I won HQ trivia.
Confession: I cheated.
You should know that it still wasn’t easy to do, and it’s not a foolproof strategy. But it works, and the key is an Android phone. That’s right, the most important tool for cheating at HQ is the phone that you can’t play HQ on – at least not yet (it’s coming later this month).
For those not familiar with the app, HQ has burst onto the scene as the hot new live trivia app, complete with a Quiz Daddy, hundreds of thousands of users, and cash prizes.
So, naturally, we tried to cheat at it.
With only 10 seconds to tap your answer to HQ’s trivia questions, you don’t have a lot of time to cheat. But we here at Mashable have spent roughly the last two weeks devising some very complex hacks to test HQ’s system. On Friday, we won—with some help from Google Assistant.
Here’s the setup. Managing editor Annie Colbert played and I sat beside her with my thumb hovering over the Google search bar shortcut on my home screen. The fastest way to do it is to use the Google voice search on an Android phone. We tried other ways—typing into Google or even some complex player grouping systems—but nothing quite worked.
Just how you use the app is crucial. Don’t bother starting with “OK, Google.” You’ll lose precious time you can’t afford. But if you hit the mic icon and make a very strategic query, you should be able to get a pretty reliable Google result with 2 to 3 seconds to spare – just enough time to process it and tap the right option.
Phrasing is key. Plenty of HQ questions are put in a way that make this tough for a search engine to answer. We found that the trick is not to try to ask the exact question, but rather focus on the keywords and trust Google’s powerful search algorithm to surface the needed info.
One of the afternoon’s questions was about which Pedro Almodovar movie featured a female bullfighter. Repeating the whole question would have taken too long, but a quick voice search of “Pedro Almodovar female bullfighter” returned Talk to Her as the first hit. It was one of the answers so we went with it—and we got it right.
There’s not a ton of time. We put in many of our answers with maybe a second to spare. You’re definitely not winning every time with this. And it didn’t get every answer, meaning you’ll still need to have some knowledge and get a little lucky.
But it can work. You can win.
Is cheating at HQ through a voice Google search unethical? Maybe. Certainly it has to be something the game designers anticipated, and the time limit alone suggests that they’re trying to make it hard to do. For a trivia purist, it also sucks out a bit of the show-off-your-brain fun. But this is about winning—and taking home nearly a dozen dollars.
It’s important to note here that this isn’t a foolproof strategy. Firstly, it works best with straightforward questions that lend themselves well to searches. An early question about categorizing Spotify, Netflix, and Hulu probably wouldn’t have worked. The question is too long, and the results too awkward to get through it all in time.
Second, sometimes you’ll screw it up and have to guess. One question about a German painter wasn’t caught correctly in the voice search, and you only have enough time to try once. So we did what everyone does – guessed… and got lucky.
The same thing happened on the final question, about what the Washington Post considered the “game of our era”.
We bungled the search and ultimately listened to that little voice inside (as well as another colleague). Quiz Daddy Scott Rogowsky drew out the answer to the question. With our newsroom at a standstill (sorry, boss), we waited patiently to hear if our combination of hacks, knowledge, and luck had paid off.
Scott finally let it rip: the answer was Settlers of Cataan. We celebrated.
And I’m $11.76 richer — which, by the way, I can’t cash out until I get to $20 in the bank.
We reached out to HQ for comment and will update if they get back to us.