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In Wharton Hostile Takeover, students use stress balls to get their targets.

Credit: Ananya Chandra , Ananya Chandra

In addition to polishing LinkedIn profiles and networking with elite businessmen and women, this month you can also find Wharton students throwing stress balls at each other and deflecting with paper plates as they engage in the annual “Wharton Hostile Takeover.”

The event is put on by the Wharton Council each year in late October. It is a month-long live-action game where participants are assigned targets — other students — whom they need to get “out” in three separate rounds by hitting them with a foam stress ball. Participants can only use the ball given out at the Wharton Hostile Takeover kickoff event to assassinate opponents, and players can only defend themselves by deflecting the balls off paper plates. The first two rounds are a week and a half with the third round condensed to only a week. Players get eliminated at the end of the first two rounds if they have either been assassinated or failed to assassinate their own target.

Toward the end of the third round only a fraction of the players remain, and the stakes get more intense.

“We put them up in a boardroom in Pottruck, which is usually only five or six poeple,” Hostile Takeover organizer and Wharton junior Holly Li said. In the “Final Boardroom,” as it is called in the rule book, the remaining players, with weapons — balls provided by the Gamemaster — and bodyguards on hand, battle it out for Hostile Takeover supremacy. Li described it as “hunger games-esque with only awards for the first, second and third place finishers.”

This year, the event underwent a few key changes. The game as a whole is one week longer and three extra days were added to the first two rounds. According to Li, this change gives people “a longer chance of getting other people out.” She added, “This year, Wharton Council is cohosting the event with Wharton Cohorts. Cohorts is this big group in Wharton which is more influential with freshman, and by doing this together, we have ensured more Freshman are joining. Cohorts is keeping them pumped up throughout the game.”

One player who no longer needs that motivation is Wharton freshman Elliot Bernstein, since he was eliminated this past Wednesday by another student who lives down the hall from him.

“The girl came to my room and knocked on my door,” he said. “Initially I thought it was a friend so I jokingly yelled at her to get out. Turned out it was some neighbor who I never talk to so I said oh come in. Then she killed me! I didn’t last very long but I guess thats the competitiveness they’re talking about at Wharton?”

Though Elliot has gained some insights on how to succeed in Wharton as a result of the game, many participants are actually distracted from school work.

“There are definitely a few individuals who stop going to class as much because you are safer in your own room,” Li said, even if Bernstein wasn’t so lucky. “Also, people have used Hostile Takeover as an excuse to not go to a class they didn’t want to go to anyway. Many people have friends go out and grab food for them instead of risking the walk to a dining hall.”

Dining halls are safe zones, but the journey to the dining hall remains perilous. Other safe zones include classrooms when class is in session, silent study rooms, libraries, OCR interviews, the Hilton Inn at Penn and faculty offices, among a few other places.

Some students find that keys to success, besides only showing your face in safe zones, include finding your target’s class schedule and hitting them at times when they are most vulnerable, such as walking to and from class. It is also advisable to ignore social judgement and carry around your shield — the paper plate — at all times.

With a game that seems simple in concept and execution, there is still a lot of work that goes into getting the game ready. Li said she started working with her fellow club members and cohorts “by the second week of classes”. The game started on Oct. 23, so many weeks of effort went into it. The Hostile Takeover organizers write a thorough two-page rule book, which attempts to account for any potential conflicts that arise during the game. They also organize dates, start times and the official kick-off event.

Furthermore, for future years, the Wharton Cohorts are trying to expand and improve the game for next year. A common misconception is that only Wharton students can participate — but students from across graduate and undergraduate schools, and even professors, are welcome to participate.

Li said one way the organizers plan on expanding past Wharton is to do more advertising on Locust Walk as well as in Jon M. Huntsman Hall.

The Final Boardroom will take place on Nov. 18. In addition to the awards for the main winners, other players will receive prizes for fastest kill, most elaborate plot, best haiku and funniest photo at the at the gamemaster’s discretion.

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