Here’s what it’s like to win HQ Trivia, the iPhone trivia game show taking over the internet


If you haven’t played the iPhone game HQ Trivia yet, you’re sorely missing out. It’s the closest most of us will ever get to competing on a live game show — and you can win real money, too.

In case you’ve never heard of it, here’s the deal: Twice a day, once at 3 p.m. Eastern time and again at 9 p.m. Eastern time, you can participate in a 12-question trivia competition with tens of thousands of other people. Get one question wrong and you’re out. But if you make it to the end, you split the game’s winnings — which vary but usually range from $250 to $1,000 — with everyone else who successfully answered all 12 questions correctly.

Depending on the prize pool and number of victors, the amount of money you win can be as little as $2 or $3, but taking home 10 or 20 times that amount happens regularly, too. However, if you’re like most people, you haven’t won diddly squat yet.

So, what’s it like to make it to the end? We asked a bunch of jerks who bragged about their winnings online, like Jarrett Ferguson — I’m not jealous, I swear — whose victory was captured in this video posted to Twitter by his friend, Justin Potts:

“I actually got out on the fourth or fifth question and then got an extra life to come back in the game, so it saved me,” Ferguson said in a phone interview. “But I didn’t even know that. I ran out of the room to ask [my friends] if they were out, and then I hear one of my buddies yell, ‘Hey, you’re still in, Jarrett.’”

See, Ferguson and Potts are part of a group of students who work together at an internship program through the University of Oklahoma. Potts is the one who introduced everyone to HQ Trivia, and they all used each other’s referral codes to get some extra lives. If you’re lucky, one of HQ Trivia’s benevolent hosts, comedian Scott Rogowsky or British personality Sharon Carpenter, might dole out a few of those extra lives, giving you a second chance at victory.

“Once people found out I was the only one left with, like, two questions left, everyone else from the other rooms started congregating in that one little room that you see in the video,” Ferguson said. “Thankfully, I answered the last one right — and everyone exploded, because it was the first time someone had won within our group.”

Given the sheer amount of joy over Ferguson’s victory, it may surprise you to know he only won $12.20 that day. That’s several bucks short of the $20 minimum you’re required to win before you can actually deposit your HQ Trivia winnings into your bank account. But that didn’t seem to bother Ferguson all that much.

“I figured, keep [it] in there for good morale purposes and to remind myself I won,” he said. “I like getting in there and seeing the $12.20.”

In fact, simply the act of winning seems to be a greater sense of pride for a lot of people than is the prospect of taking home any cash. Take, for example, another charming video posted to Twitter by Maddie Kirby, a 24-year-old who lives in Portland, Oregon. Kirby and two of her coworkers only won $1.34 apiece — but here’s how they reacted:

“We were making a joke, like, ‘We’re going to finally win and it’s only going to be a dollar,’ and of course it was a dollar when it was calculated at the end,” Kirby said in a phone interview.

Tensions were particularly high that day, Kirby said, because neither she nor her coworkers had an extra life to save them if they answered a question wrong.

“I’ve been working with one of my coworkers for a year and a half, and that was the first time he had ever hugged me, when we won,” Kirby added.

But sometimes, winners actually take home a not-so-insignificant amount of money — like Rhyse, who withheld his last name for privacy reasons. Rhyse is a 26-year-old from Seattle who recently won $35.71 on HQ Trivia and transferred the winnings to his PayPal account right away.

“It was instant,” Rhyse said in a phone interview. “I’ve spent it already — actually, I spent it on alcohol.”

Like the other winners Mic interviewed, Rhyse said playing HQ Trivia has almost become a social activity for him and his husband.

“We don’t miss a game,” Rhyse said. “Whatever we’re doing, we stop and play. My husband plays at work — I’ve been working at home, so I’m never really busy — and yeah, it’s become a ritual ... My husband won a couple weeks ago before I did, and he got around $60.”

Even if he wasn’t playing with his husband, though, it sounds like Rhyse is still in it for the long haul.

“I’m broke,” he said, “so of course I’m going to play HQ Trivia every day.”

I still have yet to win, but I’m holding out hope. The next game starts in just a few hours. Good luck, but not too much — I’ve got bills to pay.