By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Putting your knowledge to the test. It’s something University of Minnesota students do daily. But it’s not just the exams that have them studying up.

“I kind of wanted to get done with my homework as soon as possible because I had to get onto HQ Trivia,” said sophomore Kushal Sehgal.

The game begins at 2:00 p.m. Sehgal is leaning on his friends for a chance to win up to $2,500, so long as he answers 12 questions in a row correctly on HQ Trivia, the popular trivia app taking the country by storm. Players have 10 seconds to answer multiple choices questions on an array of topics.

He said, “The thing about that is it’s like a live show.” Except instead of being on TV like a traditional game show, it’s on your phone.

The game is played live up to twice a day.

“At dinner my family gets around the dining table and we all pull out our phones at 8 o’clock and we get ready to play the games,” he said.

But for all the times Sehgal’s played, he still hasn’t won.

“I got nine questions right [once], and then I lost which was kind of sad,” he said.

Losses don’t deter Susan Herder. A tech coordinator at a Twin Cities schools district, she has several HQ Trivia victories to her name. Since the game can have multiple winners, the cash prize gets divided.

“Probably the biggest win I had was $58 and change. I’ve had a low as probably three or four dollars, maybe even less than that,” she said. Herder estimates she’s won about $115 total since she started playing months ago.

The money is a bonus, not her main motivation. “It’s really just about getting those questions answered and learning something new,” she said.

That mindset is really a lifelong hobby for Herder. A self-described bookworm, Herder grew up watching the game show Jeopardy. In 2007, she appeared on the show and won twice.

“And then I was on Sports Jeopardy a couple years ago and that was just a disaster so I don’t like to talk about that one,” she said with a laugh.

At 8:00 p.m. on a Tuesday in March, WCCO sat down with Herder as she played HQ Trivia. The app listed nearly one million people also playing the game.

“This past Sunday night, we were at 2,000,000 playing,” she recalled. The prize on Sunday nights is usually $25,000, 10 times more than other days.

The first few questions were a breeze. WCCO got knocked out on the fifth question, which asked which U.S. President was never a Vice President? The choices were Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, or Gerald Ford. WCCO answered Nixon. Herder correctly answered Hoover. But three questions later, she too was eliminated.

Despite her wealth of knowledge, Herder says the key is making an educated guess when you don’t know the answer. And if you simply can’t wait for HQ Trivia’s next game, there are other apps. Herder keeps track of the times each can be played through her Google Calendar on her phone.

“It’s not embarrassing or anything,” she joked.

But to her, HQ Trivia is best.

“I think it has potential to keep going, mostly because of that live appointment feel to it. So it does have the feel of being on a game show, you’re answering questions, you have a live host,” Herder said.

The game’s popularity is on the rise. But its future is anyone’s guess.

“Imagine if it was on TV and you were just playing from your home on your phone. That might be an avenue to explore,” Herder said.


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