The hit quiz app taking the world by storm

Asking the questions: Comedian Scott Rogowsky presents the original US version of HQ Trivia.

Is trivia good for us? Valued at $100 million, with millions of daily players, HQ Trivia is the new social quizzing app sensation. Some have even called it the future of television.

Which of these television shows did NOT feature one of the six lead actors from Friends?

A: NYPD Blue B: Sex and the City C: Cheers

That was the final question in yesterday’s 3pm edition of HQ Trivia — the smash hit game show app. Did you get the answer right? If so, you would have won a cash prize had you been playing along.

Here’s how the game works. Every day at 3pm and 9pm, a live interactive quiz is broadcast to thousands of people via the app — MC’d by a peppy, joke-cracking host who asks players 12 general knowledge questions.

Get them all right, and a share of the cash jackpot is yours. But here’s the catch: just one mistake and you’re out. Each question also has a frantic 10-second time limit, which means no time to Google the answers.

Its combination of regular time slots, fun atmosphere and promise of prizes has caused a sensation. Sometimes, the game attracts millions of players across the UK and US.

Celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Robert De Niro have even guest-hosted the show.

“We have ambitions to essentially build the future of TV,” HQ Trivia co-creator Rus Yusupov says. The key to this vision: interactivity. As journalist Jack Apollo George points out: “HQ allows the viewer to be the star.”

Yet despite its futuristic ambitions, HQ Trivia draws on a quizzing tradition that has a colourful history.

Radio quiz shows were first introduced by the BBC in the 1930s; the first broadcasts were inspired by American spelling bees. However, the outbreak of the Second World War gave the contests a more practical function. For example, Air Raid Wardens’ Training Bee tested contestants’ knowledge of gas mask procedures.

Then, in the 1970s, pub quizzes were popularised across the UK to bring in more customers on quiet nights.

And as television game shows adopted extravagant forms like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, significant riches suddenly became available to the brainiest quizzers.

Does all this mean that trivia is good for us?

No-brainer

Not necessarily, some say. Memorising facts should not be mistaken for intelligence. Rather than glorifying trivial knowledge, we should encourage people to think deeply. It is better to be an expert on one thing than to have a superficial understanding of many things. What’s more, HQ Trivia is merely designed to monopolise the time of as many users as possible — it is best avoided.

Quizzing has secret powers, others respond. As academic Ian Bogost argues, pub quizzes and trivia games “emphasise how broad, shared knowledge helps hold communities together.” Furthermore, having a wide general knowledge can boost critical thinking and decision making skills. But more than anything, quizzes are fun — not least HQ Trivia.

You Decide

  1. Do you enjoy quizzes? Why/why not?
  2. Why are quiz shows so popular?

Activities

  1. It’s time to write your own HQ Trivia quiz! Using your own general knowledge, write down 12 questions, each with three answers. Test your classmates. Is anyone able to get all your questions correct?
  2. HQ Trivia has divided opinion, with some journalists writing negative pieces about the app. Sample these articles by following the links in Become An Expert. Write your own opinion piece based on the following question: “HQ Trivia is exciting, harmless fun.” To what extent do you agree?

Some People Say...

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Albert Einstein

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
HQ Trivia was founded by Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, who also started the now defunct video sharing app Vine. HQ Trivia recently secured $15 million in a round of funding, taking its overall value to approximately $100 million. The app is free to play and does not currently run advertisements.
What do we not know?
How the app will evolve. Currently, its cash prizes are funded by money paid to the company by investors. Its founders have stated they are experimenting with possible revenue streams, which may include partnerships with brands or advertisers.

Word Watch

Right
The correct answer is… B: Sex and the City.
General knowledge
Questions are taken from an extremely broad range of topics. Yesterday’s quiz included questions on Franz Kafka, English football and Second World War pipelines.
Cash jackpot
When split among the winners, some jackpots are worth just a few pounds each. However, the biggest UK winner so far received £8,000.
Spelling bees
One of the first quiz shows broadcast on BBC radio was a transatlantic spelling contest between Harvard and Oxford University. Read the Radio Times link in Become An Expert to find out more.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Famously hosted in the UK by Chris Tarrant, the show has recently been rebooted with Jeremy Clarkson asking the questions.
Ian Bogost
Bogost has a negative view of HQ Trivia. Read his piece in The Atlantic by following the link in Become An Expert.