'Glitch: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia' review: Doc offers valuable insight into app's demise
Courtesy of CNN Films
Who remembers HQ Trivia? The crazed phenomenon was appointment viewing for anyone who wanted to be a part of a game show and win some cash. Known for its themed events, rotating roster of celebrity guest hosts (Dwayne Johnson and Jimmy Kimmel among others), and the “Quiz Daddy” himself: Scott Rogowsky, HQ Trivia, at one point in time, was amassing a whopping 2 million players daily, but like any cautionary tech start-up, the high eventually wore off. If you owned a smartphone or tablet circa 2018-2020, you probably played the game at least once. It was a water cooler sensation that appealed to a wide swath of users across the United States; you couldn’t go to most social functions around 9pm (be it a sporting event or local bar) and not see someone teeing up the live trivia broadcast. And, if you’re like me, you might be wondering what happened to HQ Trivia as it seemingly disappeared without much warning or fanfare.
Thankfully, the insightful new doc “Glitch: The Rise and Fall of HQ Trivia,” has the answers and should, in essence, provide some form of closure to those of us who never got to mourn the death of HQ Trivia properly. Director Salima Koroma has assembled a nice parade of familiar faces within the tech sector to offer valuable logistics and understanding that paved the way for HQ’s massive blow-up and eventual death. And yes, for those missing their daily “Quiz Daddy” fix, Rogowsky is a prominent talking head throughout the film’s breezy 89-minutes.
Koroma gets to the core of what made HQ a unicorn to watch in the early days as founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll cultivated unique and inventive ways of tapping into the cultural zeitgeist. Not surprising considering their success with Vine, the short-lived 6-second video app that provided the blueprint for Tik-Tok. During “Glitch,” you’ll hear all about Kroll and Yusupov’s clashing ideals, and how Rogowsky was shockingly put up for the CEO position after concernable evidence on one of the founders was leaked to the press. Of course, jealousy, anger, greed and other mistrappings fueled the downfall of HQ, but it was interesting to hear through Rogowsky’s testimonial, the serious conversations had about him being fired because folks within the corporate structure got angry at his overnight fame and notoriety. The comedian couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed.
Many of us probably had no idea the numerous behind the scenes turmoil that crippled HQ’s ability to grow and adapt in the evolving technical landscape: from HR violations, PR nightmares, winners of the game not receiving payments, to low-key sexual harassment, “Glitch” paints a sturdy portrait of why the once lucrative service no longer exists in the same way today. Perhaps that’s a good thing when you see the pain and frustration it caused the people who worked there (not to mention an unexpected death really sent things into a downward spiral). Like WeWork before it, the valuations and early headlines on HQ Trivia promised the next big thing, but as “Glitch” showcases, you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
GLITCH: THE RISE AND FALL OF HQ TRIVIA debuts on CNN Sunday, March 5th at 9pm ET before hitting HBO Max sometime in the future.