So basically, a contestant earns $1 per a tenth of a second sitting in the "money chair." This means that if someone stayed there for all one million seconds they'd earn $10,000,000 plus a $2,000,000 which goes to the ultimate winner. Is NBC giving away $12,000,000? Of course not. You've won absolutely nothing until the end of the game and if you lose before then, you've lost everything, so the actual prize money is a mere fraction of that. Like the contestants on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" who haven't been eliminated yet, people seem very excited over the fictitious dollars they're generating. Granted, they're probably being coached, but I'd actually find it refreshing as a viewer to see a stone-faced contestant not show any enthusiasm until the whole shebang is over.
So how do you get in the money chair? I have no idea. There's line-jumper status, which implies there's some sort of line and the website gives times for prospective contestants to show up. But how they determine who goes next is still a mystery no one has bothered explaining yet. But it's running 24/7 for a million seconds anyway, so someone is always competing for the duration. It's a cute conceit, but I'm not sure what value this adds.
Alright, so you're now a challenger, how do you get to winners' row? There seem to be two methods: incredible endurance (ugh!) or facing one of the winners (eek!). Not that you have a choice as it seems to be mostly a matter of pure luck if you're selected to go up near prime-time or not (once again, I don't know the details of how the line works). If I could choose, I'd go with the latter. You're going to have to be answering trivia for at least 6 straight hours just to get into fourth place on the winners' row which sounds exhausting. I don't see the make-up of it changing all that much over the course of 11+ days, at least not from people we didn't see rise through the ranks in a slow, but steady way. If faced with the first method, it's just a slow rise, battling person after person and only pure trivia knowledge can earn you there. But if you're lucky enough to get to be on prime-time, then strategy starts to enter play.
I'm really hoping some stodgy academic did a critical analysis of the children's show "Double-Dare," because mechanically this appears to be the same. The only difference is the lack of a physical challenge and Mark Summers which proves that Nickelodeon had better programming in the 80's than NBC does today, but that's neither here nor there. I'm still figuring out the optimal strategy regarding doubling, but I think a large part has to do with just reading your opponent. The simplest, and safest, strategy is to never double and just trust that you simply know more. The genius of the doubling mechanic, however, is that one could literally know nothing and win the game just by bluffing his or her way through. Aside from doing nothing, I think the best deployment of the doubling strategy is to use it only if you suspect your opponent knows more than you. If it's an easy question and you double, you just gave your opponent bonus points as they'll obviously accept it. If it's a hard question, you risk a doubling back giving you a 1 in 4 chance assuming you're just guessing. This doesn't give you any advantage compared to just answering it normally, but if you can eliminate 1 or 2 of the wrong answers, I think doubling does give you a distinct advantage hoping your opponent doubles back and doesn't just answer the question himself. In any case, if you're down by a lot, just double every single question hoping to get lucky. Conversely, if you're ahead, never double and certainly don't double back, even if you don't know the answer. Better to diminish your lead and still win than giving your opponent a chance to win; even if they get it wrong, you'll just crush them which constitutes no advantage (in fact, it might be a disadvantage as other players become more wary of you).
It gets a little complicated once you make it on winners' row too. If you become the power player, you get to select who gets a chance to go back to the money chair. If you lose, you're out, but if you win, you can accumulate a little more. Basically, as long as you're in 4th place, always choose yourself, but if you're in first, there's little incentive to lose it all so just choose someone else. As to who, that's kind of a tough call: choosing your highest scoring opponent might be the only chance to get rid of him, but choosing a low-scoring one ensures that you won't be displaced as top dog. Ultimately, I don't think it really matters.
I think I made this sound more complicated than it actually is. There is some interesting strategy regarding the doubling feature, but mostly this is just an exhaustive (in multiple senses of the word) trivia game where breadth of knowledge trumps. Probably not worth a trip to New York to audition in the next week; luck is just too big a factor when my accuracy rate is only about 70%, though still a little tempting.