Yeah, but in this context, I started to see these comments pop up, sometimes from strangers, but often from people who didn’t know me personally, but people who are within the quizzing community. People who “diagnose” me with bitterness and talk about how the problem is my being embittered and resentful, which is an interesting thing to say. 

As someone who has gone through experiences that would make a very rational person extremely angry, and who has also then watched the people who engaged in that unethical abuse of power face zero consequences and continue to be patronised by a quizzing community that repeatedly pats itself on the back for supposedly being anti-racist and “full of integrity” and so on, there are all kinds of reasons – very legitimate reasons – to be angry, right? And it’s not just me saying so. I’ve seen multiple therapists who 100% agree with me that I am justified in being angry and that, if anything, the root of my problems is that I’m in a context where I’m punished for expressing anger and shamed for expressing anger… whereas I should be validated for it because it’s a very valid anger to have. 

Back in Las Cruces, when I first made complaints about the discrimination I was facing, one of the top officials at a major national pub quiz company said, “Well, we’re not going to do anything because there’s too much rancour on both sides.” 

Now, I think many people would say that the rancour felt by people who harm someone because of their skin colour and the rancour felt by a person who is harmed because of his skin colour are two different forms. And that it is very much a false equivalence to insist that they’re equal and therefore both sides are at fault and so there’s no need to intervene.

SH: It’s as ridiculous as that time when Trump said “There were some very fine people on both sides”. The people being discriminated against AND the neo-Nazis? “Very fine people on both sides?” Um, no – wrong. 

YR: Right. And something else I studied as a social psychologist was accountability. People are not going to be unbiased unless they’re made accountable in some way, right? And the people who run these companies, they’re not accountable; they don’t have to justify their treatment of me as being fair, they just have to say stuff and then cut things off and go back to their position of power. No one’s going to hold them accountable for being fundamentally discriminatory. But the dance you do as a person of colour is that there is no “proper” amount of anger. If you display no anger, then there’s no problem, and you only have yourself to blame for not advocating for yourself. But if you display anger, then your anger is the problem and you need to learn to “let it go.” And people have told me that my therapist will agree with them that I need to let it go.. and then my therapist will say, “No, that is absolutely not what I believe!” 

SH: So where does that leave you, then? 

YR: Well, that’s the thing, right? It leaves me in a place where I have to shrug off the narrative of “Yogesh Raut, master of useless information”, and say, “No. I’m Yogesh Raut, master of understanding what racism looks like”. Right? You think that if you don’t vote for Trump, if you don’t support Trump, if you denounce Trump loudly everywhere you go, you’re somehow magically not a racist. But these things that look like they’re not racist – these things of saying, “I feel so sorry for him, he just needs to learn to let go of bitterness and resentment” – yes, they are racist, because they involve making authoritative statements about a situation where you’ve made no effort to learn the reality of the situation. 

Thinking you can go in and arbitrate who is deserving of accountability and who isn’t, and that somehow you’re better qualified than a professional therapist to tell a victim of racism how they should just accept that they’re not going to get accountability – It’s racist, and it’s hypocritical as well, because these same people will repeatedly say, in broad strokes, “we definitely need accountability. Racism and sexism are systemic and we need accountability for it.” But when you actually try and advocate for it in their own community, against institutions that they like or are invested in, suddenly your anger is the problem and you just need to learn to “let it go.” But I think what offends me the most about it is that it is passing itself off as compassion. It’s this person publicly saying, “Look, I really feel for this person and I want what’s best for them. Which is why I think they need to learn to let it go and let people who’ve committed misconduct just continue to flourish with no accountability… for their own good.”

SH: It’s patronising and it’s dismissive, and as you say, it’s mock compassion. They don’t have to do anything; “By saying this, I’ve done all I need to do. See ya!” 

YR: Right, exactly. It’s insisting it’s an individual problem rather than a systemic one, because if it were systemic, A) they would be complicit in it, and B) they would bear some responsibility for dismantling it, if they actually are the non-racist or anti-racist they claim to be. 

SH: Rather than just paying it lip service, which is what this is. 

YR: Yeah. In one of my posts, I paraphrased the movie Brassed Off, and I said, “The truth is I thought it mattered. I thought Quizzing mattered. Does it bollocks! Not compared to how people matter.” 

SH: Yeah. 

YR: People have spent my whole life telling me that what I do is “trivia”. And on some level, I just want to say, “Okay, you know what? If it really is trivia, then that makes it all the less acceptable to treat people like second-class citizens based on their skin colour or for any other reason in the name of it.” It isn’t my job to promote the trivia ecosystem and overall structure the way it exists now. It’s my job as a human being to try and make it better for other human beings: the people who are involved in it now, and the next generation of people who will be involved in it. And if that makes people want to hunt down my home address and send me hate mail… Well, that’s unfortunate, but that isn’t my choice. 

SH: Of course not, of course not. That’s terrible. That’s really terrible. This post-Jeopardy stuff, has that died down and gone away now? Or do you still get some of that material coming at you? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 8

Yogesh Raut

Hello and welcome back.

We finished last week’s instalment of my interview with Yogesh discussing the possibility of him returning to Jeopardy! for any potential future Tournaments of Champions…

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YR: Honestly, if it were just like a regular season where my numbers didn’t qualify me for the Tournament of Champions, so I never come back, so be it. I never believed that this was going to be something where I was going to be entitled to some kind of outcome. I knew it could very easily happen that I lose my first game – and I almost did – and I was entirely prepared for that. Everything after that, I was like, “Well, this is just gravy. This is just good luck until it’s no longer good luck”. But it is interesting to say that I’m controversial for supposedly “blasting the show”. Because I repeatedly said that I was treated perfectly fine on Jeopardy. There was definitely another major American game show where I passed the audition, I was flown to Los Angeles during the pandemic, quarantined for two full days, and then … treated in a manner that indicated that the people running the show did not understand how to handle people… and then not even allowed to play on it! 

And compared to that experience, Jeopardy was pretty nice. Jeopardy has been going on for a long time. The modern version of it premiered the year I was born. It literally has been going on for as long as I’ve been alive. And so they have it down to an assembly line. 

SH: Of course. 

YR: Yeah. Right. You say “Of course”, but as I discovered, other shows are not nearly as professional. 

SH: Oh, really? Okay. 

YR: Other shows are run by people who really don’t know what they’re doing. But by comparison, Jeopardy was just fine. It wasn’t a party or anything like that. It was a day you came in, they put you through your paces and then you left. And I have no complaints about that. I never complained about the show. I never complained about the content of the show, about the way the show is made, even stuff that maybe I have a legitimate complaint about, like their complete failure to police their Facebook page and to allow all sorts of hateful and bigoted comments. I didn’t even really talk about that. I’ve just said that it’s a TV show and it should just be treated like a regular TV show. 

But I think if TV Insider says this contestant was controversial because he said that a TV show was just a TV show and that racism is bad, it would raise questions.

SH: Outrageous! How dare you call a TV show a TV show?!?

YR: Right. And it would raise questions about why TV Insider and their audience consider those statements controversial. Questions whose answers are obvious (i.e., racism), but which no one really wants to say. So instead they put words in my mouth; they claim I “trash-talked” Jeopardy after I was on and I was like, “What? No, I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.” That’s so obviously not what happened. But it’s a story that “makes sense” because they want to portray the people who are angry at me as though they have some genuine reason for doing so. 

SH: No, it’s just stoking division and stoking an argument which so much of modern media is all about; “Quick, let’s get people to hate each other!” We’ve spoken about the podcast and we’ve spoken about the blog that you do… What else is in the future for you? What’s next? 

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 7

Yogesh on the ‘Jeopardy!’ set, with ‘Jeopardy!’ host Ken Jennings.

Welcome back.

When we left off a fortnight ago, Yogesh was detailing some of the negative feedback he’d received after his 3-game appearance on Jeopardy! in January this year…

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SH: This may be a naive question, but did you get much – or any – positive feedback online?

YR: Yes. 

SH: Good! Good, that’s a relief!

YR: From people who know me in particular, yes. But it’s easy to gloss over that. But yes, there were certainly people who I hadn’t been in contact with for 20 years reaching out to me and posting about me on social media.  And I did kind of say this: That just within the past year I was one-fourth of the team that won the Quizzing World Cup for the United States, I was the leading scorer on the team that won Chicago Open Trash, I was the captain of the team that won the Connections Online Quiz League World Championship. These are pretty impressive feats that involve taking on people from across the country and across the world. That really tested the depth of my skill and that allowed me to work with other people to really exercise my creativity, test my memory, and so on. These are super-impressive achievements – but no one cared until I beat two guys.  

SH: On TV.

YR: And as I said that’s hardly an insult to those two guys – they’re obviously qualified to be on Jeopardy!, they’re obviously very good. At any pub quiz, they’d be among the people you’d most want to have on your team, no doubt. But the thing is, it’s not them – it’s the format. It’s a format that doesn’t care what would happen if you took on the entire world – it’s just two people you happen to be randomly matched up with. It could be Troy Meyer. You could put up a huge game and it could be against Troy Meyer, and no one would really recognise that: it would just look like you lost. Or you could put up a bunch of victories against people who weren’t particularly strong competitors and you would be treated like a god. None of that is a reflection on any of the competitors involved. It’s just about the way in which it is framed in the culture.  Somehow, this is the only thing that matters. The hurdles that I faced to be able to perform well on Jeopardy were things like 

– Auditioning 

– Coming across as a high-energy extroverted person while auditioning 

– Coming up with good anecdotes for my audition 

– And then, while on the stage, being able to time my buzzing accurately to those lights. 

These are all genuine skills and I mean no disrespect to people who have them. But they are not quizzing skills and so the fact that I succeeded at them says nothing about my ability as a quizzer. Whereas the fact that I won Chicago Open Trash and COQL Worlds and the Quizzing World Cup says quite a bit. 

SH: Yes it does.

YR: And yet not only am I not getting anything more than small trivial prizes for them, but also I’m not getting any kind of recognition or status.  And you can say that that’s selfish, and maybe to some degree it is. But it’s not about whether I specifically get recognition – I want these competitions to get recognition, because there’s a lot of work that goes into making them really good tests of the best players in the world, and really good ways of both learning new things and watching high-level people compete. 

SH: Yeah, for sure. 

YR: And they’re fun!  As I said, I did have some level of fun playing Jeopardy. But it’s harder to have fun when there’s tens of thousands of dollars at stake and one tiny break in concentration can permanently end it. At the end of the day, Jeopardy is designed to be a cutthroat, zero-sum competition. Three people enter, one leaves, and that’s it.  In all of these other things – in Chicago Open Trash, in COQL – I can work with a team. I can connect my knowledge up with their knowledge and see if something new arises. I can indulge the real depths of my knowledge… not just the mile-wide, inch-deep type stuff that Jeopardy tests. And I can really sink my teeth into the questions and not have to work at the pace that Jeopardy has, where even stuff that is creative is just up there for 10 seconds and that’s it. 

YR: So I went and I found this. This is a postcard that was sent to my home address, which was not, as I said, public information. It’s handwritten, stamped, and everything on it, including my address, was written by hand. Here is what this person had to say, that they felt they needed to get directly in front of my eyes, not just through social media, but through hunting down my address, writing it, putting a stamp on it and putting it in the mail. They wrote:

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 6

Yogesh Raut

Welcome back.

When we left off last week, Yogesh and I were talking about the process of researching, writing, redrafting, and assembling sets of questions; something that’s not only challenging and rewarding in itself, but it also has the added bonus of making you learn new things along the way!

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SH: And that’s part of the fun of it too.

YR: Exactly, right. That is the thing and that is why one of the most infuriating things about the pub trivia scene is that it’s run by people who aren’t particularly good writers. And one of the core parts of my podcast has been that I take as given that quizzing is a creative medium. I simply have no patience for anyone who thinks otherwise. And a lot of people – especially once the online quizzing scene burgeoned during the pandemic – a lot of people told me that they now have difficulty playing regular pub quizzes or things that are written by uncreative people, or non-passionate people. Because once you’re used to that standard… It’s like any other taste; if you start getting into fine cuisine, regular, ordinary food doesn’t really cut it anymore. I always start off with the thought in my head that I am creating a creative product, and that it’s my job to bring my creativity to try and shape something. Even though I know that the actual outcome is not 100% under my control, because it’s going to interact with people, and I can’t predict in advance how they’ll react. But if anything, I think that that brings it closer to performing arts.

SH: Oh, certainly. It’s a hybrid event where you are part of the creative ensemble, and your contestants are another part of the creative ensemble, and it all goes together to make the end product. And it’s that’s the fun of it, too, and the unpredictability of it.

YR: Right. But when you work in a field, like drama, theatre or comedy even, it’s taken for granted that what you are doing is creative. Some people are more successful at being creative than others, but no one ever questions that it is creative. And the frustrating thing about quizzing is that no one thinks of things like writing. I’ve written essays that I’ve been told make a very good case for it. But to the general public, there is no concept of it as an art form or a creative medium. Which is especially true when you’re stereotyped. If you’re good at it, you’re stereotyped as uncreative, because you supposedly just have a robot-type memory. Yet even the act of answering questions, if the questions are well written, shouldn’t just be about spitting things out from memory or making really simple associations between words… it should be about reasoning, about thinking about the intentionality of how the question is crafted, thinking about ‘what do these word choices imply’, and ‘what am I being guided toward, by not just the overt clues, but also by the choice of words and how they’re they’re laid out?’

SH: And deduction. It’s a meeting of the minds of the questioner and the answerer, in its purest form. One thing I was really curious to ask you about was the mechanics of your lead-up to Jeopardy. It sounded like it was analogous to my experience with Sale Of The Century where I went on in 1994, then again in 1999, and then came back in 2006. So it was a very long gestation. You mentioned that you’d been applying for Jeopardy for about 10 years, I think?

YR: About 20 years.

SH: 20 years? I beg your pardon – goodness me. And how did you feel on the day when you got the call? And on the day when you went in to the studio? How did it meet up to – or not meet up to – your expectations, the actual studio experience?

YR: Well, I think the first part is what I answered at the beginning of our conversation where I told the story, and I think there are people who, for some reason, resented my putting it that way. It’s difficult for me to understand why, until I try and put myself into the shoes of someone who doesn’t see Jeopardy as a game show or a TV show, but who has a cult-like attachment to it. And it was educational for me to realise how many people hold that cult-like attachment, and how that is very much not a good thing, their inability to place it properly within the ecosystem of quizzing activities out there. And it’s not just their bristling at the suggestion that Jeopardy shouldn’t necessarily occupy the centre and take up 95% of the oxygen, it’s the violent reaction to the suggestion. Especially when nothing that I’m saying should be particularly controversial. I found an interview with Shayne Bushfield, who runs Learned League, the big online quiz league. Way back in 2016, he was interviewed by Psychology Today and he was asked “a lot of former Jeopardy contestants were in the league, including Ken Jennings, but they’re not always the winners, are they?” And he says “they are not, because this is a different game; speed in hitting the buzzer is usually an important skill, but that’s totally irrelevant in Learned League.” “The other part,” he says, “is that you have to qualify to appear on Jeopardy. And there’s a certain type of person who tends to make it; you have to be telegenic. There are players in Learned League who would never qualify for Jeopardy, even though they are exceptionally good.”

That was more true in 2016, and for the decades before it. Now, in the post-Alex Trebek era when Ken Jennings was brought on as not just a host but a consultant and a producer, it does seem that there has been a shift to where people like me and Troy Meyer are being allowed to be on the show, whereas for 20 years before then, we were consistently trying and weren’t.

SH: Right, I see.

YR: You know, they’ve always been opaque about what their selection criteria are. It was widely rumoured for a very long time that they were anti-selecting out people who were experienced quizzers – basically people who are really good and dedicated to it.

SH: That seems counter-intuitive to me, because if people are more likely to win on their show, that’s good for ratings, isn’t it?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 5

Yogesh Raut

Hello and welcome back. When we left off last week, Yogesh was saying that he couldn’t really – in good conscience – encourage the next generation of quizzers to expand the breadth and depth of their general knowledge, given the current television quiz show climate…

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SH: Well, that’s a pretty bleak picture, isn’t it?

YR: Am I the one painting the picture? Or am I just describing it?

SH: Yeah, no, I’m not saying you’re misrepresenting anything at all. This is a thought I’ve long held, about the death of general knowledge. General knowledge is more unnecessary than ever, because we have all the world’s knowledge in the palm of our hand at all times. And I remember learning about, I think it was Henry Ford, and ‘the mastermind principle’, where he didn’t need to know everything about everything, because he had this guy who knew about this and this guy who knew about that and this guy knew about that. And he’d just call them in. And that was that that was a radical idea back then – that was the exception to the rule. Back then, everyone was just expected to have general knowledge. But Henry Ford turned it on its head by having access to experts in the specialties. And now it’s completely the other way around, where no one has general knowledge, and everyone can – and does – just go to their mastermind group on Wikipedia. If I need to know piece of information, I’ll find that piece of information, I’ll use it and then I’ll forget it. In Australia, we had Sale of the Century, which ran for a long time, which is, I think, a bit analogous to Jeopardy. And it was very successful for 20 years, and it celebrated ordinary people with wide-ranging general knowledge. But there’s nothing like it today. It doesn’t exist. Quiz TV shows have morphed into a more competitive, dumbed-down product, nowhere near celebrating general knowledge. And I just think it’s a societal thing that we used to celebrate learning and intelligence and curiosity. But I think that’s dying out, sadly.

YR: I’ve been in class – even in graduate seminars – where people will say things like, “Well, there’s no need to really know things anymore, right? It’s all just a Google away.” And there are some very obvious counterarguments to that. First of all, the act of creativity has always been something that takes place in the human brain. Machines have never been able to reproduce human creativity. At most, they can reproduce the mechanical act of throwing different things together. But a human still has to step in and say, “Oh, but these things thrown together are creative. And these are just weird and useless”. But for anything you type into Google, you will get pages and pages of results. Generally, if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, your mind naturally filters out all the stuff that’s useless and zeroes in on the stuff that’s actually useful to you. But imagine you didn’t have that background in whatever it was you were trying to research. You would have no idea how to differentiate what was useful from what wasn’t useful. And more broadly, something that machine intelligence has repeatedly struggled to do is differentiate useful from not useful, and it’s because they’re missing that thing that I mentioned earlier, right? When you see something interesting, there is a click in your head, you feel it. A psychologist would say that you have an affective system that works more quickly than a cognitive system. You could try to apply rules and reason to whether or not something is interesting, but generally, people don’t. Machines might try to do it, but it’s because they lack that much quicker shortcut that evolution placed in humans, which is a feeling. ‘Affect’ is the technical term, but it’s a feeling – you feel when something is interesting. And when people try to make the case that general knowledge or “trivia” is becoming less and less relevant in the age of machines, I would argue it’s actually becoming more relevant than ever.

SH: I hope so.

YR: Yeah, it’s the thing that machines have repeatedly struggled to do, and that we’ve repeatedly been not able to teach machines to do, which is to find things interesting.

And labelling it “trivia” overlooks the fact that what makes it stand out is that it is fundamentally not trivial, right? Trivial information is the material everyone forgets because it doesn’t serve any purpose. Interesting material is the material that is useful, because even though you can’t necessarily point to a practical use for it in a capitalist society, it nonetheless stimulates something inside of you. It makes you think, ‘Oh, the world is a more interesting place than I thought it was a second ago’. I could create a blog that just randomly writes three pieces of information every day and I wouldn’t need to put any kind of humanity into it – I could automate it. I could write a script that just pulls Wikipedia articles and so on. And that’s not what I do because what I do is not accumulating random trivia, it’s finding things that I think are interesting in some regard, or can be presented in an interesting way, and sharing them in the hope of connecting with people and in the hope of giving them something that makes their lives richer. 

SH: And finding connections – that’s the thing. we’re talking about The Wronger Box now, aren’t we?

YR: Yeah, I had a previous blog that was called The Wrong Box and when I shut that down I just made the next – 

SH: “It’s even wronger than before!” 

YR: Yeah. A woman I was dating once asked me, “Oh, is it a play on “ writer/ righter”, to change to “ wronger”? And I was like “That’s so much more clever than the actual reason – I wish that were the case!”  

SH: Go with that! go with that! 

YR: (LAUGHING) Yeah. 

SH: I’ve had a browse through it and I love the way you connect apparently disparate facts. And of course as humans, we are all pattern-making creatures, and this is why we enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles and reading whodunits. How long does it take you? How much time do you spend on The Wronger Box

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 4

Yogesh Raut

Hello and welcome back to my discussion with quiz champion Yogesh Raut. At the end of last week’s instalment of the interview, Yogesh had just revealed that he was offended by one of the questions I asked him…

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YR: Now there was one question you asked, where you said, “what was your intention in making the comments you did?” And I read that over 15-20 times. I read it over to friends, I read it over to multiple therapists. And I kept trying to find a way that that question was not offensive.

SH: Oh, I’m sorry! Goodness me, I’m really sorry.

YR: And I couldn’t.

SH: Oh goodness, okay. Well, let’s talk about that. I’m so sorry.

YR: I mean, first of all, it’s interesting that in the parts of my television appearances that people found so troubling, and were called so offensive and got so much blow-back, people acted as though I had agentically chosen the subject of those contestant interviews. And I hadn’t. I did not choose to talk about my having gone to a rival high school from James Holzhauer. I mean, when I applied to be on the show, I put that on the sheet, for very obvious reasons, right? There are far more people applying to be on Jeopardy – and far more people qualified to be on Jeopardy – than will ever get on the show. The only chance you have of getting there is to stand out in some way, to grab the the casting people’s attention. And I thought I have these stories that may very well end up grabbing their attention. And so not putting them on my application would just be shooting myself in the foot, it would be lessening my chances of getting on. Again, this is the only way I have of getting any financial recompense for the work, the decades of toil and sweat I put in. And in other domains, like pub quizzing, I not only don’t get rewarded for my hard work and excellent performance – I get punished for it.

Jeopardy is an imperfect opportunity. It’s not a very meritocratic game. I have enough of a background in psychometrics that I could explain why, but I shouldn’t have to. It’s pretty commonsensical that there’s so much variance and randomness and luck involved.

But nonetheless, it’s the best opportunity there is for me. So yes, I’m going to say what I have to say. I actually know people who are Tournament of Champions winners who have very explicitly said, “Lie on your application”. I didn’t want to lie, so I didn’t. I told the truth. But I chose the things that felt relevant to them. And of those things that were on there, on the day of the taping they told the producer who was on the stage which one of these things would be the thing that I would talk about in my interview. So I did not select them. And I think so much of the people’s attempts to convince me that I had done something wrong were based on the premise that I had made a choice to “boast” or “brag”… which honestly, if I wanted to boast or brag, I had 10 million other things I could have boasted or bragged about than winning a state championship in high school.

SH: But it’s a good story, and it’s an appropriate story for them and their show.

YR: Right. That is right.

SH: And as you say, it increased your chances of getting on. That’s smart to do that.

YR: Right. And that’s why I have repeatedly not blamed Jeopardy, even though those choices they made exposed me to a lot of blowback. I don’t blame them, because I don’t think those were necessarily irrational choices or problematic choices. Right? They had no way of knowing that people would interpret them in the, frankly, wildly irrational way that they did. They wanted something that they could build up for ratings. And obviously I was going to play along because it was a TV show. They brought me on; I was their guest. It was my job to perform for them.

And I can talk about those specific comments. I can talk about the fact that in August 2021, there was an article on Defector about OQL: Online Quiz League. And in that article, there is a quote from Troy Meyer, who ended up taping the same week I lost, he taped a few days after that. One of the few people in America who has an even more solid claim that I do to being the best quizzer in the country, among the best in the world. But in this August 2021 story, he is quoted as saying, “You remember James Holzhauer, how dominant he was?”, says Troy Meyer, the top individual performing in OQL USA Season Two, four-time Learned League Champion, and recipient of multiple Jeopardy snubs. “I know at least 10 people who are better than him.”

Now compared to that, my statement that way back in high school, I was on a team that beat his team – and many other teams – for the state championship comes off as incredibly mild.

SH: Yeah, I don’t think it’s a problem, I just think it’s an interesting detail.

YR: I don’t think it was a problem. I don’t think what Troy said is a problem, either. I think Troy was just saying it’s widely accepted that Jeopardy isn’t the measure of who the best quizzers in the country are.

SH: If anything, it’s interesting and eye-opening for their viewers, I would have thought.

YR: I would have thought, yes. I don’t think that Troy’s comment is remotely problematic. I don’t think he should be harassed or attacked for it. But then, I also don’t think that anyone should think that my comment is problematic or should harass or attack me for it. The thing is, though, that I don’t see how you could fairly consider my comment to be any more offensive than his.

SH: No, neither do I.

YR: Right, which suggests that there is a reason that I’m the one being targeted and a white man who says the same things is not.

SH: Right. Did he say that on the show?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 3

Hello and welcome back. When we left our chat last week, Yogesh and I were discussing the format of The Chase, which positions its quiz champions (The ‘Chasers’) as extremely competitive Alpha-type winners…

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YR: Right. And I have a master’s degree in Film and Television studies as well as one in Business Administration and sometimes people who have none of these things feel they need to explain to me how the TV industry works. I think I have a good handle on it. I think many people have a misconception that the broadcast TV industry is about selling programming to viewers. It’s not. I mean, now there are more and more subscriber services that do have that as a model. But the broadcast TV model has always been not about selling programming to viewers but about selling viewers to advertisers.

SH: Yes.

YR: And these network TV shows like The Chase or some first-run syndication shows like Jeopardy are all optimised according to that model. Their goal is to drive in eyeballs that can be sold to advertisers. They have never been designed to reward who the best quizzers are. They have never been designed to provide a pleasurable playing experience for the contestants. None of these things are what they are meant to do. So it’s not really all that surprising that none of these things are what they’re particularly good at. No one ever tried to make them good at those things. The perception that they are is just a combination of a little bit of marketing and a lot of people not being rational. These shows, their goal is to be entertainment for people who are not particularly invested in the world of quizzing or quizzing as an activity.

SH: Yeah.

YR: And if they are seen only as that – as entertaining sideshows in the way that something like Holey Moley – I don’t know what shows you have, but in America there’s something called Holey Moley, which is –

SH: We had a version of that as well.

YR: Yeah, right. It’s a fun thing to watch.

SH: Yes, it’s silly, but yeah.

YR: It’s a sideshow compared to professional golf. No one in a million years would think that the champions of those shows are the best golfers in the world.

SH: No, no, they wouldn’t.

YR: Right? And so as long as people keep perspective on television shows and say, “Oh, these are just game shows designed to be silly, fun entertainment,” it’s not that much of a problem, even if they do promote these negative images. Because they’re like reality TV; they create images out of people, they create narratives that they want their audience to get invested in. And everyone should have a sense of ironic distance about it. They should say, “Oh, this is an edited TV show designed to rile me (the person on the couch at home) up.”

SH: Yeah. Manufactured heroes and villains.

YR: Right. The problem, of course, is that people who watch things like Jeopardy, don’t think of it as a reality show that should be approached with ironic distance. And what’s even worse, of course, is that objectively, Jeopardy is the thing that determines who gets listened to. And that is the most aggravating thing about it. My actual comments, this was the main thing they were aimed at, though people decided to make their own narrative out of them. But looking at my comments about Jeopardy, everything I had to say about them was based on 1) my academic expertise as a social scientist, 2) my personal experience as a quizzer, who’s done the hobby for decades, and 3) my lived experience as a person of colour in a majority white society. After I went on Jeopardy, none of those things changed – none of my qualifications for speaking or for being listened to changed. But suddenly people paid attention to my message, or paid attention in a way that they hadn’t before, when dozens and dozens of times, I’d said the exact same thing. Because no one cares when you’re just speaking as an academically trained expert, as one of the best quizzers in the world, as a person of colour who has both experienced and academically studied racism. No one cares. But when you speak as that-guy-who-was-on-a-TV-show, suddenly people care. But they care less when you “only” won $100,000 on that TV show. Because someone who isn’t a trained academic and isn’t a person of colour, if they won more than $100,000, then they’re more worth being listened to than you are.

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