FARGO — Instead of pulling up a seat at the bar or grabbing a table for weekly trivia, area players have been competing from a comfy spot in their homes as the usual venues are shut down.
Erik Block of Red River Trivia has been hosting virtual trivia about three times a week, giving players an opportunity for some recreation and social interaction via their computer screen.
At first, Block didn’t think there would be much of an interest. He was wrong.
Several weeks ago, he created a Facebook event page for the first virtual game. It got over 500 responses within 24 hours.
“We haven’t had an event page get that kind of response in probably a couple years,” Block said.
There were about 150 players tuned in minutes before the first game was about to start. Block saw some of the larger, national trivia companies move games online, but didn’t think much of it since Red River Trivia is a smaller company.
“But then I was like, ‘Well, you know, we probably have players that would appreciate it,’” he said. “Being completely out of work right now, it's not like I really have much else to do. I've got plenty of time, so I figured, both for myself and the trivia players, we might as well try to return to some type of normalcy.”
Block has been hosting about three events a week on Facebook Live — general knowledge at 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays and a theme game thrown in here and there, which has included "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" trivia.
“There’s definitely more interest than I expected for sure,” Block said. “I'm glad we decided to do it.”
Block’s full-time job is hosting games for Red River Trivia, which he started six years ago. He typically hosts weekly events at a number of bars in the area.
“There’s no reason that I can't be still writing and hosting trivia games during this time, since that's what I'm accustomed to doing anyway,” he said.
Maddison Melquist, a longtime trivia player from Moorhead, reached out to Red River Trivia to suggest they hold something virtually during the pandemic. Block listened.
“I was really excited to see they were doing something,” Melquist said. “It’s still fun. My friends tend to be the trivia type. We all have random information floating around in our brains so it’s fun to have an outlet for that, even if it's not in person and not for any sort of gift card or free appetizer.”
Melquist, a librarian at North Dakota State University where she’s also in grad school, managed to rally her friends and connect with all of them during at least one livestream game on Red River Trivia’s Facebook page.
“Everyone’s got very weird, warped schedules right now,” she said. “So it's kind of nice to have something that's a little more solid, like, OK, it’s Monday now, it’s 7 p.m. and I have trivia, something I have to do.”
Melquist’s group attends trivia at Dempsey’s Public House most regularly, but also pops in at Pepper’s Sports Cafe for themed games. Now, she’ll be playing from the comfort of her own home for the foreseeable future.
“It’s kind of a fun, different dynamic, because there are strict rules — no computers, no phones while you're doing this in an actual bar setting,” she said. “So it's kind of fun to have a little more leeway on that front.”
Block has been putting out what he has called a “virtual tip jar” for each game, where he posts Red River Trivia’s Venmo and PayPal links. None of the virtual trivia games are in conjunction with any of the bars he normally hosts at.
“I just mention, ‘Hey, we don't expect anything, but if you feel like throwing a few bucks our way, great,’” he said. “It has gone pretty well. I'm not making the same living I was making before, but I’m bringing in a few bucks here and there, which definitely helps.”