Passing the time in a pandemic is all fun and games

As the pandemic continues, people have been forced to be creative and develop new ways to get together apart.

 In an effort to stay connected and ditch the gloomy COVID cloud hanging over everyone’s head, Kulshan Brewing Co. has moved its regular trivia night online.

While veterans of this weekly tradition have the in-person application down, the transition to online has proved to be somewhat difficult.

“There have been some kinks to work out,” said Whatcom Community College student and Kulshan trivia host Dylan Albrecht.

After early attempts to make the popular video communication site Zoom be the standard, as well as a stint on Twitch, the group has landed on Google Meet as their gathering place. Google Meet allows for presentation, teamwork, and answer submissions via Google Docs to make for a smoother game. 

Three hosts rotate duties at Kulshan Brewing on James Street on Monday nights. After developing a close rapport with their audience and each other, and connecting with Kulshan to provide prizes and discounts on merchandise, the three decided to move it online.

Although participation is strong and many have been appreciative of the new faces they’ve been seeing since moving online, the spirit of in-person trivia is definitely missed. 

 “There’s a certain energy to presenting in person,” said host Justin Smith, a co-owner of the Firefly Venue & Lounge on State Street. “You hear people laughing or heckling, or the room gets quiet if the question is more difficult. It’s those kinds of cues that you can’t really pick up on virtually.”

Hosts are sometimes finding it harder to host when everyone has muted their microphone and video in Meet.

“I can’t tell if my jokes are funny,” says host Rob Coiner. 

 Some have been playing trivia at Kulshan for almost a decade, and over the years, have looked forward to seeing their teammates every week. They are at least grateful for the opportunity to continue to do so virtually.

The transition has even allowed friends and families, as well as previous players who have moved away, to join in and reconnect. 

Making the game more social and the competition stiffer, teams have taken it upon themselves to create “side meetings” that allow them to discuss their answers and come to an agreement on submissions more privately.

With the side meetings, the game evolves into something more personal.

“It then becomes a two-hour hang out with a backdrop of questions,” said Coiner, who works from home. “You really get to hang out with people.”

It’s explicitly forbidden to cheat, and though people are at home and have to use their own tech, everyone agrees to this basic rule. Participants can’t put away their phones like they are instructed to do in person.

For many involved, these weekly game nights have been a form of solace over the years, and through the pandemic, are giving them something to look forward to. Many of the participants see each other more than many of their other friends. Some of them are close friends, or have met because of the game. It’s a tight-knit community.

“The opportunity to be playing with everybody is really great,” said Coiner, who often stays online afterward to discuss the success – or failure – of the questions with players and the other hosts.

Questions vary by each host, but all three include a final music round usually based on a theme. Coiner and Albrecht tend to do a picture round, while Smith favors questions about current events and holidays.

Not only are participants using trivia as something to look forward to but also the hosts find it a great outlet.

“This whole COVID thing has been so stressful and anxiety-inducing that having something that is part of my normal routine, where I can sit down and write these questions –because I really enjoy coming up with the questions – is nice, to have that one slice of normalcy,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht and Coiner say coming up with questions that interest the general audience and creating teams with members of different generations is the key to success.

Kulshan hosts two trivia nights, one at each of its two locations. Though the James Street Kulshan’s bar area is 21 and up only, the main room and outdoor area are all ages to accommodate younger participants. The Kentucky Street brew hall is strictly 21 and up. There is no in-person gathering at either Kulshan location as yet.

Online the James Street game follows its usual Monday night with Albrecht, Coiner, and Smith alternating hosting duties. K2 on Kentucky Street online follows its regular Wednesday night hosted by Jen Castaldo. Both start at 7 p.m. online, the same as the in-person gatherings.

Everyone is welcome to join the online games. Just email with a team name, captain’s email, and the number of people on the team (up to 6 of any age). There is no buy-in – it’s usually $2 in person – and prizes are awarded for teams with the most correct answers and best team name in the form of gift cards. 

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