While people in the real world watched football and made resolutions on New Year's Eve, some Princetonians gathered for a virtual bonfire to celebrate their come-from-behind win in the All-Ivy Risk Tournament.
Princeton placed first, controlling 70 territories in the last turn, while Cornell finished second with the remaining 10 territories. Yale, which led with the most territories for the first portion of the game, was eliminated five turns before the end, ultimately placing third. Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard and Penn followed in fourth through seventh, respectively.
The game involved nearly 11,000 students, faculty members and alumni from across the Ivy League. The tournament was an online version of Risk, a popular board game in which players compete for global dominance, where players battled for control of the Northeast United States. It was started by four Yale students and one Columbia student.
Though the game began in late October and was scheduled to end in early December, technical difficulties led the administrators of gocrosscampus.com, the site hosting the game, to delay the tournament for a month.
Yale was in the lead at the beginning of the game and had more players, but successful strategizing and recruiting efforts — including flyers on campus and mass emails to student organizations and eating clubs — allowed Princeton to eventually defeat Yale, Penn and Columbia.
"I was really surprised. We actually got a lot more participation than I thought we would. We really surged up when everyone else was sort of idling," said Mark Gray '11, a participant in the tournament.
Princeton, with 2,555 players, was capable of eliminating Cornell from the map but decided to allow the Big Red to remain as a reward for being an ally since the first turn.
Though the game's creators intended for each player to log in for two minutes a day to place individual troops, by the end, a few participants from each school were placing troops for thousands of players.
"I was probably spending a good 10 to 12 hours a day placing troops, and I know there were people spending 16 to 18 hours a day placing troops," Matt Alexander '10, a Princeton commander, said in an email. Alexander placed troops for up to 150 accounts a day. He added that the time commitment and an anticipated increase in school work as a junior is discouraging him from accepting a leadership position next year.
Though some students found the direction the game took to be counterproductive to socialization among Ivy Leaguers, others were more optimistic.
"I think the server was very frustrating, but I think ... it was a pretty good social game. A lot of the alumni liked it too because they were able to reconnect with old friends that they hadn't talked to in a long time," said Taotao Liu '09, who handled the placement of armies for up to 50 accounts.
Though she has not met many of her teammates yet, Liu said the team is trying to organize a victory party at one of the eating clubs this month. Asked if there would be a real bonfire involved, she replied, "Probably not."
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