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Yale Students' Online Game Gaining Ground On Campuses

This story was written by Nadia Economides, The Pitt News

There are exactly six hours left in turn 64, and it has come down to the final two teams: Ron Paul and Stephen Colbert.

Team Colbert is up 35 U.S. territories to Paul's 16, but Paul is not giving up the fight. So far, underdog Paul has defeated Obama during turn 29, while Colbert has defeated Clinton, McCain and Romney.

PoliticalBash08 is just one of the many tournaments that college students are playing in as part of the new online computer game GoCrossCampus.

The game, launched in September 2007, has more than 27,000 players from 500 colleges. It is a competition much like the board game "Risk," where players attempt to conquer specific territories.

"How we like to think about it is that it's a totally new genre that allows individuals to create games between their friends -- [it is] totally free between as many people as possible," said Matt Brimer, a Yale University junior and chief marketing officer for GXC.

"In a sense, it exists in a space all on its own."

According to its website, GXC is a locally social online gaming website.

"It's what we call object-oriented social networking, where playing is not just for the sake of compiling your friends list," said Brad Hargreaves, chief executive officer and Yale senior.

University of Pittsburgh freshman Jeff Hammel found out about GXC through the Stephen Colbert Facebook group, which contained a link to the current PoliticalBash08 tournament.

"I joined to find out how the game was set up and played to analyze it," he said in an e-mail. "The other reason was to support the Colbert group playing in the game."

GXC, founded by four Yale students and one Columbia student, distinguishes itself from popular social networking sites like Facebook and massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft by combining elements of both.

"With Facebook, there is no inherent reason behind it," Brimer said. "With mass online games there is an extremely intense learning curve and you are playing for yourself. GXC harnesses competition between rivalries online in a cool way."

During tournaments, a player makes a move by "placing armies" in certain territories once a day while having the opportunity to enter in open discussion rooms with players on the same team. Players can also accuse other players of being spies for other teams.

GXC hosts tournaments nationwide and between and within college campuses. Nationwide tournaments are open to anyone with a college e-mail address.

PoliticalBash08, the most recent nationwide tournament, is for any college student with an affinity for a certain candidate, Brimer said.

Simultaneously, GXC currently hosts about 20 other local tournaments within and between college campuses. At single campuses, teams are generally comprised of residence halls and dorms. The teams then try to conquer the entire campus.

Inter-campus games are just as popular regionally.

"Right now there is the Ivy League Tournament where all the Ivies are fighting to take over New England," Brimer said.

For nationwide tournaments, GXC draws inspiration from pop culture and current events.

"We try to think of something that someone has an opinion on," Hargreaves said. "When the games start, most people affiliate with things between the rivalries."

So far, Hammel can only participate in nationwide games because Pitt is not a registered university within the site.

"Currently I am only playing in the Political Bash '08 game because it is the only game that I can join at the moment," he said. "I continuously check for more games each week, but so far I am unable to join the new games. Most of the new games are restricted to a certain colege or community."

In order to start a game, schools get in touch with GXC and discuss the details. GXC hosts and sets up the game while the school provides a map of the campus and publicity, creating teams. "It really becomes the school's game, something they take pride in and we are happy to set it up," Brimer said.

GXC has expanded its games to international colleges as well as high schools, but still limits its nationwide games to college students for security reasons.

"We currently have limited open games where the games are only available to students with .edu addresses," Brimer said. "With any other type of e-mail address, it is very easy to create multiple accounts and cheat."

Hargreaves and his co-founders discovered the idea for GXC at Yale University. The game was initially a Yale College Council event that they then modified and expanded to other campuses.

"There was a lot of offline and online interaction," Hargreaves said. "People would run from dorm to dorm about this game. It was pretty intense."

Hammel believes the actual mechanics of the game need refinement despite the game's publicity.

"I have noticed a few flaws in the actual game play where a team would take a territory that they could not have according to the site's rulebook," he said. "I would also like to see more games become available."

GXC is set to launch a new game in the next couple of weeks, but has not announced the details.
© 2008 The Pitt News via U-WIRE

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