Weird Family Fortunes


Family Fortunes (Family Feud in the US) is a brilliantly subversive quiz concept.

They set things up by conducting a large survey asking people all sorts of questions that have multiple answers. On the show, teams (families) then compete to guess the most common answers to those questions. So unlike a conventional quiz where you are rewarded for knowing obscure things, instead you are rewarded for being as similar as possible to the average person! Or at least being good at guessing what an average person would think.

I ran a ‘Weird Family Fortunes’ survey/quiz that compressed this idea into a single step. Players completed a survey of Family Fortunes style questions – but needed to anticipate what other people’s answers might be as they did so. Initially this was quite easy, and then it started to get a bit weird.

There were 3 sections, with 8 questions in each, and 38 people sent in responses – if you were one of them, thanks for that! Here are the results.

Section A: Majority Wins

In this section the rule was similar to Family Fortunes: ‘majority wins’. Players get a point if their answer matches the most commonly given response out of everyone playing.

For example, if 10 people answered ‘Pinball’ and 7 people answered ‘Snooker’, the 10 people who chose Pinball would each get a point, since theirs was the most commonly given response.

I grouped together responses that I consider equivalent, e.g. I would combine ‘Football’ with ‘Soccer’ when considering the totals. This sounds superficially simple, but gets into some quite difficult judgement calls later on, as you’ll see.

A1: What is your favourite colour?

Inspired a little bit by Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this seemed like an easy place to start. Perhaps informed by the first response in that film (but also just possibly what is most popular in general), the winner by quite a long way was ‘blue’.

Some of the responses suggested to me that people either had not realised the goal was to guess what the majority of all players would guess (‘Pastel Pink’ and ‘Aquamarine’ were two ambitious responses), or simply did not care.

I also think the kind of people I sent this to are generally very smart and original, and I often run games that allow them to flex those strengths. In this round at least, this is pretty much the opposite of what you should do, so perhaps it was just force of habit that led to the particularly unlikely response of ‘radio wave’.

A2: What is the best animated Disney film?

Given the demographic of respondents, perhaps ‘The Lion King’ was the inevitable winner. But I was very interested that ‘Toy Story’ came second, given that it was – at the time – a Pixar film, not a Disney one. Years after Toy Story came out, Disney bought Pixar, and the argument could be made that it has now become a Disney film. In a traditional quiz that would probably be debateable, but here it doesn’t matter! If everyone makes the same mistake, it becomes valid. Albeit second place in this case.

A3: Which is the least awful social network?

This one is a bit of a popularity contest, since I think on average most people only use a small number of social networks. Still I was surprised to see Instagram take a convincing lead. Good to know!

A4: How do you distinguish the file name of the final version of a document?

As a subject of personal interest, I find that the version of a document one thinks is final turns out not to be final in the vast majority of cases. This creates the problem of distinguishing the document you first thought was final from the one that is actually final (if there ever even is such a thing).

The results here suggest that other people don’t have that problem, or other people don’t think other other people have that problem, or they don’t care, or think other people don’t care. In other words, these results don’t actually tell us very much.

Still I was disappointed that only 3 of the responses reflected my experience – there is no final so name accordingly – and actually one of them was me, since I was the first respondent to the quiz!

A5: What is your favourite video game?

The big problem here was categorisation. ‘Zelda’ and ‘Mario’ do not uniquely refer to a specific game, and it seems too much of a generalisation to group all games in the Zelda  or Mario series as a single category. Then there is ‘Mario Kart’, which is also a series with many iterations – but ‘Mario Kart’ was what ‘Super Mario Kart’ was generally called (just as Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was generally known as Episode 1), so probably stands. As noted, in general this quiz isn’t about me judging what is and is not a valid answer, but when it comes to joining up responses I did have to make that call.

There was a surprising breadth of answers here, but perhaps this is more a sign of how huge and varied the topic of games is… and is a sign that a lot of the respondents also work in a video game studio.

A6: Who is the best female character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This question got at the problem of general knowledge (the average casual or non-MCU fan probably could only name Black Widow) vs. strong contenders from elsewhere if someone is more familiar with the material. Of course, this is compounded by people guessing what others will guess, making Black Widow a very likely winner.

A7: Who is the best droid in Star Wars?

Not only is R2-D2 clearly an excellent droid, they will be the obvious choice for the large number of people who haven’t seen the sequel trilogy or other Star Wars spin-off material. In a straightforward poll, I hope a few more might support the excellent L3-37 or BB-8, but when it comes to guessing which will win, R2-D2 is hard to resist.

‘Han Solo’ might look like a rookie error, but makes sense if you consider some additional context. To say more would be to spoil that other context.

A8: Which year was the best?

Another tacit test of the player’s demographics, 1999 and 2000 are the years that most of my peers were in their 1st or 2nd year of university – with maximum freedom and probably the lowest amount of responsibility. The internet was also gaining traction and was exciting and new. Well, I’m guessing that’s what people thought anyway.

Section B: Runner-up wins

For this section, the rules changed: runner-up wins. That means players got 1 point for each answer where their response was the second most commonly given. Of course, players needed to bear in mind that everyone else is trying to guess which will be the second most commonly given as well.

For example, if the question was “What is the best letter?” and 10 people answer ‘a’, 7 people answer ‘b’, and 2 people answer ‘c’, the people that answered ‘b’ will get a point since that was the second most commonly given response.

I originally considered giving people the chance to answer each question twice: once with their ‘honest’ answer, and then again where they are trying to guess what other people guessed. But I liked the elegance of compressing that all into one question, even though it makes it very difficult and probably quite luck-based!

This was made even more difficult since it was hard to tell how many respondents would truly understand what was being asked, as that could influence the responses. Let’s see what happened.

B1: What is your favourite mode of transport? (runner-up wins)

I made the call to separate ‘bike’ from ‘ebike’ and ‘quad bike’, and also ‘tube’ from ‘train’.

Now I think about it, I can actually see that helicopter and zeppelin are pretty excellent forms of transport, but it’s not too surprising that not many people thought of these. Or thought that other people might think of it not quite as much as the most popular thing.

B2: Which tree is the best? (runner-up wins)

At this point I slightly regret not asking the ‘majority wins’ version as well as the ‘runner-up wins’, since I’m curious how similar they would end up being. Oak seems an obvious front-runner, but well done to the 3 people who all agreed on Birch making it the runner-up.

B3: What is your favourite potato-based food? (runner-up wins)

Somewhat contentiously I separated ‘chips’ from ‘fries’, as in my experience they are very different forms of potato, and I have been to establishments offering both as separate options on the menu. In this case I’m very uncertain if the people who won by guessing ‘chips’ were under-thinking it or thinking-it just the right amount.

B4: Pick a word that begins with ‘w’ (runner-up wins)

This could have been very hard, but I deliberately included two possible words in the question itself, creating what I thought might have been a dilemma, as surely one of those would be the runner-up. Sure enough, these showed up close to the top – but out of nowhere, water was the most popular, and I’m very unsure why.

B5: You are invited to a thing you don’t want to do, but technically you are available. What do you do? (runner-up wins)

I’m very interested to know the ‘majority wins’ answer to this question, but as a person who frequently invites people to things, perhaps people would not have answered honestly in any case?

This created some tricky grouping problems, in particular I decided to separate the general (‘make an excuse’) from the specific (‘feign illness’), and nuances of timing (‘decline’ vs. ‘cancel later’; ‘go anyway’ vs ‘go for a bit and see’). I am mysteriously pleased that the successful runner-up was the perhaps surprising ‘go anyway’.

B6: What did Tim eat just before writing this question? (runner-up wins)

For those that want to know, the reality was that I ate a banana just before writing this question. But this is not about accuracy!

Given that you most likely needed to at least come up with something that a few other people would guess, I was surprised at the long tail of very specific responses – I had thought generic answers like ‘a snack’ or ‘breakfast’ would have been the way to go. But in the absence of examples, I can imagine it was not clear that general categories might be a good way to go. It was quite pleasing to end up with a 6-way tie between 12 people!

B7: Where is alien life most likely to be found in our solar system? (runner-up wins)

In this particular case it felt fairest to group up specific responses (e.g. locations on Earth) to a single major planet, but that did end up making Earth the most popular. Perhaps if I do something like this again it would be better to specify (where possible) what kind of grouping I will do?

B8: If you had to kill a vampire but you aren’t sure which vampire rules are in play, how would you first try to do it? (runner-up wins)

With an unlikely tie for first between sunlight and a stake, the successful runner-up was the garlic grouping. My personal favourite was the 3 people who chose not to kill at all, in a category joining ‘Don’t’, with ‘run away’ and ‘fall in love with them’.

Section C: Weird

This section grouped the weirdest majority and runner-up questions with a few that had rules all of their own…

C1: What is the lowest unique whole number that someone will guess in answer to this question? (For example, if two people guess ‘1’, one person guesses ‘2’, and one person guesses ‘3’ then the person who guessed ‘2’ will get the point, as that was the lowest unique response).

I thought ‘Whole number’ was a well-defined term, excluding negative numbers, but I failed to specify this. The fact that several very intelligent people opted to give negative responses made me realise I should have specified that restriction up front (and not just implied it by the example).

Under the intended rules – which is what I’m counting here – the winner was the person who selected ‘2’, funnily enough the winner in the example given! This meant 1 or even 0 could have won.

If we broadened the definition to negative numbers, I find it pleasing that two people both opted for the largest negative number possible in the restrictions of the format, meaning the winner (under those rules, which we are not actually using) was instead the person opted for a merely very large negative number.

C2: What came before the Big Bang? (Majority wins)

In grouping terms, I considered the winner, ‘Nothing’ to be distinct from ‘there is no “before” ’, since the latter implies time itself did not exist / was not meaningfully defined. I separated out ‘The Big Crunch’ from ‘A Big Crunch’, because while superficially similar I felt like the use of “A” much more heavily implied a cyclic behaviour.

Respect to the one person with the very reasonable response of ‘I don’t know’!

C3: What is the opposite of the thing most people will answer to this question? (Any answer that can be interpreted as opposite to the answer most commonly given to this question gets a point)

I asked this without any idea how people might answer, or how possible it would be for me to judge. As it turns out, variations on ‘nothing’ clearly took the majority, making both ‘everything’ and ‘something’ both winners as opposites.

You could argue that the response that simply repeated the question (and perhaps the one that said ‘asking the same question again’) should win, in the sense that they are the opposite of all of the others which are all ‘answers’. But I don’t think a response should dictate how I group things up, so that does not win, but is still a good effort.

I like that one person gave 42 and another -42. I also particularly like the surreal ‘you should put salt on it’, which is possibly trying to do something clever I haven’t been able to figure out.

C4: What is the average of the numbers submitted in answer to this question? Give your answer to the nearest whole number. (Closest to average wins)

With just one person opting for a very large negative number and 4 people going for very large positive numbers, the largest positive number ends up winning!

C5: Pick a whole number from 1 to 8. (Runner up wins)

I wondered if the earlier questions might somehow prime people’s responses here, but I can’t see a clear pattern. Perhaps the similarity of ‘runner-up’ with ‘2’ as a concept made it the most popular choice, allowing 5 to take the true runner-up prize.

C6: What would be a good question to ask in this survey? (Best 3 answers as judged by Tim will win, originality will be highly rated)

After struggling to come up with questions, I figured I should turn the problem back on respondents. I got a very widely varying set of responses, which were as follows:

  • How do you feel? (Majority wins)
  • What would be a good question to ask in this survey? (Best 3 answers as judged by Tim will win, originality will be highly rated)
  • Did anyone else’s brain start hurting around C1?
  • Pick any whole number between 1 and 50 to stand on and a second such number to place a trap on. You score a point if nobody has placed a trap on your number.
  • If you had to be on an island with only one type of bird, which would it be and why?
  • What do you consider to be the greatest virtue?
  • Number of peanuts in this pack of peanuts. Points at peanut pack.
  • Thumbs being incredibly useful, why do we only have 2?
  • How many bees would we need to attach to Tim to be able to fly him to the moon?
  • Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
  • Why did the chicken cross the road? (runner up wins)
  • If Tim was a phone, which phone would he be? Bonus points, what colour/case would he be?
  • If you wanted to get a Guinness world record, what would be your best shot?
  • If you could choose someone to narrate your life, who would you want to serve as the voiceover?
  • What do you get when you cross a rhetorical question and a paltry attempt at being funny in a quiz answer?
  • What is Tim’s favourite colour?
  • If asked to define yellow, how many people would not use the opposite of a not a banana to explain it? (Wooden spoon wins)
  • If everyone were to answer the best year of their life minus the worst year of their life, what do you think the average of all answers would be?
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • What colour are the clouds in the sky right now?
  • How many bison dollars is to a single US dollar?
  • Best burger chain
  • What’s your favourite question? (Majority wins)
  • Favorite question in this survey, runner up wins
  • Why does Tim write question that we don’t understand and have no relevant or real answer
  • What is the best number?
  • favourite integer (runner up)
  • what’s your favourite thing about Tim?
  • You have a pet dinosaur and you don’t want to give it neither a human, a dog/cat nor a scientific name. What would you name it? (Majority wins)
  • Name something you find in a bakery that can also be used as a term of endearment
  • Pick a number. If the total of everyone’s numbers is odd, evens win. If the total of everyone’s numbers is even, odds win.
  • Do you think that this format of quiz will be popular enough to repeat (wholly or in part) for next time?7
  • Assuming the location of each person responding to this survey forms the vertex of a polygon, how many KitKats would it take to trace the perimeter? (One point for answers within one standard deviation of the mean)
  • What would be a good question to ask in this survey?
  • Who, What, Why?
  • How many distinct named colours do you think there are?
  • Probably something like what you just asked, so that you could effectively outsource creating the next survey for your next event.

I said originality would be highly rated, but another (but less important) criteria was how well a question might actually work in this context – something I now have a much better feel for. My top 3 were:

  • Pick any whole number between 1 and 50 to stand on and a second such number to place a trap on. You score a point if nobody has placed a trap on your number.
  • If everyone were to answer the best year of their life minus the worst year of their life, what do you think the average of all answers would be?
  • Assuming the location of each person responding to this survey forms the vertex of a polygon, how many KitKats would it take to trace the perimeter? (One point for answers within one standard deviation of the mean)

Also my respect and bafflement to the complicated question about yellow that then reveals that ‘wooden spoon wins’, I am very curious what the responses would have been to that!

C7: Rock, paper, or scissors? (Those who select the option that beats the majority win)

My favourite question! This ended up being a little tricky to resolve, with a two-way tie between Scissors and Paper.

Ultimately though the answer is quite clear: the majority is a tie between Scissors and Paper, so we simply consider the following:

  • Scissors ties with Scissors and beats Paper
  • Paper ties with Paper but loses to Scissors
  • Rock beats Scissors but loses to Paper

A tie and a win is clearly the best result, to ‘Scissors’ is the overall winner.

C8: When considering all responses to these questions, including this one, which whole number is most commonly answered? (Closest to the actual most commonly answered whole number across all questions wins)

Perhaps the ultimate test of figuring out what other people will choose, while ‘1’ feels like a pretty safe choice the winner was ‘5’ – and it would not have been if 3 fewer people chose it in response to this question!

For reference, the actual distribution of numerical responses to all questions is as follows (excluding the very long tail of numbers with only one occurrence):


Did this work? Did it make any sense?

In retrospect the ‘Runner up’ round felt a bit too confusing and random. It would have been neater and also more enlightening to have people give a straightforward response and then go on to guess about the runner up. One reason I chose not to do that was that it would make the survey a lot longer – or the same length with much fewer questions in play. The second reason though was that I liked how mind-boggling it might be!

The grouping problem got pretty difficult. If I did this sort of thing again, I would definitely try to anticipate how grouping might work and specify guidelines for it within the question itself.

The responses to this quiz went on to inform an actual ‘Family Fortunes’ style quiz game I ran in person, specifically because I wanted to do something that was like a quiz but a lot weirder, and I liked how that worked a lot – that will be written up elsewhere.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!


As promised, I said I would publish the top 10 scorers. There were quite a lot of ties though, so some of these tables get quite long.

In section A, a nice warm-up with 8 ‘majority wins’ question, 5 people managed to get 6 of them right – well done!

In section B, there were 8 ‘runner-up’ questions. Figuring out what will come 2nd out of the options submitted by people who are all trying to guess what will come 2nd is very difficult, but somehow Jordan got an incredible 6 of the 8 correct, a strong lead against the 6-way tie for 2nd with 3 points. Amazing!

Section C had a lot of weird questions, but also a lot where just by design very few players were likely to win the point (with the exception of the rock/paper/scissors one), so it’s especially impressive that Phil got 5 out of a possible 8.

I said I wouldn’t reveal who gave which answer, but I will say Phil did answer 3 Section C questions tactically and this did help him win at least one additional point… quite how he might have done that is left as an exercise for the reader.

Adding those all together, Jordan takes the lead with 13 out of 24!

  • Transmission Ends