How This New Addictive App Parallels With the Themes of Sci-Fi Thriller “Black Mirror”

All the twists and turns that occur throughout the anthology series, “Black Mirror,” are skewed so perfectly that we can almost visualize how certain concepts would play out in reality. HQ is a new live trivia game show app that has been coined as “the future of TV” and has gained recent popularity within the past couple of months. Participants have the opportunity to win money if they answer all 12 trivia questions right.

It’s very similar to traditional game shows on television or even a classic trivia night at the bar with friends. The only difference is the notification that summons you to your phone  twice a day (3pm and 9pm) along with hundreds of thousands of players across the country. While the idea of winning money might seem appealing, there are some interesting parallels between HQ and the lessons “Black Mirror” teaches us about technology and the human condition.  


Remembering Pavlov’s Dogs

The intensity and reward promoted by HQ creates a type of ‘conditioned reflex.’ This term was first introduced by Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, who is mostly known for his experimentation with dogs referred to as Pavlov’s Dogs. Pavlov would ring a bell to feed his dog causing the dog to salivate for the meal. Eventually the dog would salivate to the sound of the bell whether food was present or not. This repetition instills a sense of expectation according to the response of a certain stimulus.

In a similar way, HQ provides a setting for a conditioned reflex to grow as player’s associate 3pm and 9pm with the chance of winning money. This expectation faced a slight challenge when HQ’s daily host, Scott Rogowsky took a couple of days off for vacation. Fans were not thrilled to see he was replaced by a female substitute. They took to the live comment section begging for Rogowsky’s return as well as leaving misogynistic remarks. What would a “Black Mirror” perspective on this reality look like? Perhaps they’d rely on player’s conditioned reflex and use the designated time slots for trivia as an opportunity to accomplish something more dire. Would their perspective include a catch for retrieving your prize?


Making an Enemy out of the Press

HQ’s CEO, Rus Yusupov, contacted a reporter regarding a story focusing on the app’s host lifestyle. Yusupov threatened to fire Rogowsky if the piece were to be published. He claimed Rogowsky can’t say he “enjoys making people happy and giving them the trivia they want.” Yusupov’s reaction was overbearing and caused fans to worry about the host’s well-being. While HQ is a new app founded by former Vine creators who sold its rights to Twitter and was ultimately shut down. It’s one thing to be protective of a new launch, but it’s another when you make the press an enemy. This is example isn’t too far from “Black Mirror’s” episode Hated in the Nation.


Paid to Play

With a cult-like following, Rogowsky consistently drives thousands of players to HQ on a daily basis. If players aren’t just in it for the money, then they’re definitely in it for the free trivia and Rogowsky’s personality. There’s a saying, “If you’re not paying for it, you are the product.”

It’s an interesting viewpoint from a “Black Mirror” perspective. Here they are paying the user. Perhaps “Black Mirror” would make us wonder about what happens when they’re paying you to play. 


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