Francesca Butler '09 has been conquering the world since the age of 10.
Growing up in Mobile, Ala., Butler was an aficionado of Risk — the popular board game in which players compete with each other for global dominance — frequently playing with her neighbors and classmates. Now, Butler can try to conquer the world in a more high-tech way: With the advent of a new online territory conquest game, she and other Ivy League students will virtually battle for control of the Northeastern United States.
Cosponsored by gocrosscampus.com and the Ivy Council, the tournament begins this Monday with a hefty number of Tigers participating. Though only 25 Princeton players had registered on Sunday night, the number skyrocketed to 475 students, faculty and alumni as of Wednesday night. Eighty-four of the players are Princeton alumni and a few, such as Jonathan Niola, a technical support specialist at the Art and Archeology department, have also been active on the website's chat forums.
USG vice president Josh Weinstein '09, who will participate in the game and has set up a thread to discuss it on the USG's Point website, said he enjoys the tactical aspects of the tournament. "I like the game and the strategy," he said. "I'm a chess player. It's all about trying to find out the right moves."
The tournament — which was developed by four students from Yale and one from Columbia last spring for the Yale community, but later expanded to include other schools — pits teams from different Ivy League schools against each other as they seek to control the East Coast from central Pennsylvania to New Hampshire. Once all the armies are in place, the game begins and players strategize about how to conquer other territories while defending their own. Each team's ultimate goal is to conquer all of the Ivy League territories before any of the other seven participating schools. The winner will be announced by Dec. 7.
Only three days after the game was introduced to the Ivy League, it has attracted more than 4,000 users. A facebook.com group titled All-Ivy Risk Tournament- Princeton, created by Butler only three days ago, has 113 members at the University.
Yale senior Brad Hargreaves, one of the tournament's founders, said he spends around 110 hours a week working on the site but has relied on the Ivy Council to publicize it. "We came to them because they had a lot of contacts, and they really are better at spreading the word," he said. "We're a bunch of developers and game designers. That's really up their alley. And they've been really great at getting all the schools on board."
Unlike the popular virtual world Second Life, the Ivy League Tournament requires a relatively minor time commitment. Each school's team comes up with a battle plan to direct players where to place their troops, and most users can log in, make their move and log out within two minutes.
Those seeking more in-depth involvement can spend time strategizing with other Princeton players or talking to players at other schools through the site's chat room. Additionally, each school selects a commander who can email all registered players with strategy updates. Princeton's commander will most likely be Edwin Bennet '11, who currently has garnered 76.2 percent of the votes in a poll of registered players at the University.
Gayle Rudofsky '08, vice president of communications on the Ivy Council's executive board, said she hopes the game will foster bonds among students at different schools and spark dialogue throughout the Ivy League. "It will increase communication among the schools, which is the goal of Ivy Council and, I think, of this game," she said. "I have a smile on my face when people start talking about it because this started a very short time ago, and people are already logging on and playing."
Hargreaves noted that most communication among students from different Ivy League schools involves yelling at each other during football games, but the tournament will be able to encourage more in-depth discussions.
Nevertheless, the competitive spirit is already evident in Princeton students. Nathan Savir '09, president of the Princeton Math Club, has sent emails to various campus organizations urging people to join. "I've mostly been spreading the word," he said. "It's something fun to do, and we can't let Harvard and Yale win."
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