On the first Wednesday of the spring semester, the line to get into Top Deck extended all the way down the stairs.
Inside, the bar was buzzing with people carrying pitchers of beer to their tables and teams trying to find a space to sit — or at this point, stand.
Ben Storsved, who graduated in December, and junior Hunter Wotruba stood in the back corner of the bar, behind a laptop and sound system and under a glowing Chicago Cubs logo sign — one of many neon signs decorating Top Deck’s walls.
As the clock strikes 10 p.m., Ben leans in and speaks warmly into a microphone.
“Hello friends and welcome back to another fantastic week at Top Deck Trivia!”
At the beginning of the school year, Ben and Hunter took over after the previous hosts graduated, and have spent just about every Wednesday night emcing Top Deck Trivia.
The two didn’t know each other before they started hosting together, but they each started going to trivia nights regularly during their sophomore years. They also both happened to know a previous trivia host —Ben met Jordan Cameron through rowing club and Dungeons and Dragons, and Hunter met Alexa Patsey through Model UN.
When the call for new hosts went out, Ben and Hunter both expressed their interest, then started writing some questions and helped host until they could host trivia nights on their own.
“We get along and we have similar interests,” Hunter said. “There’s been no conflict as of yet and I don’t think there will be.”
The format of Top Deck Trivia is simple: There are 14 categories, three questions per category and two categories per round. Each correct answer is worth 10 points. At the end, there’s one Final-Jeopardy-style question where teams can wager their points.
Teams can be any size, and each has to come up with a team name. There are some teams who are Top Deck Trivia regulars and come back with the same name every time, like “Ikea Shark.” Hunter’s favorite names are ones that are puns on current events.
First place gets a $25 Skipper’s gift card, second place gets $10 and third place gets a free pitcher of Mind Probe or Long Island Iced Tea.
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There’s really only one rule: no phones.
“Friendly reminder: stay off your phones!” Ben will say over the microphone if he sees anyone hunched over. Then the whole bar will start chanting “Shame” in the perpetrator’s general direction.
Each week, Hunter and Ben write seven categories, or 21 questions each.
There are some recurring categories, such as “Last Night Today,” “Today in History,” which asks about events that happened on that day in another year and “Name That Tune,” where Hunter plays the first few seconds of a song and players attempt to identify the title and artist.
For the rest, Ben and Hunter get inspired from things they hear in class, on podcasts or puns from news headlines. These can produce categories from “SCUBA” (all about SCUBA diving) to “Sexy Bloodsuckers” (all about vampires) to “Professor or Porn Star” (guess if a name belongs to a Miami professor or a porn star).
It’s all about balance, both in varying the subject matter of the categories and difficulty level of the questions.
“My general philosophy on writing questions is there should be one that almost everybody gets, one that about half people get and one that only a few people get so that we can sort of spread out the teams score-wise,” Ben said.
Hosting trivia is just as much about crowd management and creating a fun, laid-back environment as much as it is about writing the questions.
“It's a weird mix, because there's some people that are just there hanging out with their friends and they're not really paying attention and others are really focused, not even drinking, just there for the questions and the chance to win,” Ben said.
As of now, Hunter plans to host trivia again next year. Ben plans to go to graduate school, likely outside of Oxford, so they’re looking for someone to take his place.
He’s started making announcements at the end of trivia to come talk to him if anyone is interested in being a host. They’ve also reached out to people in various student organizations that they’re involved with, such as Model UN, Associated Student Government and of course, the quiz bowl team.
Candidates will then go through a similar process that Ben and Hunter went through — writing some sample categories and questions and then helping host some games later in the semester. The only thing they really look for is someone who attends trivia fairly frequently to ensure they already understand how it works.
Neither are too worried about finding someone new, and they’ve already had a few people express interest.
Ben just hopes that he’ll actually be able to play a round or two of trivia himself before the semester ends.