How HQ Trivia Became the Best Worst Thing on the Internet

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HQ blasted out of obscurity this fall to become the best worst thing on the internet. It’s the most popular app that barely even works. The questions (“How many times does the word ‘sex’ appear in the U.S. Constitution?”) can be so obscure as to be meaningless, and the wording (“What is the more common plural form for octopus?”) is frequently indecipherable. (The hugely controversial “correct” answer: octopuses.) Some questions (“Which retro fashion style did NOT make a comeback this year?”) basically test opinions. Others, which mine inconsequential information about obscure start-ups, stink strongly of advertorials.

Then there’s the app itself, which is riddled with glitches and lags. Players are regularly booted from the game without explanation. The live host’s face is frequently obscured by the wheel of death. Sometimes, the whole game is scrapped for mysterious technical reasons — including one high-stakes game scheduled for 11:45 p.m. EST on New Year’s Eve, which was unceremoniously aborted, then rescheduled for 45 minutes later — the game I hopped into.

And yet, as many as half a million people are tuning in for each session. It’s maybe the only real appointment viewing across all of entertainment right now. Why?

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Escape to another world

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As video games get better and job prospects worse, more young men are dropping out of the job market to spend their time in an alternate reality. Ryan Avent suspects this is the beginning of something big

…Over the last 15 years there has been a steady and disconcerting leak of young people away from the labour force in America. Between 2000 and 2015, the employment rate for men in their 20s without a college education dropped ten percentage points, from 82% to 72%. In 2015, remarkably, 22% of men in this group – a cohort of people in the most consequential years of their working lives – reported to surveyors that they had not worked at all in the prior 12 months. That was in 2015: when the unemployment rate nationwide fell to 5%, and the American economy added 2.7m new jobs. Back in 2000, less than 10% of such men were in similar circumstances.

What these individuals are not doing is clear enough, says Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago, who has been studying the phenomenon. They are not leaving home; in 2015 more than 50% lived with a parent or close relative. Neither are they getting married. What they are doing, Hurst reckons, is playing video games. As the hours young men spent in work dropped in the 2000s, hours spent in leisure activities rose nearly one-for-one. Of the rise in leisure time, 75% was accounted for by video games. It looks as though some small but meaningful share of the young-adult population is delaying employment or cutting back hours in order to spend more time with their video game of choice.

How I Became Addicted to Online Word Games

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This was particularly vexing because I had perceived this danger nearly a decade ago, and thought I had dodged it. In 2008, a television critic and fellow word lover had urged me to engage with her on a word game app called Prolific. At first, I demurred, messaging back that I had tried another app, Scrabulous, and hadn’t liked it; too much like Scrabble (a game I’ve always found frustrating because letter-luck plays too big a part).

Prolific was different, she fired back. It was just like Boggle. You logged on any time of day or night, joined a round with a friend or with strangers across the globe; then a letter grid popped up, and all of you raced to find words in the same grid in the same three-minute span. Charily I messaged her back: “I’ll give it a go.”

At the time, the weather was glacial and I was housebound, felled by a severe cold. Dizzy with DayQuil, unable to focus on work, I logged into Prolific and played my first round, foolishly confident that my lengthy word list would loft me into the winners’ circle. Then the scores came up. I had been trounced, routed, utterly crushed, by a legion of far-flung opponents — and above all by a man I’ll call Balthazar Tong, who had whomped me by hundreds of points, and beaten the others, too.

Video Games Are Key Elements in Friendships for Many Boys

Gaming Boys Play Games in Person or Online With Friends More Frequently Than Gaming Girls

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In our focus groups, the responses to questions about who teens play with ran the gamut. One high schooler told us, “I play with everyone,” while another explained, “I play with friends and then I meet new people through those friends.”

…Other teens told us they liked playing games because they could be a different person. A high school boy explained how “you use an alter ego” when playing. And still others benefit from the opportunity to take out their frustrations on people they would never interact with again. As a high school boy told us, “If you, like, have a bad game, instead of throwing your controller, you can just take it out on them.”

…One middle school boy in our focus groups explained that he and a gaming friend talked about a mix of things pertaining to the game and their lives: “Like, we were talking about the game and then I’d be like, so, what do you like to do? And we would just share thoughts. Stuff.” Other teens told us that this type of interaction was “very rare.” And that usually it’s, “No hi’s. No bye’s. No hellos.”

Focus group data suggests that trash talking is pervasive in online gaming and that it can create a challenging conversational climate. As one high school boy told us, “If you’ve ever been on any form of group chat for a game, yeah. It’s harsh. … It’s funny, though. Unless you take it seriously. Cause some people take certain things personally.”

 

 

Report: Women are more engaged and spend more than men when it comes to mobile games

Apple Stores Mark Earth Day, Day After Announcing New Green InitiativeExcerpt from this article:

Many think that the mobile gaming scene is dominated by males, who are naturally driving games revenue, but a new Flurry report shows some surprising insights that overturn such assumptions.

The mobile ad firm found that, based on a sample of games that reach a total of 1.1 million devices on the Flurry platform, women actually make 31 percent more in-app purchases than men. Other than that, it found that women also spend 35 percent more time in gaming apps, and have 42 percent more retention over seven days on average compared to men.