There’s an old saying in the video game business: “Sometimes you choose your new gaming obsession, and sometimes your new gaming obsession chooses you.”
Actually, I made that up, but there should be a saying like this, because that’s how it often goes – especially in the realm of addictive mobile games you can play on your phone.
For instance, consider the case of the massively successful mobile game Trivia Crack (Android, iOS, Windows Phone), which is both cleverly designed and aptly named. Frighteningly addictive, Trivia Crack takes the old multiple-choice trivia game format and optimizes it in several interesting ways. The result is one of the most genuinely habit-forming mobile games ever unleashed on an innocent public.
As it happens, we have some rather rigorous household playtesting data to back up this assessment. Returning from a family trip to Pittsburgh, we got caught in that massive East Coast snowstorm a couple of weeks back and found ourselves crawling down Interstate 79 for 12 long hours.
We played Trivia Crack pretty much straight through on the iPhone, going from level one to level 40 in a single day, and answering more than 1,500 trivia questions. It turns out that an optimus team composition for Trivia Crack is two 40-something parents and one sports-obsessed middle schooler. By time we limped into the driveway, we’d amassed a record of 59-1 in head-to-head competition with other online players.
Earn your crowns
It works like this: Trivia Crack employs what’s called an asynchronous online competition format. You’re paired with an opponent (either randomly or via friend invite) and must try to answer as many multiple-choice questions in a row as you can. Questions come in six categories (art, entertainment, geography, history, science and sports) and you spin a digital wheel to determine each new item.
You keep going until you miss a question, at which point your opponent takes a turn. But you’re not actually playing in real time. With each switch, the player has up to 48 hours to take a turn.
The trick is that you can have multiple games going at once. Get enough games into rotation – we had more than a dozen running simultaneously – and you can play more or less indefinitely. The app’s main screen shows which games are waiting for you and which are waiting for other player, plus a list of your finished games – won or lost.
The object is to collect a “crown” in each of the six categories before your opponent does. Trivia Crack introduces some generally successful gameplay twists to keep the action interesting. You earn in-game coins with each victory or milestone achieved, and you can spend those coins for power-ups in certain situations. You can skip a particularly tough question, eliminate two of the four multiple-choice answers, or buy a little extra thinking time before the 30-second clock expires.
Fresh trivia daily
As is the case with most mobile games of this sort, the system also offers – and encourages – in-app purchases for eliminating ads, expanding the game and/or getting a leg up on the competition. You can purchase extra lives with which to start new games, or buy coins in bundles. This is an apparently necessary evil in mobile gaming these days, and Trivia Crack handles it about as well as it can be handled.
But the real genius move by the designers of the game – based out of Argentina – is the decision to crowdsource the actual writing of the trivia questions themselves. Any player can submit a question, which must be approved by 100 other users before it goes into rotation.
According to the latest numbers, Trivia Crack now has more than 130 million downloads and has held the No. 1 spot at the App Store for more than 70 consecutive days. The result is that thousands of new trivia items are put into the system every day.
Predictably, considering the crowdsourcing solution, quality varies quite a bit. Some questions are ridiculously easy, some hopelessly obscure. But on balance, the system seems to be working surprisingly well. In our embarrassingly relentless playtesting, we only came across the same question a handful of times.
Be forewarned that Trivia Crack really is an addictive experience. But if you’re in the market for a state-of-the-art time-killer, the game is a lot of fun. And in case you’re interested, Team McDonald is now at level 59 with an 83-7 record. Feel free to challenge us at Trivia Crack profile: @glennmcdonald1.