November 19, 2007

C.U. Fields Team for Online Game

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With social networking at its peak, a new type of “object-oriented” networking has surfaced in the form of online games. GoCrossCampus, an online game supported by the Cornell Class Councils, was created by Yale and Columbia students. Similar to Risk, the object of which is to gain territory by attacking enemies, GoCrossCampus can be played inter-campus or intra-campus between college students.
Currently, the Ivy League Championship Tournament is underway. Played between the eight Ivy League universities across a map of New England, the game allows players to position two to three troops everyday. Although players can make their moves individually, the best method of capturing territories is by deciding on the positioning of troops as a team.
The Cornell team currently has well over 1,000 players, with a surprising number of Cornell alumni playing, as well. This number is still considerably lower than that of other schools. Because the game was created by students at Yale and Columbia, those schools had more publicity early on, giving those schools a greater number of players. A rule that awarded bonuses based on the percent of undergraduate players hurt Cornell in the short run, but since the start of the game, more Cornellians have signed up to compete.
Originally, one commander for the Cornell team was in charge but as the number of players increased, nominations and voting lead to the election of two more commanders. Jason Kaelber ’11, the first of the Cornell team’s three commanders, sends out e-mails to the team and posts battle plans on the team’s website.
“When the game was just started, I created a forum so we could have a message board and discuss strategies. Basically, everyone has an input and can log in and post their thoughts. These ideas are then debated and we try to go with the consensus of the group,” Kaelber said.
As commander of the Cornell team, Kaelber has the responsibility of ensuring that decisions are made as a cohesive unit. He said most of the decision-making gets done on the website in a fair way, although a few in-person meetings have occurred, as well.
“A few of the players set up a date and time and everyone showed up. It was really cool to see how organized everyone was. We projected a map and talked about strategies and treaties. It’s nice that it’s a democratic system,” Kaelber said.
GoCrossCampus, like many other multiplayer online games, can become addictive. Alexander Botkin ’11, a devoted player who is regularly involved with the negotiations that take place in the forums, compared the level of commitment of a player on GoCrossCampus to other social networking sites, like Facebook.
“It is almost like Facebook in that you can put the minimum time into it and be online for five minutes a day or you can spend 24 hours a day on it. I would say that the majority of the players come on for a few minutes a day and quickly place their troops,” Botkin said.
“A lot of people have connections to more than one Ivy and since anyone with a .edu address can join and share our password, we know we have spies. We’ve had other teams react to plans before they’ve been carried out. We’ve been working on ways to deal with that,” Kaelber said.
“There are very labor-intensive ways we can pinpoint who our spies are, but spying does go both ways,” Kaelber added.
The Ivy League Championships became so popular that the GoCrossCampus servers began crashing. The game was put on hold, which was not entirely a bad thing for the always grade- conscious Cornellians playing, according to Kaelber.
“The servers stopped working right before prelims started, so it gave us the time we needed to study,” he said.
Botkin, on the other hand, said he sees this pause in play as potentially harmful for the Cornell team. There is constant recruitment in order to increase the number of players on the team, and sometimes, “there is such a huge time between when the game is paused and when it is restarted that a lot of people might forget.” This makes it much harder, he said, to maintain a certain number of people on the team and the number of players gets progressively more important as Cornell catches up with Yale, currently in the lead.
Botkin expects the servers to be up and running in mid- to late- December, or possibly January. Although play is suspended for now with no definitive day set to resume, six of the eight Ivies remain, as Harvard and UPenn were eliminated early on. Many of the schools have been uniting against Yale, since Yale “has been pushing around other schools and breaking treaties left and right,” said Kaelber. Cornell currently stands in second place. The Princeton team rounds out the top three in the tournament.