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Amid the lockdown, Chennai quizzers take to WhatsApp to host games

H-129 event participants, in the days before social distancing

H-129 event participants, in the days before social distancing  

H-129 is taking its signature hybrid of pub quiz and game show to WhatsApp, with questions revolving around what you come across when reading the news, or blogs, or scrolling social media

Is it a pub quiz? Is it a boardgame? It’s a little bit of both, actually, and since Chennai’s quizzers and boardgame enthusiasts won’t be holding gatherings anytime soon, they are now holding sessions on WhatsApp.

Considering its origins as a discussion group for serious issues, H-129 has had a couple of interesting changes in direction. Now, they are not only an increasingly popular name in the city’s pub quiz circuit, but are also entertaining over a hundred people on WhatsApp. To hear co-founder Aditya Dhathathreyan explain it, the core concept is pretty interesting: “We built a digital gameboard on a computer, and usually project on a screen at our events, so the eight or 10 participating teams can see how they are progressing. If you answer a question correctly, you get certain resources or points that help you build your strategy and progress in the game.”

The questions aren’t cut-and-dry either. “It’s not about trivia, but about what you come across when reading the news, or blogs, or scrolling social media, that you don’t directly associate with trivia facts. For example, when Apple came out with air pods, what came out on Twitter and in the news drew analogies between the air pods and a bunch of disconnected things... some noticed how they were shaped like hair dryers, others saw how they resembled certain kinds of Pokemon. Our questions revolve around these comparisons, so they are workable questions, as opposed to a proper quiz where you have to know the one correct answer.”

An H-129 event in Chennai in the days before social distancing

An H-129 event in Chennai in the days before social distancing  

Since that elaborate setup was not possible for their edition this month, when all gatherings came to a precautionary halt, they moved the entire format to WhatsApp, with a couple of changes. “We have a common group of over 100 interested participants [named Quarantine Chaos]. From there, those who participated on March 22 got divided into teams of six (you could choose your team or be assigned random people) who made smaller WhatsApp groups of their own. The questions, final replies and scores were in the main group, while all internal discussions happened in the smaller one,” explains Aditya. He calls it a dry run, a version that just had questions, not the game.

They could not set up the complete, digital boardgame version online at short notice, but plan to do it from the next edition. “There are two ways: either we take screenshots of how the game is progressing and share it on WhatsApp, or interface between Google Hangouts and WhatsApp. So we link the two platforms, put up the questions on the main WhatsApp group, let the discussion happen in the subgroups, put up the scores on the main group and update the board on Hangouts,” he says, adding, “We will be holding weekly or bi-weekly events from now on.”

The founders of H-129, Chennai

The founders of H-129, Chennai  

Aravindan Sudarsan is now part of the team to help out with this aspect, while avid quizzers Krishnan Ayalur Seshadrinathan and Prasanna Sugumaran continue to be the quizmasters, like they have been since 2017 when H-129 was still called Kootam, and was held in flats and drawing rooms. “Kootam was just a discussion group for interesting facts. But I wanted to make it a bit more interesting, so I invited Krishnan and Prasanna to hold a Kuttam quiz. It was a huge hit, there were about 30 participants, all of us packed into my bedroom,” he remembers with a laugh.

From that, Kootam eventually evolved into Porkalam, a game-plus-quiz designed especially for The Board Room’s opening night in Mylapore. Porkalam 1 and 2 took place in June and July of 2019, and went up to four editions by the end of that year. And why did they change the name to H-129? “That is the flat where we created it all.”

To participate in the quiz, join the WhatsApp group via .

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This article has been updated post publication

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 4:50:32 AM |

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