Splitting hairs.

I am a Wikipedia addict. Sometimes I’ll innocently search for facts, then hours later the open tabs in my browser continue to grow exponentially. One evening, I was half-asleep at 2am reading about different types of rice. Do you know how many of those rice related factoids I recall? Not a single one.

These Wikipedia binges are the temporary accumulation of useless knowledge. Remember when you’d cram for high school exams by intensely studying sheets of facts before you had to put away your papers? “Cram” is the right word: we stuffed knowledge into our brains when it had no right to be there.

Split Decision is a trivia game all about useless knowledge, based on a board game of which I have never heard. There is not a single question in here whose answer will save your life, settle a diplomatic standoff or even win a pub quiz: in tuition terms, it’s right up there with Trivial Pursuit for the Sega Master System asking questions about the USSR and West Germany. It would postulate a question, tell you the answer and ask “Did you get it right?”. You won’t be surprised to learn that I always got them right.

The real point of this game isn’t to teach you something, of course: it’s to make you laugh. You choose from two answers to every question, but the potential categories have a degree of comic overlap. Is ‘Furnunculus’ a Harry Potter spell or an edible mushroom? Is ‘diePod Slaylist’ a cheesy horror film or an Itchy and Scratchy episode? You can’t help but crack a smile at some of these, and they’re carefully engineered so you’re usually foundering in uncertainty. Rights and wrongs don’t matter until the thirty second round is over and you’ve attained an embarrassing –11 points.

Split Decision suffers, as does pop culture in general, from Americocentrism. At least, that’s what I thought until I purchased the British question pack; turns out I’m just ignorant. After you’ve finished a game you can review your answers and read out additional information in your best Stephen Fry voice. The British questions cover the three major quiz groups: alcohol, football and the Royal Family. And by Royal Family, I of course mean The Beatles.

As well as the rapid-fire “thirty seconds of shame”, there’s a ‘deadly’ three-strikes mode, which for me was even briefer than the short game. ‘Challenge’ is the most satisfying of the three games, where you attempt to impress history’s most famous minds, although I doubt Isaac Newton would really be impressed that I know more about video games than calculus. Still, I bet Isaac Newton’s rubbish at Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine.

It cries out for some kind of multiplayer action. You could play it with friends while huddled around a phone, but I think it would be even better with some kind of H-O-R-S-E or Hot Potato-style games. It’s high octane pub conversation fuel, though, and maybe the lack of multiplayer will stop your iPhone from finding itself submerged in the bottom of a pint glass.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to interject with obscure facts, leaving your companions asking “How did they know that (and why)?”, then you’ll love this. They won’t though: they’ll hate it because they don’t understand our pursuit of sheer knowledge. In a world where specialist education is increasingly sought by employers and cohorts, it’s nice to have a game that celebrates well-rounded intellectual meaninglessness. Embrace it. Oh, and don’t forget to eat plenty of brown rice- it’s better for you than the white kind.


Disclaimer: Alan received a promotional copy of Split Decision, but he paid for the British question pack.