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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

Hack Study Break by Paul B. '11

MIT is home to some very dedicated gamers.

I am two days away from finishing my first semester at MIT.

How did that happen?

Most of campus is already cracking down in preparation for finals, which are now less than a week away! Even freshmen like myself have begun putting our study habits into high gear. Although you’d think that the stress level on campus would be pretty high right now, most of my friends seem to be coping pretty well. In fact, a few students apparently had so much spare time on their hands, they actually decided to provide the rest of us with a few games and toys to play with over the next few days.

Confused? Let me explain…

Monday afternoon, I was walking across the east side of campus for my UROP (more about that later) when I noticed a few people gathered in the courtyard in front of the Green Building. Intrigued, I wandered over and began to notice a few strange shapes scattered across the courtyard, seemingly at random. As I got closer, I realized that the mysterious objects weren’t miscellaneous debris at all – it was a hack!

It was a giant game of Settlers of Catan! Although you may have never heard of this amazing game, it’s quite popular here at MIT. In my humble opinion, and the opinion of millions of fans, it’s quite simply one of the best games in the world. Looking the hack over, I was happy to see that the recreated version was completely faithful to the original – apart from a few minor, MIT-themed variations. Instead of the standard Building Cost card, the hacked version had this one:

(*EDIT 1/11/08: Visiting this entry again, I happened to notice that some of my photos have changed in size. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I have decided to remove the photos until I can fix this problem. Sorry for the inconvenience! -Paul)

Likewise, the traditional “robber” piece was replaced with a mock-up of a Campus Police officer. If you look closely, you’ll notice that he’s holding a donut.

Thoroughly impressed, I left Settlers and hurried on towards my UROP. Scarcely had I crossed the street, however, when I noticed that something strange was going on with the Media Lab. Could it possibly be another hack?

Yes, it was! Hackers had constructed an MIT-themed Scrabble board and somehow spirited it onto the side of the Media Lab, which I have no doubt was an extremely difficult feat.

I imagine the hackers chose the Media Lab because the side of the building rather resembles a Scrabble board anyway. This next picture really shows just how huge this hack really is.

So far, I had already seen two new hacks – could there be more? I resolved to hunt around campus as soon as I was done researching for the day. Fortunately enough, I didn’t have to hunt far – hackers had placed yet another game in front of MIT Medical, right next to my lab!

MIT chess! The white pieces represented the administration, while the black pieces featured the different dorms and living groups on campus. A little anti-authoritarian, perhaps, but it’s all in good fun. For the living groups, the different pieces included various halls of East Campus, including Fifth East, Beast (Second East), and the main desk; Senior Haus; the FSILGs – fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups; Simmons (my dorm!), and McCormick. The administrators and other authority figures included President Hockfield, Chancellor Clay, faculty, alumni, Physical Plant, and the Campus Police.

Those were all the hacks I could find, but when I returned home after my UROP, I found an email from someone who identified himself only as “Milton Bradley,” who informed me that several other hacks had also been put up over the weekend, though some had been taken down. Mr. Bradley not only pointed me to a site with photos of these other hacks, he also suggested that I put some of these photos on the MIT blogs, for all the prospective students to see.

How could I disagree? Few things make me more excited than hacks, so I was happy to take a little time off from studying for finals and put together this blog entry. Other hacks across campus included Mouse Trap in the Stata Center, Cranium in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Building, and turning the usual campus maps into Risk boards. Here are some pictures:

Would you like a little cheese with your Stata Center?

As a crowning move, the (in)famous Hilltop Steak House Cow was transformed into a mouse. Hackers just can’t leave the poor cow alone!

Just across the street from the Stata Center, the Brain and Cognitive Science Building was another hotspot of hack activity.

The four-square Brain and Cognitive Science logo was begging to be transformed into the four categories of Cranium.

Hackers even managed to hang the Cranium die on the face of the building. Most impressive!

Sometimes, finding your way around campus can be a little Risk-y.

Hopefully visitors weren’t too confused by the strange soldiers on the map.

And that’s it – quite an impressive bunch of hacks, aren’t they? As always, huge congratulations to MIT’s hackers for producing yet another thoroughly enjoyable hack – let’s hope there’s even more during the spring semester! Additional props to Eric Schmiedl ’09 and Shen Chew ’11 for all their awesome photos.

Thanks for reading, guys. Best wishes to all the EA applicants as you await your decisions.

By the way, I lost the game. ;)

79 responses to “Hack Study Break”

  1. Anonymous says:

    :( I lost the game too.

    But this makes me happier now because it took my mind off of waiting for decisons. Stuff like this is part of the reason that I want to go to MIT.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Jing Jing says:

    FIRST! Yay first time as first hahaha

  3. Oasis says:

    I just saw this on the Tech today! I was so amazed…haha I haven’t been walking in East Campus for awhile, I guess. =p

  4. Jing Jing says:

    Ouch, someone beat me. Oh well.

    Anyway, I cannot see the pictures; =(
    Am I the only one having that problem?

  5. Oasis says:

    Oh dang, Paul, you made me lose the game too. GAH.

  6. Calvin says:

    Oh no! I lost. :(

  7. Paul says:

    @ Oasis: That was the point. wink

    @ Jing Jing: All the photos should be working. Just let me know if you’re still having problems.

  8. elijahjt says:

    Paul, well played…

  9. Taylor says:

    Oh you jerk! I’ve lost the game now too!

    That’s so killer. I love hacks!

    (PS for some reason, the pictures aren’t showing up for me. I can click on the squares and get to the site with the pictures, but they aren’t showing up on your blog page)

  10. Zaira '11 says:

    I think there was another one next to the Forbes Family Cafe in Stata.

  11. Laser says:

    God, I wish I could take place in one (or more) of those. Perhaps soon…

    “By the way, I lost the game. wink
    …sigh… NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Paul says:

    Photos are fixed. Sorry guys, I accidentally used a formatting shortcut that only works for users within the MIT web system. They should be visible to everyone now. smile

  13. Anon says:

    Just to let everyone know, there is a new word in the dictionary that many here will be partial to:


  14. OmarA says:

    Very nice. I saw these on Snively’s blog earlier. Really cool stuff.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Weird, they were invisible before and now they’re HUGE so I have to scroll to the side for four seconds to see anything. :D

  16. Grace '11 says:

    booo i didn’t see any of these…i saw a dragon-like thingy hanging in the middle of the stairwell up to 10-250? don’t know what that was. and i saw you in murj! cool beans.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe I missed it! I should go over to east campus more often…

  18. Snively says:

    Settlers and Scrabble are still up!

  19. Anonymous says:

    Only one of my personalities from my MPD (multiple personality disorder…aka dissociative identity disorder) lost the game. The rest, shielded unconsciously from that traumatic experience still managed to win the game while that first personality helped make others lose.

    It’s the only way to win the game.

  20. MM says:

    Somehow Grace, I didn’t see anything in 10-250. Maybe it got taken down early?

  21. Laser says:

    I wish I was as skilled at the game as you are, Anonymous. I must find a way to split my personality…

  22. Paul says:

    @ Anonymous: Indeed, I was extremely busy on Monday night, so Snively was able to post some of these photos before I could. That being said, I don’t know why you’re implying this post is unoriginal. These hacks belong to everyone in the entire community, so putting them on this web site was simply the natural thing to do.

  23. anion says:

    ok..i’ll do that..thanx!

  24. Rutu says:

    Oh wow…..this is actually making me a lot more hyper as I wait for decisions. It’s so amazing though. Do they put up the hacks in the middle of the night, so people are surprised in the morning?

    Also, OMG I didn’t know The Game was so widespread!!! Wow! This is, once again, perfect….I can’t wait to find out if I get in…

  25. rachel says:

    I lost. Pretty awesome hacks!

  26. Ben P. says:

    Those hacks are pretty sweet.

    Grrr… I’m losing now again. I’ve been winning since 7th period today. (Sigh) It’s interesting to see how far spread The Game is.

  27. Hunter '11 says:

    HACKZ!!!! Gotta love them. That’s what I love MIT for…

    I lost.

  28. Kayla says:

    those are some awesome hacks.
    by the way, i’ve been playing the game for years. and losing of course. but i’m proud of its recent popularity…

  29. Alexander says:

    Hey cool! I never realized that gaming is such a huge thing at MIT. I a pretty serious gamer so thats a relief!

  30. Katherine says:

    Gee thanks, I lost. Those are really amazing. ;D

  31. Anonymous says:

    i lost….. oh moo…
    how far spread is the “moo” rule for the game?

  32. Katherine says:

    I play the moo rule — but I never moo. Y_Y

  33. hopeful '12 says:

    another reason why i really want to go to mit. people do really cool stuff

  34. Isshak says:

    So many hacks ! Good job hackers ! I’m sure the media lab one was a difficult one, but the result is awesome !
    Hackers, you make us happy…^^

  35. Anon says:

    What is your UROP project on.

  36. Vona '10 says:

    The dragon-like sculpture is hanging in the 1st level of the west staircase in building 10. The bed outside 10-250 and the chairs mounted on the steps of W20 seem to be related. 4.301 (Introduction to Visual Arts, by name, but very centred on installation and public art) is usually the source of that sort of display.

    “extremely difficult feat”
    given the ice-coated sidewalks the next day, I’m guessing a bit risky too.

  37. Taylor says:

    For those people discussing ‘the game’: What’s the ‘moo rule’? I’ve never heard of it.

  38. Anion says:

    Got the answer to the TOEFL question?

  39. Hunter '11 says:

    I play the moo rule.

    Taylor – the moo rule is that if you moo 3 times (or hear a moo 3 times?) without losing, you WON.

    I lost.

  40. Paul says:

    @ Anion: Yep, I did! I answered this on my other blog entry, but perhaps you didn’t see it. Basically, TOEFL scores should be recorded on the Application Tracking page (in the Details section). If you believe MIT should have received your scores, but they are still not listed, don’t worry – just send an email to admissions [at] mit [dot] edu listing the name under which you applied, the full name under which you took the TOEFL, and when you took the TOEFL.

  41. Taylor says:

    …but to be consciously mooing or counting the moos that I hear, I’d be thinking about the game, meaning I would lose! How would someone win with the moo rule?!?! I don’t understand!

  42. Laser says:

    Yeah, I had never heard of the moo rule, but I don’t think it should be actually possible to WIN the game. (I just lost again) Its the most pssimistic game known to mankind.

  43. Anonymous says:

    The version I played was one where you just had to say “moo” once without thinking about the game, and then remember the game right after you say “moo”. You shout “I WIN”, and everyone around you then instantly loses :D

  44. Anonymous says:

    I did not get the game, how do you play ?

  45. Laser says:

    Anonymous directly above, you are losing the game whenever you are thinking about it (you probably jsut lost right now). When you lose, you tell all the others around you that you lost so that the game can reset itself (when everyone continues their lives and forgets about the game again) until someone remembers the game again. Its a cycle of loss, basically.

  46. donaldGuy says:

    Awesome!! Though there are many more important reasons I’ve discovered since, hacks were what first attracted me to MIT (before that I had a misconception that it was a too stuffy place for me.. they proved me wrong on that front and opened the floodgates for my discovery of how awesome the ‘tvte is.)

    I was afraid with the new Hack policy going into place, that they might disappear. Good to see that for now, at least, they are still alive and kicking. Plus, other than Scrabble (which probably required roof access and a rope team), they probably didn’t even have to violate too many rules in the process. The several digs at the campus police would seem to indicate hackers are less than happy about the new policy..

    anyway, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.. hopefully I’ll get to see on location and maybe even (shhhhh) be involved.

    Paul, again, best of luck with exams!

  47. Paul says:

    I love how this post has just turned into one big conversation about the game. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve lost now. raspberry

  48. donaldGuy says:

    ahhh! sorry about the double post…

    yea.. I got past Paul losing without losing .. but than looking at comments, I too lost the game. :-(

  49. Laser says:

    Haha, every time I accidentally lose (just from random thought process), I come back here to check any progress so I know I can’t lose again.

    Then I get back to Funny Farm >.Haha, every time I accidentally lose (just from random thought process), I come back here to check any progress so I know I can’t lose again.

    Then I get back to Funny Farm >.<

  50. Star says:

    I do love the hacks smile And don’t worry about not being the first one to post it Paul, I’ll read about hacks 20 times if I have to wink

    And yeah… I lost.

  51. Paul says:

    @ Donald: Indeed, MIT is anything but stuffy. If you want further proof, just come to a lecture sometime – my professors are among the most active, interesting individuals I know. Same applies for my fellow students, actually… wink

    As for your other comments – poking fun at campus police and/or the administration is a typical theme of hacks. The “new hacking policy,” which as of last month was in the process of being approved but has not yet been officially implemented, at this point consists primarily of a set of ethical guidelines that most hackers already follow. Obviously, I can’t speak for the hacking community – since it encompasses a very wide variety of people – but I’m reasonably certain that these “digs” at the CPs were just standard for hacks, and not in response to any particular announcement.

    If you’re interested in hearing more about hacking policies, Jessie‘s blog is really the place to go, particularly this entry. Laura also had a great entry on a hack during her freshman year, and she even included some hacking Q&A.

  52. College grad says:

    Totally cool! Keep up the good job posting!

  53. Anon9 says:

    can you win before you lose?? (NOT think about the game and thinking… hmmm… some sort of logical flaw here…)

    How can you win, ever??

    I’ve lost waaay more times than any of you…
    ironically in trying to figure out a way to win the game XD

    Ahhhhh, Thursday nearly over… Saturday looms ahead

  54. Anon9 says:

    er, my bad. That would be “logic flaw” — not “logical” flaw… because that would be weird o.0!

  55. Jermaine says:

    WOW! These pranks are priceless. You guys make me look like an amatuer. Hackers unite!!

  56. Anon9 says:

    Eeeekk… the wait is definitely, indisputably driving me crazy…

    I meant WEDNESDAY is nearly over… and Saturday still looms ahead

    … Eeeee…

  57. this is one of the reasons I would love to go to mit….hacks!! so original and creative…and to do it before finals! very the scrabble

  58. Karen says:

    Catan reminds me an awful lot of Civilization, which I have been playing on my incredibly old computer a lot lately.

    The same incredibly old computer that your HUGE pictures crashed earlier when I tried to load your blog entry.

    Good thing I switched to the one that *doesn’t* still have Windows 2000! smile

  59. Paul says:

    @ Karen: I’ve never actually played Civilation – I was always more of a Sim City / Myst fan.

    Sorry about the huge photos, but we all know that bigger is better. :D

    Now, back to studying…

  60. Michael says:

    NOOO! Don’t tell me that people play the game at MIT too…

  61. Anonymous says:

    69th response!!!

  62. Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous – Err, yeah, seconding Paul here. Hacks belong to the entire MIT community and should go up on the admissions blogs. The photos belong to Eric, not Snively. And I don’t think Eric minds.

    It would’ve been strange if Paul hadn’t blogged about this. It’s what MIT is all about!

    (Well, that, and the studying..)

  63. Anonymous says:

    I lost.

    I heard that there was a “Bob Marley” rule: that if you are currently listening to Bob Marley when someone loses, you automatically win. Anyone know anything about that, or is it just my area’s local variation of the game, so to speak?

  64. Anonymous says:

    What game is everyone talking about? I’m lost =(

  65. ronald says:

    Why does the tracking system show “Mid-year grade report->not processed” when it’s not expected from international students?

    I hope the application is considered complete even if that field is unchecked.

  66. Sam R. says:

    oh wow!!!! these hacks r sooo cool and halarious!! its just amazing at the amount and the kind of hacks that they make, its awsome. I just hope I can one day make one of my own (I’m thinking on some ideas), hopefully!!!!!!!!!!
    -sam r.

  67. katekalb says:

    I love the hacks, of course, especially since they were based on board games (I’m such a board game nerd!)

    And I’m glad that I know about the game now… guess I can say that I lost.

  68. Curious says:

    What is you UROP project on Paul?

  69. Karen says:

    @ Paul: I never had the patience for an entire round of Sim City, and Myst just frustrated the fourth grade mind right out of me. Maybe I should give them another shot, but Civilization is possibly the best game ever for spacing out and relaxing while playing…besides FreeCell maybe smile

  70. Debbie Yee says:

    hey paul! haha nice entry.. yea i was so surprised when i first saw these hacks… i was so busy being swamped that i had a friend show them to me on camera. i think there are hacker ethics though… they have them in print somewhere =D

    gluck with the rest of the semester. just dropping by to say hi.

  71. Pooja says:

    Darn. I lost the game too…

    Nice hacks- I especially love the Cranium one. All we did at my Engineering summer camp was program video games, watch Mythbusters, and play Cranium. Good times.
    Funny Farm is getting interesting (a.k.a excitingly formidable) I’m at eight topics right now.

  72. Jermaine says:

    @ Paul:
    I am Senior at Sanger High School. We have hack traditions also. Check out the most recent one on my blog. We (AP Chem) students learned that the AP bio students would be out on a field trip. Our teacher is chairmen of the science department at our school. We asked to use his key so that we could hack the room. We set up the desks in a pyramid before they returned.* (You cannot see it but the chairs are in the shape of a C for Chemistry and the board has a picture of the word Biology with acid dripping on it.)

    *No AP Bio students were hurt in the hacking of their room.

  73. moni says:

    i have sent all my transcripts, evaluation forms , and school reports and everything else needed to the MIT admissions office long back but none of it has shown up on my mit account…it does not even show whether they have received my SAT scores and my interviewer’s report ( my ec told me that he submitted the report long back and even my SAT scores have gone) i dont know why it does not track them ..
    is it because i have not yet submitted the part one of my application? but isnt it true that we can submit both the applications- part 1 and 2 at the end ?
    please help me with this..

  74. Paul says:

    Hey Moni,

    I’m going to send this to your email as well, but the problem probably is the fact that you haven’t submitted Part 1 yet. MIT most likely does have all your materials, but because you haven’t submitted Part 1, you don’t have an official “file” with MIT. Once you submit that (followed by Part 2, of course!), you should be good to go.

    If you want to make sure that MIT has all of your materials, I would suggest calling the Admissions Office – 617.253.3400 – and seeing what they can do for you. Best of luck!

  75. moni says:

    hey paul !!
    thank you soo much for ur response…im feeling much much better now…actually i dont know why i was not submitting my application..i guess im too tensed to do it and i keep going through it again and again to make sure everything is fine…but im submitting it today finally so hope that everything would be fine !!!
    but thanks a lot…