My Trivia Semi-Addiction: Just A Little Healthy Competition?

I think a little healthy competition is always a good thing. But then again, I’m a competitive person, whether it is competing with someone else, or competing with myself – I am always trying to be the best. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone else, and I’m not looking for validation, but for some reason being competitive is as much a part of who I am, as being stubborn is. And ask anyone, I am incredibly stubborn.

My striving to be the best or do my best surrounds my day-to-day life as much as it does those big moments. I mean, I do grade myself on thirty some goals every day, and then weekly and so on, and I do this not only to keep track of my progress, but also because it pushes me to be better. I reached a goal this week – next week I want to double it. I am always trying to best myself, and I think it’s the key to progress and my own personal growth.

When it comes to competing with others, of course I want to be the best in whatever we’re talking about. But I’m not one of those “crazy” people that turn everything into a competition. But when it comes to actual competitions, bets or anything else – I intend on winning. It isn’t about prizes or acclaim (please I’m not winning anything worthy of acclaim, I don’t act or sing and I am so not athletic it’s a little ridiculous) – it’s just about knowing that I achieved X. To this end, it’s not all about winning, but winning honestly.

There is this quiz app I play because I’m a trivia nerd. In one of my favorite topics, I am the best in the United States for the past two months. I am the best in Colorado of all time, Top 10 in the United States of all time, and #16 in the entire world. And I have to admit, I am semi-addicted to the game. I say semi-addicted because I am still productive and don’t let it compromise what I need to get done in a day, but I am also playing it in most of my free moments, and using it as a in-between reward-type thing after I get something done. And I am very strategic about when I play, how I play and how long I play to maximize my effectiveness in the game. (Playing too long at one time means I’ll hesitate or become less focused, I typically go no more than fifteen games back-to-back.) My husband teases me at times, but then I can just tease him about his SimCity addiction (he has a 100% approval rating and is very proud of that fact).

But sometimes I have to question just how much time I am putting into a “silly game.” On the one hand, I don’t want to waste too much time every day on the game because there are more important things to do or enjoy, especially in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, when I see someone vying for my “First Place” spot, something else comes over me, and I create a large gap between my score and the other person’s. Is this crazy? I may like winning, but I’m not a sore loser or bad winner. There are rounds in the game that I lose, and these don’t bother me. They tell me I need to take a break and come back to the game. So, I like to think I’m not “too intense” but just the right amount.

Playing the app like I do, I noticed something about another player – the person who is ranked as #1 in the world, both of all time, and every single month. Before I started going for monthly titles, I only thought this person played every day, and was one of the first users of the app, because she is at an insane level (levels are based on how many games are played and the score from those games – they call them experience points). But as soon as I did go for the monthly titles, I realized something else. This person was totally cheating, and it really ticked me off. I am friends (on the app) with most of the people in the United States and Worldwide leader boards for this topic. We’re all fans who know our stuff, and we have fun playing each other. Sure we want to beat each other for that #1 slot, but we also congratulate another person when they make it, or when they beat us in an individual round. We laugh and maybe challenge the winner to a rematch, and that’s that. But this #1 person doesn’t have contact with anyone and has blocked her games stats and other info and now I know why.

So here is the deal, a perfect game, if you win, is 300 points. If you tie, you split the win-bonus (100 points) and you end up with 250. The questions are timed, which is why you could get a score of anything between 40 and 300 per game. Anyway, the app uses the universal clock for when a month begins and ends, so no one has a time advantage or a way to start the month early or end it late. Each games takes about 90 seconds. The fastest game I have ever played was 1 minute and 20 seconds, and some games can take as much as 2 minutes. At the end of January this person had the experience that meant if she always had a perfect game, and always won, she would still have had to have played at least 11 hours every day. But whenever I play this person I have always won, and it hasn’t even been a close game. She’s slow at answering and has the occasional wrong answer, which means she doesn’t even get any of that “win” bonus, and most of my friends on the leader boards play the way I do, so I imagine when she finds herself against once of them, it is the same story. So really she has to be playing for at least 12 hours per day and that is staying conservative. When does she eat, sleep, piss or actually have a life? Needless to say, I was incredibly suspicious.

When I told my husband about it, I couldn’t understand why someone would care so much as to cheat just to be #1. Because for me, it’s all about knowing I’m the best at something or put in the time to earn that spot. So the idea of cheating, whether it being multiplying the points I earn or having some bot play for me – takes everything good out of being the best. I wouldn’t care if I was #1 if I used some unfair advantage, because it wouldn’t mean I was actually the best, it would mean I had a trick up my sleeve. Even if no one else knew what I had done, I would know. And the whole competitive thing is all about me, not how other people see me.

That’s when I learned that the app offers official cheats you can purchase for $6 a pop. Each lasts for one hour and boosts the points you earn for each game during that hour. What the hell? I am really kind of bummed about this, because I loved the idea of a huge platform where people play trivia and compete for spots on each topic’s leader board. But apparently, you can just buy your way onto said leader boards. Just because someone has the most points, doesn’t mean they have played that many games or are all that knowledgeable about each topic (cue the person who originally made me suspicious). My opinion of the game/app just completely deflated. And even though this is a “legal” or “sanctioned cheat” I don’t want anything to do with it. I mean even if I had money coming out of my ears, how is buying point multipliers fair, because there are people who don’t have purchase such things, or even know they have the option. I wanted a level playing field and this revelation just felt like a massive explosion, creating mountains and valleys.

Even knowing what I do now though, I still think this person is either cheating or sad because the experience points she is accumulating in a single hour, even using the most expensive multiplier still does not add up – there simply isn’t enough time to accomplish this. And if she is using multipliers, last month she would have had to have spent about $500 to earn what she did. And that’s just crazy. It’s a game! (I know that some people might be like, well look at all the time you took figuring all this out, but I actually am crazy-good and crazy-fast at math, so it didn’t take long at all. When I worked at a bank and on a sales force, I would add numbers up in my head faster than a calculator earning the nickname “The Human Calculator.” But I’m only good with My Dear Aunt Sally [Multiplication. Division. Addition. Subtraction.] so if you try to throw in some algebra or geometry, forget it!)

So, yes I may be a tad addicted to this trivia app, but now I also feel slightly disillusioned. At least, even before these revelations I still took care of everything I needed to, and didn’t focus on winning as much as I did on trying to be the best. I like to think there is some kind of difference. I guess that means even though I am incredibly competitive, and I want to win and be the best, it is still more about “how you play the game,” than it is about winning or losing and how much points you ultimately have. Weird…



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