Every day, at approximately 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST, hundreds of thousands of eager mobile gamers hole up in their living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, office cubicles (or literally anywhere else), thumbs curled over their smartphone screens, ready to play HQ Trivia. But with each 14-minute lightning round yielding a relatively meager pool of victors (usually between seven and 15), the other 99.9 (and then some) percent is left wondering what actually happens when you win HQ Trivia. To shed a bit more light on the elusive gameshow victory, a pair of real, live champs, Sami and Justin, spoke to Bustle via email about how they came out on top.
At 9 p.m. sharp on Sunday, Dec. 3, 27-year-old Sami and her boyfriend, 27-year-old Justin, whipped out their phones, ready to go. The two have made quite a habit of playing HQ Trivia, which usually pays out around $1000 to be split among the winners, but, as is the case for the vast majority of players, an actual win seemed next to impossible.
On the evening of Dec. 3, though, the HQ Trivia jackpot was set at a lofty $8,500. "It was so exciting," Sami remembers. And then, at the host's cue, questions began flashing across her smartphone screen: What is the color of puce? What is the closest major city to Japan? What language was 99 Balloons originally written in?
Their joint strategy, Sami says, was the same as always: "Sit down on the couch with both of our phones." When they were unsure of an answer, she would select one option and Justin would select another in the hopes that one of their two answers is correct. Justin (who Sami describes as something of a "history buff") took on the history-related Q's (i.e. Which of these names is not the name of a President?), while Sami stepped up for the pop culture and food-related inquiries.
Then, the twelfth — and final — question flashed across Sami's iPhone screen. It asked players which Soviet Bloc leader opposed Stalin during the time of Soviet Russia — fortunately, Justin's world history wheelhouse. And, as it turns out, he knew the answer. "After we submitted our answer for question 12, our hearts were beating so fast," Sami says, "as if we just ran a marathon. After we saw we answered correctly and saw how much money we won, we were dead silent."
Because, for Sami (and the rest of the sparing crowd of victors like her), winning HQ Trivia isn't for real for real until you've watched your earnings rack up in your PayPal account just minutes after you've won. She and Justin, who have been dating for 4.5 years, split the cash 60-40, respectively, since they played using her phone that night. Rules are rules, after all.
For those not yet in the know, HQ Trivia is, among other things: a viral mobile game show app for iOS (think Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?, but digital, and from the comforts of your own home), brought to you by the co-founders of Vine. The app allows players to tap in from anywhere in the world and compete for some pretty generous cash prizes. Per the go-ahead from one of HQ Trivia's now-famous hosts — either British TV personality, Sharon Carpenter, or New York-based comedian (and fan-favorite) Scott Rogowsky — players are presented with a conceivably bizarre string of 12 Jeopardy-style questions. Whichever players have answered every question correctly take home the cash; if there is more than one winner (and there usually is), the cash prize is divvied up among them.
"I did a crazy dance, and I don't dance," Sami says of her win, "I also didn't believe that it was real at first." As for Justin, his feelings about the victory were "indescribable," but he does have one memorable metaphor: "It's like passing a kidney stone."
Sami and Justin may have won on one of HQ Trivia's biggest cash prize nights, but replicating their success isn't as hard as it seems. In fact, they have advice for perspective HQties who are waiting on their own wins.
"Don't give up! Miracles can happen! Always go with your first instinct," Sami says.
"Keep playing. Keep your head up. You’ll get your shot at the leaderboard one day," Justin agrees.
As the numerous tweets and social media posts from people who have done the seemingly impossible and won the game prove, your time to pass that kidney stone could be just around the corner.