How to waste lots and lots of time while convincing yourself that it's good for you.
Two of my favourite ways to procrastinate are puzzling through brain-teasers and posting to h2g2. So, it probably comes as no surprise that I've managed to consolidate my resources and do both simultaneously, lurking around the various mind-bending games on this site. In fact, I've even gone so far as starting two games of my own: the Haiku Challenge and Word Gymnastics.
What did surprise me, when I came to investigate it, was just how many different places on h2g2 that you can find games that challenge your grey matter; it seemed the more I uncovered, the more there were to be found. On the guide, you can pit your mind against those of your fellow researchers in areas as diverse as poetry, science fiction, word association, and football; and the games are of varied format and difficulty.
Perhaps the most famous of the h2g2 games is H2IQ run by Greebo T. Cat, who also writes the 'Just for Fun' column in The Post. Every morning (UK time) researchers can be found lying in wait for the doughnut-loving feline to log in, refreshing their browsers every few moments in a bid to be the first to find (and hopefully answer) the question posed for the day. The first researcher to answer it correctly wins a point, and the first to reach 20 points becomes an H2IQ champion.
Mickey Thomas' Right Foot has taken up the H2IQ format, and applied it to his passion for football in the Footy Quiz and Trivia Zone'where you'll never see or hear the word soccer'. He also invites researchers to post their own interesting football-related trivia, which is good for the ego if you happen to miss out on being first.
If you enjoy trivia, but football isn't quite your thing, Argon0 challenges your powers of word association, and specialist knowledge about Book/Story titles, Song Quotes and Movies/Plays/TV Shows in three threads on his user space. As Argon0 told me
'The games grew out of the Song_Titles_Substitute Thread over at yahoo groups (or egroups as was) - during the time of H0G0 - or Rupert - depending on your preference... Basically you have to link one Book/Movie to another... How you do this is up to you. If you are challenged you have to explain the link - if your thinking is particularly warped it sometimes makes it a lot easier (for the flow) to put your thinking in at the same time. Theoretically you have to mention the Author/a Star or the Director as well as the title'.
- [book/story] The Business - Ian Banks -> Bank Robbery -> Thief ->
Thieves World -> Made up (fantasy) world ->Lord of the Rings -> Farmer Giles of Ham - J.R.R. Tolkein
- [Movie/Play/TV Show] Lethal Weapon - starring Danny Glover -> also starred Mel Gibson ->
Played someone important to Scottish history in BraveHeart -> Highlander - starring Christopher Lambert.
Although the concept behind this seems incredibly simple, some of the links can be very cryptic, and it's certainly fascinating to see what our fellow researcher's warped minds can come up with.
Songs also feature in Who's Line is it Anyway? hosted by Orcus. This game was previously played in the forums for the entry of the same name, but it appears that that entry has not emerged from moderation yet. It is named after a Radio 4 quiz show, now on television, but the games are more reminiscent of 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue'. The concept is quite loose: the replies must be restricted to the topic of the thread (no mean feat on h2g2); and current games include 'Questions only': in which each of your replies must be in the form of a question; the alphabetical game, where your reply must start with the next letter of the alphabet, and 'Song Titles'... you get the idea.
Word Gymnastics follows a similarly loose premise: the idea is to see how well you can put words through their paces, and several games are currently in progress: In 'Write your own definition', you decide what a word means - and the sillier your definition, the better; 'The Story that Never Ends' is a h2g2 version of the old camping game in which someone starts a story, and the next person has to say what comes next, followed by the next person and so on; and 'Absolutely Amazing Alliteration' asks researchers to post a sentence or a segment fragment all starting with the same letter; and then nominate the letter for the next researcher to continue on with.
For aficionados of cryptic clues, the h2g2 Paperless Paperchase hosted by Bagpuss really puts you through your paces1. The first clue for this game is posted on the entry, and your task is to decrypt its meaning, and find the entry that it refers to. In the forum for the target entry will be a conversation which lets you know that you've got it right, followed by the next clue which has been posted by the first contestant to get there. As you follow the trail, you may find you eventually become the first to reach one of the clues, and then it's up to you to continue it on with a clue of your own. Some of the clues can be quite obscure, but if you get stuck, don't panic! Hints are allowed; and the brain-torture is certainly worth it - there's nothing more satisfying than finally getting to the end of the trail, and taking your turn at baffling your fellow contestants.
If, however, you find the agony of working through enigmatic challenges just a little too much like hard work, or if you lean towards the plain silly, there are fortunately some games that are somewhat easier. The Limerick Game in the forum for the entry on Limericks, provides the opportunity to collaborate with your fellow researchers to write limericks. Each contestant contributes one or two lines per posting, resulting in some very unpredictable and silly verse. The person who contributes the last line of one limerick begins the next.
The Haiku Challenge is yet another place where you can whet your appetite for poetry. Using the simple 5 syllable, 7 syllable, 5 syllable format, researchers are challenged to write haiku on the topic the last researcher posted. Bad poetry is cheerfully accepted, and each researcher has an opportunity to get their own back by posting the topic for the next researcher to come along. We currently have threads that challenge the researcher to write haikus that incorporate up to three different topics, as well as an alliterative haiku thread.
There are also other more traditional 'question and answer' type games on h2g2 for you to try your hand at. Timelord tests just how addicted all you sci-fi fans are with his Sci-Fi quiz 1+2; Trekkies will love his Star Trek Quiz, and his ABCD Quiz gives us all at least 25% chance of getting each answer correct - always handy when you need a confidence booster!
Of course, after all that hard work thinking, what you're going to need is a strong drink, and what better to do while you're at it than to join in the Pub Quiz? Munchkin poses questions which you answer by e-mail, and once all the votes are in, your score is put up for everyone to see, so not only do you have fun playing, but you can show off to all your friends!
This is a non-exhaustive list of the brain teasers currently being played on the guide, and pays tribute, I believe, to the inventiveness and varied talents and interests of the h2g2 researchers. So you now have no excuse, if you ever had, for being bored when you log in here. Have fun, and happy gaming!
What? You're still here?
Many thanks to Bagpuss, Argon0 and Orcus for their assistance in the research for this article, and for all the quizmasters who kindly allowed me to reference their games.