You’re in your 3 pm lecture and suddenly half of your classmates’ heads dart down to their crotches. You look over your neighbor’s shoulder and find that he’s staring at his phone, trying to figure out if the muppets were A) right handed, B) left handed, or C) ambidextrous. The mood is tense as the clock at the top of his screen ticks down from 10 seconds. He panics and presses choice A. Incorrect! An audible sigh from half of the room. They have just been eliminated from another round of HQ. 

The disappointment is a familiar feeling. At 3 pm and 9 pm every day, anywhere from 600,000 to 1 million smartphone–users open their application to play a virtual live game show. One of the rotating hosts, including the fan–favorite, Scott Rogowski, reads off a list of 12 questions. Each player has 10 seconds to answer each question, ordered from the most obvious to the most obscure. The lucky contestants to make it past the last question split the prize money that ranges from $2,000 on weekdays to upwards of $18,000 on Sunday nights. 

At Penn, the hype around HQ coincided with fall semester finals season. Many stressed–out students granted themselves a quick break from their grind to take an entirely different multiple choice quiz. One Sunday in Van Pelt, a group of 10 lucky contestants won. 

“We all went to the [Moelis] Reading Room for finals throughout those two weeks, and it kind of turned into a study break,” said Sophie Rodney (C’ 21), one of the winners. The group realized that they were all playing by themselves in the study room, so they decided to start meeting outside to play together. “We were really stressed out from work and school, so this is what we put our nervous energy into,” said Sophie. 

The players took turns guessing answers, and helped to google the questions when they got out. On the first Sunday night that the prize was raised to $18,000, HQ offered a second game to give everyone another shot at winning. In the second game, “everyone [in the group] got out except for one person,” said Zac Goldstein (C’19). 

The winners received their $108 portion of the prize money via PayPal, and split it evenly among themselves. So Zac, Sophie, and their friends each walked away with $11, and a ton of bragging rights. 

The HQ hype has since died down, as winter break and a new semester have occupied the time and mental energies of most Penn students. Zac’s HQ days are over. He explains, “Half the time there are glitches and it doesn’t work. And half the time the questions are like so ridiculous, it’s frustrating.” But Sophie hasn’t entirely given up hope. Even though she’s stopped playing right now, you can catch her playing in the reading room during the upcoming midterm season. 

Maybe you can try to win some lunch money, too. If you’re still not over the hype, see some recommendations for the best gaming spots below. 


1. Moelis Reading Room:

Pros: That wifi bandwidth is fire, and the atmosphere has the amount of intensity that HQ deserves (Ed. note. Just ask the winners)

Cons: You’ll get death stares when you audibly sigh after getting out on question 2.

2. On Locust on the way to class: 

Pros: So many people to ask for help! 

Cons: You’ll become one of those dreaded slow walkers.

3. Stommons: 

Pros: Tons of outlets and coffee. You'll need to be properly caffeinated. 

Cons: Everyone you’ve been ghosting is here. 

4. Your bed: 

Pros: You’re in bed with Scott Rogowski. 

Cons: You’re in bed at 9 pm on a Friday Night. 

5. On the treadmill at Pottruck:  

Pros: Work your mind while you work your body. 

Cons: 99% chance you will fall off the treadmill.

*An earlier version of this article stated that the HQ game that Zac and Sophie won offered an extra life for the final question instead of restarting the game entirely. 34th Street regrets this error.