April 2018 (Volume 68, Issue 4)
By Nina Yee, Staff Writer
Every day, at 3pm and 9pm, millions of users become slaves to the HQ Trivia app. Affectionately dubbed “H-Qties” by an excessively charismatic (and corny) host, these screen-zombies drop everything to tune into the live game, enticed by the chance to win up to $2,500. The game is simple: answer 12 trivia questions right with 10 seconds allotted per question, and earn your portion of the prize money. Questions range from (hopefully) easy, “How many times does the Constitution have the word ‘sex’ in it?” to deceiving, “What is the plural of octopus?”
While viral success stories praise HQ for bringing families closer together (per grandfather Dan Rather’s popular Facebook post), the reality of HQ is just shy of the dystopias fictionalized in Netflix series Black Mirror. Famous for its pessimistic outlook on the future of mankind, Black Mirror shocks viewers with bleak glimpses into the ramifications of a technology-driven world. The show addresses issues of cybersecurity, surveillance, and state corruption in a manner that doesn’t seem like an Orwellian sci-fi novel, but rather an entirely plausible future. In the same vein, HQ, a seemingly harmless app, lures users into an addictive cycle of feverish false hope, sporadic highs, and drawn-out anticipation– yet another example of technology-gone-wrong.
The game appears to be deceptively easy and inviting, with popular host Scott Rogowsky (fondly nicknamed “Quiz Daddy”) frequently cracking cheesy puns. However, fans speculate that Rogowsky is imprisoned by the corporate side of HQ, a theory popularized on social media (#freescott) after HQ’s CEO threatened to fire Rogowsky for supposedly endorsing Sweetgreen in an interview. The parallels between HQ and many dystopian novels only begin with the puppet-like host. Despite mounting odds against players, they obsessively tune into the game, loss after loss.
HQ’s appeal is where it ventures into Stockholm Syndrome-esque territory. It self-admittedly preys on FOMO culture (Fear Of Missing Out) to turn one-time users into regular trivia junkies. But its appeal is less bandwagon propaganda and more simple ego inflation: Answering questions correctly serves to stroke competitors’ intellectual pride and obscure the perceived distance between themselves and the prize money. These highs easily eclipse the inevitable failure in HQ. Losses are conveniently justified by common technical glitches, precarious wi-fi connections, or merely incompetent question writers. “H-Qties” desperately crawl back to the app, thirsty for 30 minutes of drawn-out rejection shrouded by narcissism– a testament to the ironic quality of the trivia game. It’s no coincidence that trivia and trivial are essentially the same words, sharing a Latin root translating to commonplace or undergraduate and connoting an inferior and worthless quality. With its rebranding of 80’s era game shows, capitalization of self-absorption, and accessible digital platform, it’s also no surprise that millions of competitors hold such a trivial game in high regard.