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HQ Trivia: Just another fad or a millennial sensation? Here's how the app has taken over Duke.

Cancel your 9 p.m. plans and get a doctor’s note for your 3:05 class—you might just win yourself $2,000 because of it.

That’s just shy of the approximately $2,142.86 seven lucky winners individually received last Sunday night after playing HQ Trivia. The app, which is now the fourth most popular iOS game in the U.S. after being released on the App Store three months ago, regularly administers real-time quizzes every day at 9 p.m. and weekdays at 3 p.m. to audiences of sometimes a million users or more, many Duke students among them.

In its current format, the program's host Scott Rogowsky usually presents a total of 12 questions, each of which must be answered during a 10 second time frame. Only users who correctly answer all twelve are awarded any money, since those who answer a question incorrectly are eliminated. 

Sophomore Kaitlynne Janes said she first heard about the app when her friend messaged her in their GroupMe asking everyone to use his code so that he could get extra lives. She reflected on her appreciation for the social bonding the app facilitates.

“I love how it can become a group activity—everyone huddled together over the survivors’ screens, suggesting answers and yelling as the time ticks down to zero, in all it’s a fun way to pass some time,” she said.

Sophomore Alan Ko, the co-chair of The Chronicle's editorial board, said that he first heard about HQ through other members of the Chronicle staff, describing the app as the new “national pastime” for some members. He added that he appreciates how the app has demonstrated that the quiz entertainment format still remains relevant across the millennial generation.

“People are literally freaking out and posting in their GroupMe and respective Facebook groups whenever they win $20 on HQ, which just goes to show you how entertaining the app can be.”

But for all of HQ’s success, it is still a startup primarily backed by venture capitalists, and in order for its founders to continue successfully justifying a lofty $100 million valuation, they will need to address new ways of scaling the app, expanding into other platforms and avoiding becoming just another fad. As HQ’s users have increased, the feed has become routinely laggy, inspiring the pre-host intro to instruct people to jump on strong wi-fi connections prior to the start of the game.

At times, the app has even collapsed entirely, requiring rescheduling of games. Janes pointed to New Year’s Eve as the most notable of these collapses, describing how she remembers Rogowsky himself not even knowing what to do as she played the app that evening. She summed up HQ’s technical difficulties in one sentence. 

“It crashes, glitches and lags frequently,” she said.

Although it is impossible to know what the future of HQ holds, there are at least some HQ users at Duke who have already formed an opinion.

Ko said that he feels confident that like Pokemon Go and Yik Yak, HQ will probably be relegated to relic-status by the end of the year on Duke’s campus.  

Junior Aidan Workman, who started playing HQ after a friend told him about it, said he is beginning to think the app is a scam.

“It kinda sketches me out, because it doesn’t make any money and it’s kind of like a bunch of shady investors putting money into it,” he said.

Ryan Merriner, also a junior, said he was equally skeptical.

“I’m convinced [HQ]’s just another episode of Black Mirror,” he said, referring to a popular dystopian television anthology series.

However, though some users may be doubtful of its legitimacy, the app is continuing to leave its mark on the lives of users. And for a fortunate few, a passion for HQ Trivia eventually translates into winning. HQ winners get anywhere from a couple of dollars to the $6,000 maximum any individual player has won in a single game thus far have gone on to celebrate their earnings by traveling abroad, seeing Broadway plays, investing in up-and-coming cryptocurrencies, experimenting with filmmaking and more.

Potential for winnings aside, Dalbert Chen, Trinity ’16, said his motivations for playing are much simpler.  

“I just like trivia in general and I like going to trivia,” he said.


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