By: Akiva Clair | Business  | 

Q1: How did HQ get so popular?

This past Wednesday afternoon, over 2.2 million people turned away from their work, school, and anything and everything else, opened up a funky little app on their phone, and spent the next few minutes excitedly sweating out the arrival of the biggest HQ Trivia game in the app’s short yet impressive history. To advertise for the upcoming action film “Rampage,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the star of the movie, guest-hosted HQ, and the regular prize of $5,000 skyrocketed to an HQ-record of $300,000. Just a few weeks before, Nike sponsored a surprise game with an $100,000 prize, and Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” blessed the HQ-world with a $250,000 game only two days later. This trend of big-name companies using the app as a creative, out-of-the-box advertising medium will likely continue as marketers view HQ as a goldmine of potential customers.

Created in August 2017, HQ has grown steadily in participants due to increased prize amounts coupled with positive word-of-mouth experiences from current HQties who love everything about this cultural game. The concept of HQ is relatively simple. On weekdays at 3PM EST and every night at 9 PM EST, HQ goes live with a 12-question game. With a series of cute graphics and clever puns, the lovable host Scott Rogowsky (AKA Quiz Khalifa, AKA Host Malone) asks question after question about topics ranging from music, history, geography, sports, and much more. Unless you have an extra life, it’s one strike and you’re out. After the always-dramatic Q12, the people still alive divide up the cash prize (usually $5,000) amongst themselves. At first, some prize amounts seem very high, but in reality, winners often walk away with less than $20 after splitting their earnings with their fellow HQties.

While the allure of winning money, albeit usually a relatively small amount, definitely attracts people to HQ, you’d be hard-pressed to say it’s the main reason. HQ regulars realize that the average winnings are very unimpressive, and when you calculate the amount of games you had to play to win those $13.19, you’re going to realize that you have an absurdly low return on investment. If not for the money, then why do so many people play and love HQ? The answer lies in three super-important and unique qualities that HQ possesses: It creates a fun, social experience, it gives you a great feeling of self-achievement, and it provides you with extremely valuable social value.

There are two primary ways to play HQ. One is slightly boring and lonely while the other is hyped and crazy. The first, less-enjoyable way is when you’re sitting in an accounting class and balancing your phone on top of your thigh and under your desk while you look up at your professor every once in a while to avoid looking suspicious. While secretly playing HQ is undoubtedly more enjoyable than learning about credits and debits, it pales in comparison to the second, more social way to use the app. Instead of playing alone, playing HQ when you’re hanging out with friends and family is significantly more enjoyable and exhilarating. During the ten seconds that you have to answer the question, your heart races with excitement as everyone screams out correct (and incorrect) answers and collectively holds their breath to hear if they got it right. What’s more, celebrating correct answers with your friends is an awesome, wild moment that plays a big part in making the HQ experience so enjoyable. People love how fun the game is, and that reality contributes to more downloads, positive reviews, and a high user retention rate.

From Trivial Pursuit to Quizup and from Jeopardy to Family Feud, trivia games, shows, and apps have been, and will continue to be, extremely popular among all different types of people and personalities. The reason is that despite our differences, all humans naturally crave and love the awesome feelings of self-achievement and self-pride. Think back to a time that you received an award, got a good grade on a test, or hit a nice jumper. You probably felt that warm, exciting feeling in your chest that manifests itself into a smile that you simply can’t hold back. Similarly, when we correctly answer a random question about Shakespeare, Australia, or Drake, we can't help but feel that surge of pride and achievement over our mini-accomplishment. Every question that you get right reflects and reinforces your beliefs that you’re a knowledgeable, cultural person, and that great feeling is one of the big reasons that you love answering trivia so much and keep on coming back to it day after day.

Arguably the greatest influencer and motivator right now in modern society is social value. Roughly defined as an increase or decrease in society’s respect towards and acceptance of you as a valuable, interesting contributor and member of its culture, social value is a major consideration in many of the decisions we make. When you buy a car, for example, you want a nice-looking model and well-known brand so that people will look at what you’re driving and think more highly of you. Similarly, when you post a funny meme in a group, a major part of your reason for doing so is to impress others, receive positive feedback, and make your friends think that you’re funny, witty, and cool. Social value is a main driver behind the unprecedented success of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, and as long as people can see and like our thoughts and pictures, we’ll keep on posting.

This natural, normal desire for social value, however, must be controlled. When taken too far, one can run into very mentally unhealthy problems of worrying and depressing over doing something that gave them negative social value. If you get to the point that you realize that every action in your life is based merely on the question of “What will people think of me if I do X or Y,” then you should consider taking a step on back and reflecting on your immense, personal value that can’t be measured by likes and compliments.When you fight your way through savage questions and blindly guess your way to an HQ victory, your first reaction is to tell people that you won, especially if it’s your first time. Winning in HQ is no easy task by any means, and being able to pridefully yet respectfully share with others that you vanquished the HQ-dragon and came out victorious gives you a ton of positive social value. Your friends now view you as more knowledgeable, cultural, and successful. Yes, it’s just a trivia game, but because it's so hard to win, people become really impressed by the winners. In essence, the harder something is to do, the more positive social value you’ll gain by successfully doing it. What’s more, the bigger prize games that HQ runs from time to time not only attract more people because of the larger payouts, but also because of the significantly greater social value. Telling someone that you won over $3000 during the epic Dwayne Johnson game is infinitely cooler than telling someone about that time you got eight dollars on a Tuesday afternoon.

Where HQ’s popularity will go should be interesting to watch. It’s growth has been somewhat stagnant as of late, but the allure of increasingly massive prizes and continued, positive word-of-mouth should keep the downloads coming. And what it lacks in annoying stalling and the occasional ridiculous question (some bird’s nest soup, anyone?), it makes up for in a unique, enjoyable, and valuable experience that begs the following question:

Q12: Are you an HQtie yet?