March 19, 2008: On the Campus
Political war online; voices soar on stage
By Laura Fitzpatrick ’08
WHO SAYS PRINCETONIANS aren’t political? Some 200 Princeton students and alumni are among more than 1,500 players nationwide competing in an online virtual reality version of the 2008 presidential election called GoCrossPoliticalBash08. Lauren Clark ’10, for one, signed on because she had so much fun playing in the All-Ivy Risk Tournament hosted by the same Web site in the fall. This game is even better, she said, because “they use the entire country as a board.”
As of mid-February, according to The Daily Princetonian, the Obama squad had 70 University students on its roster, while 48 were playing for Team Colbert (Stephen Colbert, host of the popular Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, announced a presidential bid in October before dropping out two weeks later.) Thirty were for Ron Paul, 22 for Clinton, 19 for McCain, and six for Romney. The distribution roughly reflects campus voters’ preferences as reported by the Prince on Super Tuesday.
In other ways, however, the game is not exactly realistic. Whether a candidate drops out of the race has no bearing on what happens online. For much of the spring, GoCrossPoliticalBash08 showed Colbert firmly in the lead.
Clark is supporting Obama – in the game and in real life – because, she said, “I believe that we need a political outsider to bring in new ideas and perspectives.” But if her candidate loses, she will jump on the cyber-bandwagon: “If Team Obama does get conquered, I will probably join Team Colbert … his team is the strongest and most dedicated on the board.”
The game’s popularity stems, in part, from the ease of playing: Participants take just one two-minute turn per day. Their goal is to amass armies, who compete for their candidates in states across the country, attacking enemies or defending territories. Each player gets one army just for logging in, but they can score bonus troops only by playing consistently or playing well. Wonkish players can start strategy meetings, while politicos elect leadership for their team or ferret out spies.
A candidate’s team loses when all of its armies and all of its territories have fallen in battle. A team wins by conquering the entire game board or, if no one does, by holding the most territories by the time the game ends. The site encourages players to recruit their friends to join, but this is no online Tammany Hall; players are tracked and can register only once.
Douglas Hohensee ’08 was pulling for Ron Paul. But he was not surprised to see Colbert doing well, and came up with a rallying cry based on Colbert’s planned appearance on campus this spring: “Class Day speaker for President!”
INSIDE RICHARDSON AUDITORIUM on a snowy Friday night in February, Shere Khan members warmed up their voices – and the crowd. As rows of alumni danced in their seats and a packed house cheered, the a capella group trotted out on stage all smiles. Named after the tiger in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Shere Khan had reason to celebrate. The concert marked the 15th anniversary of the group’s founding, as well as the release of its fifth studio-produced CD.
Titled Come Together, the CD is dedicated to a late alumnus of the group, Bill Dederer ’99, who “had a big part in shaping Shere Khan into what it is today,” said tenor Chris White ’10. The CD features a mix of popular songs by artists ranging from the Beatles to Counting Crows, sung in the signature style that alto Jessica Cabral ’10 describes as “warm and breathy.”
Since 2005, group members have been trekking to a professional Philadelphia studio, recording each part separately: With five vocal tracks plus percussion, special harmonies, and trills, each song took about 15 hours of studio time. “Coordinating recording excursions with 16 very busy college students is tough,” said Jonah Wagner ’08, a tenor and former music director for the group. “We ended up using mostly vacation time to get the CD done, which amounted to about 2.5 years worth of vacations.” And there’s scant rest for the weary: The group will start recording a new album in the fall.
Senior year, Wagner said, is “a crazy time to be putting this show together, but it also feels like a chance to go out with a bang – although we still have to write our theses, so it’s a bit like Obama winning eight straight and still having to worry about Texas and Ohio.”