Created January 30, 2000
© The Chicago Bar Project
Written by Sean Parnell

NTN Interactive Trivia is one of the best ways to pass time in a bar, second only to drinking and Golden Tee. Well, maybe not the Golden Tee as NTN is free and is located in some excellent drinking establishments in this fair city of Chicago.

To play NTN, ask your bartender or server for a game player. Usually you will have to give them your driver's license and a major credit card as the machines aren't cheap and they don't want you running out with one so that you can add it to your stolen bar glass collection. Once you have your wireless keypad player, log in your six-digit player name and you're ready to go. Popular NTN games include Countdown, Topix, Wipeout, Passport, and QB1 Football. Countdown, Topix, and Wipeout all last about 30 minutes with 15 questions each, Passport lasts an hour with five rounds, and QB1 lasts as long as the football game.

Countdown is a time limited, multiple choice trivia game where the sooner you guess correctly, the more points you get (maximum 1,000 points per question). As the time ticks down, so does the amount of points available, and clues are given to direct you towards the correct answer. The first two clues indicate which of the five choices are incorrect. The last "clue" usually gives the answer away, but sometimes indicates a third choice that is incorrect (fooling many players). Topix is the same game as Countdown with the only difference being that all questions revolve around the announced topic.

Wipeout is similar to Countdown with only one difference: instead of clues being displayed as time ticks down, answers are "wiped out" until only two choices are left. Instead of a last "clue" indicating the correct choice, the last incorrect choice is wiped out. When this happens there is no time left to answer, so if your answer was the last incorrect choice you will lose 250 points.

Passport is similar to Countdown, in that most questions are asked and answered in the same manner. Passport is also similar to Topix, in that all questions revolve around a particular geographic location. Passport also has Wipeout-like bonus questions. I prefer Countdown and Wipeout because they take half the time, and if you're having a really bad game, it is not long before another one starts and you have a chance to redeem yourself.

QB1 is an interactive football game, which requires players to predict each NFL (and now XFL) play on Sundays and Monday nights. QB1 players then punch in their predictions prior to the snap and watch each play unfold.

One of the coolest things about all of these NTN games is that you are competing on a local as well as national level. Locally, you compete with everyone playing NTN in your bar. After each game, the person with the most points is declared the winner. If the winner's point tally is sufficiently high, the winner's name and point total will be posted on a list of recent highs. Nationally, the top five scores per bar are averaged and compared with all other bars playing NTN in the country, and each bar receives a national ranking. Additionally, individuals with the highest score locally are ranked against all others nationally who also won locally. Assuming you are playing by yourself (and not as a group), if you score in the top 100 nationally, you are a trivia master. If you score in the top 10, start calling Who Wants to be a Millionaire to become a contestant and stop wasting your brain power in bars!

Anyone playing NTN, even for the first time, can join Player's Plus. Before each game, a particular point value is announced. If you score more than this number of points, you will receive 1,000 Player's Plus points; if you score below, you will get 500. Once you register through your interactive player's keypad as a Player's Plus member, your points will accrue each time you play (for as long as you play, perhaps many years). Apparently, Player's Plus is a way for you to win prizes but I know a few people with over 500,000 points and they have never won anything. Personally, I have avoided becoming a Player's Plus member as the last thing I need is more reason to go out to bars.

NTN was created by NTN Communications in 1983, the same people that recently brought you Buzztime an interactive trivia game you can play on your wireless phone (as if your current cell phone bill wasn't high enough). NTN is available in more than 3,000 locations in the United States, with another 560 locations in Canada. NTN officials estimate that six million people play its interactive sports and trivia games each month. Locally, NTN can be found in Chicago at Buffalo Wild Wings, Lion's Head Pub, Sedgwick's, Sports Corner, Lyons Den, Grizzly's Lodge, and Whirly Ball. For more information on NTN Communications, Interactive Trivia or upcoming promotions, check out the NTN website.

~ Have a good story relating to NTN? E-mail it to me. ~

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written by Sean Parnell