Every day at around 10 a.m., I drop everything I’m doing to stare at my phone. Of course, like many people, I spend hours staring at my phone. Yet in the mornings I don’t check my emails or the news: I play a trivia game.
I’ve become a big fan of HQ Trivia — or, just HQ for short — a phone app allowing players from all over the world to play daily quiz shows. All you have to do is correctly answer 12 questions to win your share of a grand prize. Most contests feature a $5,000 (¥550,000) pot divided by all winners, but some shows have much higher stakes. I’m not the only fan: The smartphone game show frequently attracts hundreds of thousands of contestants and was named app of the year by Time magazine last year.
HQ taps into our long-held interest in trivia. Growing up, I’d watch a range of game shows airing on children’s TV networks or major broadcasters. And I’d guess along with the show, trying to see how many points I could rack up. I was only playing for pride, but I loved seeing how far I could go. And I wasn’t alone, as many other folks tuned in daily to try their luck.
I think it’s the same in Japan, at least based on interactions with friends and family here. Television quiz shows are enormously popular, and I often see my mother-in-law guessing along. In fact, I bet quiz shows are popular all over the world.
The people behind HQ clearly think so. Their innovation was to let anyone take part and win the daily trivia shows. The actual potential winnings aren’t all that impressive — on average, people who answer all 12 questions take home about $12 (around ¥1,320). Even if I finally reached the summit and beat HQ, I wouldn’t win enough to be able to quit my job and retire early.
But I’m driven to actually beat this stupid game. I’ve never gotten all 12 questions right, though once I got to No. 11 before failing a question about plants. There’s always a question that catches me off guard, along with over half the players in the game — HQ calls them “savage questions.” As I’m writing this, a question about Manhattan clam chowder has doomed me: It turns out that the soup’s broth is not white but red, because it uses tomatoes. The more you know!
Recently, the HQ model has come to Japan. Mobile messaging app Line launched Line Trivia this summer, which looks and plays just like HQ Trivia, but in Japanese. Others have also popped up. It will be interesting to see if a similar idea can take off in Japan, but for now I’ll concentrate on beating HQ once before even attempting it in another language. I have to get my $12 payout first. (Patrick St. Michel)