The Heist: 2019’s new cutthroat senior game

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Ashley Song

The date is Feb. 26. You wake up and check the weather, seeing the 52 degree forecast and 90 percent chance of rainfall. Not wanting to catch a cold, you throw on layer after layer to brave the harsh weather. Many seniors, however, faced a more daunting morning. Rolling out of bed, they throw on beachwear and open-toed sandals, ready to tackle the first Immunity of many. Welcome to The Heist.

For the past three years, the Class of 2019 has witnessed senior game after senior game. From Spoons to Scavage, they eagerly awaited their turn. In late February, the time finally came for them to take part in their own game: The Heist. Based off a storyline in which every participant assumes the role of a candidate hoping to join a famous mob family, seniors must prove their worth as sly, deft individuals by completing challenges and Immunities to gain Nix, the game’s currency. These challenges and Immunities have included shaking a stranger’s hand for seven seconds and showing up to school dressed like a lamp. These tasks are formulated by the Dons, senior class officers who assume the role of heads of the “mob families.” These families are the Hans, the Luis, the Venkateshs, the Shapiros, the Mohidekars and the Shahs.

“We knew we had to come up with a unique senior game because we got a lot of feedback from the way Scavage went and a lot of the feedback of what was good in Spoons,” said Class of 2019 Secretary Aayush Shah. “So we went through a couple revisions, and [during the summer], the game looked nothing like it does now. This actual iteration of the game, we started working on toward the end of October, right after Homecoming, and then it took us a couple months to flesh out the entire thing.”

Traditionally, seniors games are intended to add action and excitement to the seniors’ second semester of high school. As seniors anxiously wait for college decisions, a game is the ideal solution to relieve the pressure and fill up free time.

“I decided to join mostly because I wanted a complete senior year experience,” said senior Michelle Zhou. “Even though we didn’t have Spoons anymore, I would never have a chance for this kind of class bonding in the future. Most of my friends were playing, and I was down to fill up my SSS time with a fun game even though I’m still busy with academics.”

To join The Heist, all 140 participants paid an entry fee of $15, an investment which could result in two free bids to senior prom if the student is lucky enough to win.

At the start of The Heist, all candidates were gifted a “trust fund” of 1000 Nix, which serve as points in the game — the more you have, the closer you are to winning. There are five ways, all of which are announced through email and Instagram, to gain or lose Nix: daily challenges, Immunities, game days, Trump Cards and lotteries.

Daily challenges, which occur once or possibly multiple times throughout the day, are the simplest tasks, most often requiring a video submission. There are two types of daily challenges — quality and time. For the time challenges, those who send in their submission the fastest will be awarded Nix, and for the quality challenge, the best submissions receive points. Ranging from tasks like creating a grotesque soup recipe and drinking the soup on camera, to taking a photo with as many underclassmen possible, the daily challenges are always a source of excitement and anticipation for the candidates.

“For me, the most memorable [challenge was] where you have to go find a bird and then record it making a sound and you have to imitate it,” Class of 2019 Vice President Alvin Han said. “I was at lunch watching a dance practice at the time, and then the challenge dropped and I see everyone rush towards the basketball courts, and there was one bird that cawed, and everyone just goes ‘Ca-Caw!’ It was pretty funny.”

To ensure the challenges do not interfere with students’ studies, there are set times during which students cannot respond to challenges, including but not limited to class periods, tutorials and fire drills, during which any submissions will be voided.

In addition to daily challenges, there are also arranged game days. These are weekly large-scale events held on the basketball courts during Friday lunches, in which participants interact with other players. During the third game day of The Heist, participants had to find a partner to compete with. One player was blindfolded while the other provided walking directions to paper balls scattered across Stober Field. Once the blindfolded partner picked the ball up, they attempted to throw it and hit another team to eliminate them. As the player numbers decreased, so did the size of the playing court. The goal was to be the last pair standing.

These two methods of gaining Nix are not always full-proof. Perhaps a senior does not make it into the first 15 entries for a time daily challenge, does not create a satisfactory submission for a quality challenge or they were not successful during the game day. To provide more opportunities for Nix, the Dons created special challenges called Immunities. Immunities allow all candidates the chance to gain or lose hundreds of Nix.  If a participant is caught performing the Immunity incorrectly during the 24 hours from when an Immunity begins, evidence in the form of a photo can be sent to the Dons. Similar to how daily challenges have time slots during which submissions will be void, Immunities have safe zones, such as classrooms, bathrooms and the library, where participants cannot lose Nix for not doing the Immunity properly.

“Some people just go ham on [the Immunities], like one person learned how to play an entire song on the guitar for one of the Immunities,” Shah said. “I think those [types of submissions] are really cool.”

The rarest and debatably most vicious move to gain Nix is using a Trump Card. All a candidate’s hard work can be wiped away in the event that he or she is the victim of a Trump Card. Participants enter a contest to receive one, which allows them to, at any point in the game, trade Nix with another player.

The last method for gaining or losing Nix is the Lottery, a game of chance. Of those who sign up for the lottery, 35 percent have their Nix doubled, 40 percent maintain their current amount and 35 percent have their Nix cut in half. One candidate, unfortunately, is eliminated from the game. The lottery is a last-ditch effort for seniors to possibly double their Nix before entering into The Culling, which is a mass elimination based on the amount of Nix each player has, removing all players with less than a certain number of Nix. The amount is decided based on the numbers on the leaderboard.

To avoid any dissatisfaction or unfair actions in The Heist, the 2019 class officers have opened multiple mediums, such as an email account and an ask.fm account, through which participants can report disputes or wrongdoings committed in the game, as well as clarify any confusion about rules.

The date is March 29, and the seniors are still at it. The numbers of competitors is far smaller than what they began with, but with spirits still shining outwardly and intentions glowering within, there is only more to come.