‘HQ’ Trivia Game Gains Popularity Amongst Suspicions

(L-R) Juniors Adara Anthony-Jones, Kayla Ross, Joelle Zelony and Madeline Janki, and sophomore Taylor Doucet get ready to play HQ after school. Photo: Abby Meyerowitz

Starting daily at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST, frequent host Scott Rogowsky appears jubilant on viewers’ phone screens, interacting with the game’s players and giving shoutouts to his audience. This display signals that the countdown is over and the players must now eagerly wait for question one to pop up on the screen, starting the “HQ” game.

Created by the co-founders of the video-sharing app Vine, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll, “HQ” is a new live trivia app on the iPhone. Bringing in hundreds of thousands of users for each game, the app is typically hosted by fan-favorite Scott Rogowsky.

Viewers are able to interact with each other in a public chat as the game gets ready to begin. The two-minute countdown winds down while Rogowsky explains the game and its rules. There are 12 questions that go from easy to hard as the game progresses, each with three possible options.

Players only have 10 seconds allotted to answer each question, allowing little, if any, time to look up answers on the internet. Despite this time crunch, statistics have shown that Google searches regarding the question topics skyrocket when the game is played. There are few opportunities to cheat, however it is definitely possible.

“When ‘HQ’ comes on, my friends and I gather around with a laptop so that we can look stuff up that we don’t know,” said senior Meggie Steiger. “A lot of times we can’t find the answer in time, but sometimes we get lucky.” Senior Ben Bernstein started wondering how many people it would take to play with to ensure a winner. “I tried calculating it, but had some difficulties along the way,” said Bernstein. “Nevertheless, we think it is around 20,000 people if you begin calculating after question three because most people are able to get there.”

Many are skeptical about the game, however. Lots of questions have arisen regarding the prize money that is awarded at the end of each game. The app claims that the money comes from “Intermedia Labs, Inc. and sometimes affiliates, marketers and partners.” This vague description leaves many to wonder about the logistics behind the game show.

“I think it’s kind of spooky,” said junior Kayla Ross. “I don’t understand how they are able to give thousands of dollars away each day while not really making any evident revenue.” But some users have noticed the implementation of a few advertisements integrated within the questions. For example, a recent question asked about which car symbol was comprised of two letters. The answer was Volkswagon, and the signature “VW” appeared on the screen.

Initially, the prize money was $1,500, but recently it has increased to $2,000 as the app has gained popularity. Other times, the prize money has been up to $18,000. Even though these are large amounts of money, the award is split among all of the winners. Because of the growing number of viewers, winners in most games usually win from $5 to $100, and only people who win over $20 are able to cash in their profits.

Adding to suspicions about the app is a recent controversy regarding the man who is widely regarded as “the face of the app,” Scott Rogowsky. Recently, he was interviewed by The Daily Beast for a profile piece about the newly popular trivia show host. According to The Daily Beast, after the publication let app creator Rus Yusupov know about the planned article, Yusupov went ballistic. He said that the company did not have permission to write about Rogowsky or “HQ.” He added that if the article were to be published, Rogowsky would lose his job.

One quote in particular that was unacceptable to Yusupov regarded Rogowsky’s food preferences and newly-acquired fame from the app. Rogowsky said that “despite the attention, he’s still able to walk down the street and order his favorite salad from Sweetgreen without being accosted.” Because HQ does not sponsor Sweetgreen, Yusupov believed that mentioning the restaurant was improper and not allowed; thus leading users to wonder why the creator of the app would get so worked up about such a small comment.