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Trivial Pursuit In The UK - How The Game Came About, And How We First Pursued It In 1984...

Did you pursue the trivial in 1984? Many people did as the UK edition of Trivial Pursuit made its debut in January.

Trivial Pursuit (originally to be called "Trivia Pursuit") was conceived by two Canadians, Chris Haney and Scott Abbot, on 15 December 1979. The general format was worked out very quickly, but devising the scoring system took three months! Chris and Scott spent the next couple of years setting up their own company and researching marketing techniques.

The famous Trivial Pursuit logo and board was designed in 1981 by artist Michael Wurstlin. A trial run of games was released in the Toronto and Vancouver areas in November 1981. All were sold.

Trivial Pursuit creators Chris Haney and Scott Abbott in the mid-1980s.

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 In November 1982, Chris and Scott signed a contract with the manufacturers of Scrabble to distribute the game in the USA. Work began on the British edition in April 1983 and, at the start of '84, we discovered we could all pursue the trivial to our hearts content.

The game has cheese shaped wedges, general knowledge questions and a box design which looks good on any coffee table.

We fell in love with Trivial Pursuit here in England - and for the many versions released since, like the "Genius" edition pictured at the top of this post.


The original UK edition of Trivial Pursuit was our 1984 and 1985 Game of the Year.


New UK Trivial Record - from the Times, November 1984.

Trivial Pursuit questions (and answers) as featured in the Sun, December, 1984.
The '80s Actual Trivial Pursuit Timeline

(Details culled from a mid-1980s magazine interview with Chris Haney and Scott Abbott)

15 December 1979 - conception:

Chris Abbott and Scott Haney were having a friendly argument in the kitchen of Chris's Montreal home over who was the better Scrabble player. To resolve the dispute, Chris went to buy a Scrabble set, and realised that it was the sixth he'd bought in his life. The pair decided then and there to invent a new game. "It took us forty-five minutes to design the game," explained Scott in a 1985 interview, "and three months to figure out the scoring." Chris and Scott decide to call their new game "Trivia Pursuit" although this will later be altered.

January 1980:

Carrying an expired press pass and a camera without film, Chris and Scott visited a toy fair in Montreal. There, they pumped manufacturers about marketing strategies. According to Scott, the pair "collected about $10,000 dollars' worth of information in one afternoon."

Chris and Scott decided to set up their own company to produce the game, recruiting Chris's older brother John and a lawyer friend, Ed Werner. Chris left his job and began to contact companies who could manufacture the various game components.

October 1980:

Work began on preparing the all-important questions. Chris, his wife, Sarah, and two-year-old son went to Spain to begin the work. John later joined them there. The next five months were spent amassing mountains of trivia.

March - October 1981:

During the summer of 1981, Chris and Scott spent six weeks on the final editing of the Trivial Pursuit questions. Artist Michael Wurstin was hired to design the board and logo - he was paid with shares in the company. The game creators pored over colour combinations and package designs.


They decided to go for a chunky box, bearing the words "Trivial Pursuit" in elegant script, something that would look good on coffee tables, as well as in toy cupboards.

A test run of 1,200 copies was produced after thirty-two friends, relatives and former colleagues bought shares in the venture. In late October 1981, the game components arrived and work was carried out round the clock putting the boxes together.

November 1981 - September 1982:

The stage was set for the first test run of Trivial Pursuit games to make their debut in shops in the Toronto and Vancouver area in November 1981. All were sold.

Orders from retailers began to come in, but the supply of games had been exhausted and its creators had used up all their funds. Various banks were approached, but credit to produce further Trivial Pursuit games was refused. "We'd really hit rock bottom," recalled Chris a few years later.

In March 1982, they found a bank willing to lend them enough money to produce a further 20,000 games.

An old boat-yard on Lake Ontario became their assembly plant, and Scott left his job to become the company accountant. A computer was bought to store the questions in.

October 1982 - October 1983:

The four man team working at the Trivial Pursuit assembly plant were finding it difficult to cope with the flood of orders for the game. In October 1982 they handed over the distribution to a Canadian game manufacturer, which immediately ordered 80,000 games. In November 1982, Chris and Scott signed a contract with the distributors of Scrabble to manufacture and distribute the game in the USA.


In the spring of 1983, Chris phoned Steve Birch, a friend in England: "Can you come over? The game is going pretty well and we want you and Ray to do a British version."

Steve Birch and Ray Loud went to Canada and, with Chris and Scott, pored over the Trivial Pursuit questions, deciding which would need replacing for a British edition.

By the end of August 1983 the British game was ready to be manufactured.

January 1984:

Trivial Pursuit went on sale in Britain.

1 comment:

  1. I always found the questions far too hard to do.the kids version..or Junior..was still tricky But at least I had a chance..

    ReplyDelete