By Atara Huberfeld
See the end of the article for answers to the questions throughout the article.
Every day at 3:00, small clusters of YU students, some strangers only moments before, can be found huddled together, peering devotedly at their screens. On Beren, they can be found around tables in the Beit Midrash, an armchair in the 1st-floor lounge, or waiting for an elevator with some breathing room. Generally, after five or so tense minutes, the group will collectively sigh and disband, as if nothing ever happened.
This isn’t another a cult that’s forming at YU — they’re playing HQ. It’s an app that allows participants to play a trivia game twice a day, at 3:00 pm and 9:00 pm, with 700,000-1 million people. And the best part? If you answer all 12 multiple choice questions correctly, you get $2,500!
Well, not exactly. If more than one person wins, they split the pie, with everyone getting an equal slice. When Stern student Elana Muller played, she won a whopping $1.28. For such a small payout, why would anyone play? What makes this game so popular? For one, it’s fun. The first two questions are usually relatively easy to answer. There’s a joy that a participant feels from being able to advance to at least Question 3, no matter how deep under a rock they live. (Although this author must admit that she once got out on Question 1 because she had the game on mute while she was doing work and missed the question.) No matter how out of the loop you may feel, you probably won’t say that Little Miss Muffet sat on an airplane1, or claim that a unibrow would likely be found in a fridge2.
Secondly, there’s the simple fact that it’s a game show. Not all of us have the honor of participating in the Jeopardy!. Many of us have grown up watching game shows, whether nightly with our families or just passively because it’s playing in the ice cream store and the line is long. People who spent summers at sleepaway camps might remember countless night activities that featured take-offs of various game shows. We’ve watched contestants flounder or prevail, all the while shouting our definitely correct answers at the screen or stage. Now, you can shout the answers and submit them. Being on a game show, simply put, is pretty cool. It finally puts each person in the driver’s seat, as if Oprah is pointing to us all and exclaiming that we all get to be on a game show! And HQ, with its kaleidoscopic graphics, clattering background music, and seemingly endless stream of terrible puns, is even more exciting. HQ manages to bring what used to be a rare experience to the masses.
The last reason actually has little to do with HQ itself. The game was set up to be a decidedly individual experience. Each question is timed at 10 seconds, leaving no time to text someone and barely have enough time to ask someone sitting across the room. You don’t even have the seconds needed to ask everyone’s best friend, Google, for help. HQ was designed to force the contestants to play alone. But many people, especially Stern students, have started to hack the system (without cheating, of course). When a group of people all play together, if they don’t know the answer to a question, they can each choose one of the answers on their phone. When the two others are eliminated, the group can continue to play on one phone. If the group is larger than three people, they can repeat this process multiple times. And if by a stroke of fate, luck, and the combined force of years of inane knowledge buildup, the group wins, they split the earnings. It turns the cool experience of being on a game show into an adrenaline-fueled group activity, as well as an opportunity to meet new friends. Instead of a single player facing off against the world, Stern students are banding together. Each member can bring their unique reservoir of pop culture knowledge to the team – the dancer may know which is danced to ¾ time3, a college football fan might recognize a given university’s mascot as a clergyman4, while the natural sciences major would know which measurement for resistance is also the name of a rental car company5. And as an added bonus, if you play right after class, you might even be able to find out who the smartest person in your class is and get their notes for finals.
All questions listed throughout are genuine HQ questions.
- Wake Forest’s Demon Deacon