Scoring Jeopardy!

2022-08-07 23:29:19 PDT (last update 2022-08-07 23:38:27 PDT)

At RustConf Friday I had dinner with a bunch of really cool people. I especially enjoyed talking to a couple that was seated with me; we chatted for several hours. One was a tech geek like myself (except smarter and harder working, I suspect). The other was a school nurse in a rough major city. You don't get to meet IRL heroes that often. It seemed like we had a lot of common interests and topics…

Ah, yes. I was talking about Jeopardy!, wasn't I? (The bang [!] is part of the name, if you didn't know. Game shows.) Somehow the topic came up, and I mentioned my "scoring system" for playing along at home.

There is a standard scoring system used by those aspiring to become Jeopardy! contestants. Coryat Scoring is a system developed for comparing contestant skill. Reportedly many home players try to get some minimum average Coryat score before trying to get on the show.

I don't have any strong ambition to be a Jeopardy! contestant. It would be pretty cool, but I'm just not willing to put in the work. For me, trivia is supposed to be relaxing fun. For someone aspiring to Jeopardy! greatness, there's not so much fun to be had.

Unfortunately, Jeopardy! recycles a bunch of topics. A lot. See how many episodes you go without seeing one or more of the following:

I could go on (oh could I), but you get the idea. To be solid at Jeopardy, it's not enough to just know actual trivia. You need to first survey this body of knowledge by digging through gobs of old game records and trying to see what the "Clue Crew" (who writes the questions) is up to. You then need to memorize quite a bit of information to cover this gap. Sounds like a lot of work for a lazy person like me.

What I take pride in is my knowledge of actual "trivia trivia". The kind of stuff that you would never be able to predict or prepare for by study; you just have to know. I know what a finial is, what Matthias Rust did, what Hanlon's Razor says and who (probably) coined it. I didn't learn these things by studying, but by learning and remembering.

Sooo… Here's how I score Jeopardy! when playing at home:

It is very rare that I score zero in a game. I would say my average is around 3-4. The other night I scored 10 plus an Ace.

Am I proud of that? Of course I am. But I'm also concerned. The quality of contestants had definitely seemed to slip during the last two years, for obvious reasons. But I was expecting it to come back, and with a few notable exceptions, I don't feel like it has. The clues seem like they're getting easier, and yet we still seem to get a lot more games with a lot of unanswered or incorrectly-answered questions than we did a few years ago.

The quality of clue-writing has also seemed to me to be declining lately. It is much more often that a clue seems to be ambiguously or just poorly worded. It is much more often that my wife and I stare at a wall-of-text clue hoping to just understand what the question is. For a while, there was a very strong reliance on things not interestingly related to trivia questions (don't get me started on Celebrity Before and After), although thankfully it seems to be winding down a bit.

Anyhoowww… I was talking with this nice person at the dinner and mentioned my scoring system and she looked at me astonished and said "I though I was the only one who scored like that!"

So that was cool.

A: It's the GOAT of gameshows, but also a course of constant friction and confusion: dangerous people on a dangerous show.

Q: ?