HQ Trivia is the latest craze to take the world by storm, offering up the thrill of a game show with the interactivity of a livestream, all within one’s mobile phone. I was one of many seduced by the alluring prospect of HQ Trivia: earn money simply by answering a series of trivia questions, free of charge, no questions asked. After playing for two weeks, however, I now see this seemingly innocuous mobile app for what it is, and in order to preserve my sanity, I’ve uninstalled it from my iPhone. Here are my reasons:
The Odds are NOT Ever in Your Favour
The premise of HQ Trivia sounds simple enough: answer 12 questions in a row correctly and win from a pot of $2500. And the first couple of questions are insultingly easy, lulling you into a false sense of security. But eventually you run into a question in which the answer unabashedly eludes you, and with only 10 seconds to respond, more often than not you’re left to take a wild guess and hope you’re lucky enough to progress.
Now it’s time for some simple math: by guessing at a question you have a 1 in 3 chance of getting it right. That’s about 33%, which isn’t bad, but consider the frequency of times you’d have to guess to make it to question 12. Let’s assume you were hopeless at trivia and dared to guess you way to a shot at the prize pot. That’s 1/3 to the 12th power:
(1/3)^12 = 1/531441 = 0.00000188167
That means, the odds of you winging it successfully 12 times in a row are less than .002%.
Never mind those odds diminish even further on Sunday nights, when the pot rises to $15,000 with 15 correct answers. While those are still better than the getting-struck-by-lightning-twice odds of winning the lottery, I would suggest against putting a down payment on a new speedboat anytime soon. And speaking of the lottery…
The Gambler’s Fallacy (“You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play!”)
Let’s not kid ourselves: although HQ is free to play, you are ultimately paying with your time and emotional investment. What makes HQ Trivia so particularly addictive is that nagging sense of urgency that tugs at your brain whenever the app notifies you that it’s time to log in and play. Sure, you can choose to ignore it and go about your day, but your inner Pavlovian kicks in, practically dangling a stack of money in front of you like some proverbial carrot. What if this is the game where you get all 12 questions right? And you may argue that the time investment is not that great; on a good day when HQ host Scott Rogowsky isn’t stalling for time by singing the praises of excess buffalo meat from the Oregon Trail, the average trivia session barely clocks in at over 15 minutes in length. But think about it: do you really want to spend every night a slave to your smartphone from 9pm-9:15pm? It’s a pitiable existence to be lorded over by a device that was designed to grant us the freedom of limitless choice.
If the first two reasons aren’t enough to deter your love of HQ trivia, then perhaps the final point will:
Poor Return of Investment
So let’s say, by the grace of God or Lady Luck’s mercy, you successfully manage to reach the end of the questions. You did it! The $2500 prize money is yours!…or it would be, had you been the sole participant fortunate enough to conquer the 12 questions. As it stands, the game often has several winners, all of whom must share the prize money equally. This added variable brings an unwelcome unpredictability to the game; some nights the survivors can take home a handsome pot of $100+, other nights the chat will openly mock victors that have the honor of being richer by $1.05 each. And while the rules have changed so that a minimum earnings of $20 is no longer require to cash out prize money, with the nightly average far surpassing 1 million viewers and easily 2 million on Sunday nights, it’s become increasingly unlikely expect a windfall for your efforts.
All these reasons, coupled with a desire to go to bed early or use my time on more creative pursuits, have spurred my decision to discontinue my involvement with HQ Trivia. To some it may still be seen as a harmless time-waster, and my leaving just means more money to go around for everyone else. That’s fine: but let me know how that fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of success is working towards your well-being.
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