RIP To HQ Trivia…Maybe

Last week, on the 14th, it was suddenly announced that the popular live trivia app known as HQ would be shutting down and all its employees were laid off. Apparently, investors decided to pull out, so that was it. This news surprised and saddened me because I still played the game(s) daily.

This app launched in 2017, though I didn’t start playing it until 2018. The concept of the game was very unique. Twice a day (3pm and 9pm EST) the show would go live and a host would ask 12 multiple choice trivia questions, and you’d have ten seconds to answer each one. If you got one wrong, you were out of the game, but if you made it to the end, you got real money, though the prize (usually between $1000 and $5000) would be split between everyone who survived all 12 questions, so if you won, you were making probably a few cents. The game got very popular, often with several million players tuning in. I recall being in a computer lab one time in university and seeing several people quietly playing along at 3pm, myself included. The games only lasted around 15 minutes, so it was a nice excuse for a break.

HQ Trivia logo.

Of course, like any popular thing, it had ups and downs, and I’m sure there were a lot more ups and downs that the general public was not privy to. Some stuff did go public, like how one of the original hosts named Scott, who I think most people liked enough, left his role after failed contract negotiations, or like how HQ’s cofounder was found dead in his apartment in late 2018 from a drug overdose.

The gameplay also changed a lot in ways that I as a user did not love, and I think the constant changes annoyed people so much they stopped playing. Twice a day gameplay got cut to once a day. Then they started doing more games again, but with specific themes (HQ Sports, HQ Tunes, HQ Words, HQX, HQ After Dark). Then they started offering in-app purchases like free lives. They started awarding points for right answers that allowed you free passes through questions and splitting their games into Seasons. Then they went from 12 Q’s to 15. Then to I think 20, but with chances to take a smaller prize after every ~7 and leave the game if you want. They introduced an in-game currency that you could buy/earn to then buy in-game things. They started using these coins as game prizes instead of real money (as well as points, sometimes). They tried international broadcasts for specific countries and then stopped. And all this in the span of three years.

Image result for it's too much

I liked some of the changes. I enjoyed HQ Words and some HQ Tunes and I found HQ After Dark especially entertaining. I earned a lot of free lives and used them somewhat regularly. I liked earning points for the free passes even if I didn’t understand what constituted as a Season. I didn’t mind most of the new hosts they brought in. At the end of the day, playing the game took a measly 10-15 minutes out of my day, and it was overall fairly enjoyable. I even won a few games totaling a very nice $2.30.

And while I guess nothing bothered me so much that I stopped playing, I certainly did not like many aspects of HQ. I found their changes to be so random and unexplained and often seemed like a way for them to save money rather than do the thing they were there to do. Their latest game, HQX, provided no incentive for casual playing. And I disliked how the games often dragged on because the hosts were chatting. In hindsight, they certainly did act like a company struggling a bit to survive and with a lot going on behind the scenes.

Though the app lost a lot of users over the years, what they did accomplish was quite remarkable. They had a lot of celebrities on the game and did a lot of sponsorships of big movies and TV shows because they had a large reach. They had fun themed nights like Harry Potter night, one winner takes all night, and more. They made their app and various hosts household names to the many loyal players.

but wait, there's more.

And I guess this was enough to perhaps save the app. A few days after the shut down was announced, the founder announced on Twitter that he had been on the phone all weekend and there a chance HQ could live on thanks to new investors and owners. Of course, we can only cross our fingers that if the game does get a second life, it learns from its mistakes and makes a game that lasts and thrives for longer than a few years.

Either way, the quick rise and fall of HQ could serve as a warning to other apps/companies. The investors didn’t pull out for no reason. Did people just naturally grow out of the game or did all the changes push people away? Was the company’s strategic plan of giving out money sustainable? Could a similar app pop up in the future and do it better (and will people play it)? I’m no business person, but it is a lot to consider. Especially when ex-host Scott is out here tweeting things like this:

But if the new HQ doesn’t actually work out, and I really saw the end of HQ, I’ll miss it. I think it’ll take a few weeks for my brain to not want to pick up my phone at 9pm and play.

Did you play HQ? Would you give it another shot if it comes back? Do you know of any other little trivia games I should be playing instead?

That’s all for now!

 

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Snapchat’s Original Content Actually Isn’t That Bad

Are you looking for a new way to waste time? Of course you are. Then let me direct your attention to Snapchat. Yes, that dumb millennial app. It is by no means a perfect platform, but I’ve had it for about six years, and use it every day. Though I’m not using it to interact with my friends. No, see, that would be somewhat productive, and I’m not about that. I use Snapchat to watch content in the same way people watch YouTube.

And guess what? The content on Snapchat is actually decent. It was a really good move on the platform’s part to go from just a social platform to a social media platform. And any company/media production company that jumped on board made a good call. Now Snapchat offers a lot of original content that you could easily waste a morning consuming.

putting in headphones to then use a smartphone.

Snapchat’s original content can be lumped into five groups.

1. Compilation videos

These are fun because it’s not professionally produced content; it’s submitted videos from other Snapchat users that are compiled into videos. Best Of College, Best Of High School, Life Hacks, Oddly Satisfying, Sound Up, Bad Tattoos, and 10 Second Talents are a few of my favourites. I also watch a lot of videos of people cutting soap into little pieces because it’s weirdly addicting and satisfying. I’ve wasted an embarrassing amount of time doing this.

2. ‘Famous’ People

Notice how famous is in quotations because this usually just means YouTubers of varying degrees of popularity. Honestly, I don’t watch these that often, but sometimes I like to laugh at how dumb their stories are (useless life updates or selfies or lip syncing to hip-hop in a car makes up 75% of it all).

3. Actual Snapchat original content

Snapchat has a fun variety of original content. Some are like little reality shows (eg. Face Forward, How Low Will You Go, Phone Swap) and there are a few news/update type shows (What The Fashion, E!’s Rundown), but Snapchat also has some short scripted weekly shows. I’ve only seen a few episodes of one of these scripted shows and have no interest in any of the others because they all look very dumb with worse-than-current-Disney-Channel acting, but I’m fascinated with the potential that’s there. Goodness knows streaming services are popping up all over, and it’s wild to think that Snapchat of all things could have a play in that game. Their content is free and short, and that could appeal to many. And honestly, I’m sure if you were bored out of your mind, those videos would do their job of being entertaining.

4. News/articles

Some sites you’re probably familiar with like Daily Mail, Vice, and Refinery29 have their own channels where they post news articles with moderate animation where acceptable (making use of the platform), which is cool because it’s making the relevant world news available in a new way to people who may not otherwise want to go out of their way to read it. Unlike Twitter or Facebook where you have to exit the social media platform and go to a new site to read the article, everything on Snapchat stays on Snapchat. You don’t ever leave the app, and that’s brilliant.

5. Cross Posted Content

It makes sense that media companies want their videos to reach people on many platforms, so there is also a good chunk of content that is from YouTube edited to fit to Snapchat too, and this is a decent idea because for someone like me who doesn’t watch a whole lot of YouTube, I’m now exposed to videos on Snapchat. Try Not To Laugh, Wired Autocomplete Interviews, and How Ridiculous are some of these things I enjoy watching through Snapchat.

It's good stuff gif

Of course there are a few other things that don’t fit into these five categories well, but overall, this is a pretty good outline of what Snapchat has to offer.

The draw of Snapchat, for me at least, is that the content is usually short (between 2-10 mins most of the time) and it’s all on that app and easily available. Furthermore, all I have to do is watch. There are no comments or sharing buttons or anything like that. I just watch, maybe Subscribe if I want to easily find that series again, and that’s it.

And from a content creator perspective, it’s interesting too. Not that I have plans to create Snapchat content, but Snapchat, even from its social side, is not a numbers game. Like with Netflix, you can’t tell who gets the most views, you can’t tell what series get watched, you can’t tell how many people are subscribed. Of course the creators themselves can probably see numbers, but otherwise, it’s purely about the entertainment than it is the popularity, and that’s a cool thing in this world of numbers-driven social media.

The only changes I think I’d make at this time to Snapchat’s content is the ability to scrub video timestamps and speed up videos. Otherwise, I am very much enjoying the content and its availability, and if you want to waste time too (or amuse yourself while on the bus or on a break or something) then check out Snapchat.

Snapchat ghost.

That’s all for now!

 

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Pokémon Go? More Like Pokémon NO

I’ve had this app for a week and I am not loving it.

I was so excited when Pokémon Go came out. I waited until it was legal in Canada to download it. It came out about five days after the American release, so I had spent that week being bombarded with tweets and articles and hype about just how great this game was. As a long time Pokémon fan (Yellow was the first ever video game I ever played!), I was very excited to be able to use my beloved phone and catch Pokémon in my own backyard!

But of course, as soon as I downloaded it, I was hit with clogged servers. Only after two hours did I finally get to the point where I could make an account and catch a starter, and even that process was slow and laggy.

In order to savour the game, I didn’t do much reading on it before downloading. I mean, who really reads the instructions for things? But I wish I did, because I had no idea what to do. Professor Willow explained nothing and between that and the laggy phone, I ended up just clicking the first Pokémon I saw, which was a Squirtle. Squirtle is cool and all, but Charmander is where it’s at.

Overall, I was very disappointed with the lack of instructions. What is a Pokécandy? What’s that thing on the map? Why would I want more than one Weedle? How do I get money? What do I do at a Pokéstop? Honesty, Professor Oak would never be so negligent. I had to do a lot of Google searching. These articles helped me best: X / X

The multiple Pokémon thing really bugged me. In normal games, I would never even think about catching multiples of the same Pokémon, unless it’s an Eevee or something with different final evolutions. But this game relies on the player catching anything and everything, and then sending the weaker ones to Willow (“sending them for slaughter,” my boss joked). With this logic, we’re unable to really develop any attachments to our Pokémon. It also forces us to catch Pokémon that we likely wouldn’t bother with in the game. I don’t mean to sound like a snob (okay, I kind of do) but Zubats are not worth my time.

The next thing that frustrated me was what a player needed to really succeed at this game. First of all, a data plan. I don’t have one, but luckily my father does, so the few times I’ve been out of wifi zones, I’ve used his unlimited data via hotspot. But isn’t this game kind of geared towards kids? What are children doing with iPhones and data plans? And then there’s the time dedication. I work all day. I try to catch something at lunch and I play a bit before and after work when I’m at home, but all in all, very little time is spent on the game. That’s why I’m at level five. For one to be at level 20+ and have strong Pokémon, they’d need to play a lot. Which I wouldn’t have a problem with if this game wasn’t so popular and competitive. In the normal games, you have no one to compare to. You’re the best, the strongest, the richest. All the characters like you and you’ve caught legendary. But now through this app, we have to compare ourselves to everyone from children to adults all over.

And then there’s the location thing. My town sucks. It’s not even some hick-town-nowhere-land. It’s moderately big and fairly close to a major city. And yet there’s basically nothing in sight on the map’s app. I have no motivation to go explore when I know I’ll have to walk pretty far. Just last weekend my family went on a little trip and the town we stayed in had so many Pokéstops and gyms. It was really unfair.

Not that I really got to experience that town because my app couldn’t stay open for three seconds. Not only does it take a minute or two to load, if it did get going, it’d then immediately crash. In my three days there, I managed to catch a Staryu and a Magicarp while my brother caught like 25 Pokémon and hit up several Pokestops. I was so angry and fed up with trying. But I guess that if the app manages to work for my brother right next to me, then the problem has to be my iPhone 4S. I guess that’s too old to handle such an app. This tweet basically sums my feelings up, though:

I really wanted to love this game. I mean, I appreciate its existence but I do find it very flawed, which is disappointing considering how excited I was to play. I really would have rather this app be more like the normal games, where you can battle people/Pokémon around you, have the opportunity to find rarer Pokémon more often and not use a ton of data and battery to do so. I’m interested to see what updates Nintendo rolls out for this app and whether this Pokémania lasts. Of course I’ll keep playing the game and trying my best, but I’ve come to accept the fact that I’ll always be a sucky player and there’s not much I can do about that.

What are your thoughts on the app?

 

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