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Online Game May Be in Jeopardy!

By Rachel K. Sobel, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The integrity of a new online game show may be in Jeopardy!

The popular game show Jeopardy! launched a college online tournament over Labor Day Weekend. In the game, any college student with access to the Internet can compete for over 1,500 prizes--including a 1998 Pontiac car, Sony Discmans and Gap certificates.

Unlike the television version, the online game--created by Columbia TriStar Interactive--is in a multiple-choice format. Players log-on and can choose a category--much like in the TV game--and can select one of four possible questions for the given answer.

Vandana L. Madhavan '98, who was the second place winner of the College Jeopardy! tournament on television two years ago, says she had not heard about the online version. But she says she was excited about the new tournament.

"People come up to me and say 'I've always wanted to be on Jeopardy!,'" she says. "So now it's cool that there is another way to experience the thrill of competing on Jeopardy!"

In order to compete for prizes in the tournament, each player must log-on three times in one week and get one of the top 10 scores--making them eligible for the semi-final round which will be held in November. The top three players from the semi-finals will compete for the highest score over the Internet. The winner of the tournament will receive the Pontiac.

Students nationwide are currently competing to qualify for the semi-final rounds. The game, located at http://www.station.sony.com/college-jeopardy/, has 25,000 students registered to date, says Lynda Keeler, spokesperson for Columbia TriStar Interactive.

Keeler says she expects between 50,000 and 75,000 participants in the tournament, which is supposed to run through November.

To register, students must provide their name, e-mail address, birthday, password to play, mailing address and college attended.

However, many students say that the security on the game is too loose and allows people to cheat.

Some Harvard students say that they have achieved a top score in the game by logging-on under a different name after playing the round once and getting all the answers.

One Harvard undergraduate, who requested anonymity, says that he has cheated numerous times on the Web site tournament in order to get a high score.

The student says he would log-in using a friend's name and play a round to familiarize himself with the categories. By logging-in a second time within the same week under a new name, he says he would usually get a game with some of the same categories that he had played before. Since the student already knew those answers, he says his score would skyrocket.

At one point, the student says his score reached more than $100,000. The average score for Harvard is only $12,829, according to Keeler.

"I'm no great computer hacker," the student says. "Anyone who thought about it for more than two minutes could do it."

Of the seven Harvard competitors that the Columbia TriStar headquarters has registered in its system, the student says that he has logged in as three of them. He says he knows of one other student who uses the same strategy and says he suspects that there may be only one other player at Harvard who is playing under the four other names.

"I think [Jeopardy!] had good intentions, but I don't think the technology is advanced enough for Jeopardy! online to be foolproof," he says.

Other Harvard students who have participated in the online game say that the spirit of the game is lost when people cheat.

"So we're out-cheating them," says Brandon P. Jones '00, who has not played but says he knows someone who has logged in using his e-mail address.

T. Timothy Wang '00, whose e-mail address corresponds to the 36th highest ranked player on the list of people who could qualify for the semifinals, says that he has never played.

"I'm kind of curious why they have my name," he says.

The score under his name, $117,466, was Harvard's highest average score.

In an interview with The Crimson on Friday afternoon, Keeler did not comment about the possibility of students' cheating.

However, Keeler said she was very excited about the prospect of this tournament both as an individual competition and also as a competition between rival schools, adding that she hoped Harvard students could "kick some Yale ass" on college Jeopardy! online.

"It's really building. People are saying that they are having these parties where they get together, order pizza and play Jeopardy!," she says.

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