Friends with avatars

One recent Saturday afternoon, A Massive Panda fought alongside MathNerd1729, whose head was blown off in an explosion of blood and brains. On Monday, MathNerd1729 (re-capitated) passed by A Massive Panda in the hall of third-floor Chalmers.

MathNerd1729, who also goes by math teacher Kevin Weis, has played Gears of War on Xbox Live with upper school students, including A Massive Panda (most call him Chase Crane ’07). Online games for Xbox or the computer have growing communities of students (and teachers) playing on the weekends.

Weis often plays games like Gears of War or Guitar Hero with friends.

“I love the idea of, instead of hanging out, you get together and kill monsters or go on missions,” Weis said.

The number 1729, the latter half of Weis’ username, is the first number which is the sum of a pair of added cubes (both 17 cubed plus one cubed and nine cubed plus 10 cubed equal the number). The former part of his name is self-explanatory.

In Gears of War, armies of players march through futuristic urban streets, killing the enemy — the locust horde.

People who play the game online can either enter an already-existing battle or team up and challenge others, as Weis and Crane did on Feb. 3.

Michael Ottavi-Brannon ’07 (Da Durty) casually plays Gears of War, usually with Crane, Nick Kazimiroff ’07 (RhoEpsilon) and Max Gindi ’07 (Holden McCrotch).

One of Ottavi-Brannon’s favorite aspects of the game is the international potpourri in larger games. Warriors connect to the world of Gears of War from across the country and overseas.

“There are people who speak in Spanish, German, French,” he said. “It’s pretty funny.”

Weis admits that role-playing games can be “dangerously addictive” and avoids other popular games, such as World of Warcraft, which is played on a PC.

Ottavi-Brannon agreed: “I’ve definitely seen people playing a lot more than they should.”

Daniel Resnick ’07 said that when he is involved in a game of World of Warcraft, he often spends “a couple hours a day” playing.

Resnick is on the verge of starting a new group on World of Warcraft, or WoW — pronounced as the exclamation—with a group of friends from the Upper School.

Despite all the time he spends on the game, Resnick said, there is not a hugely cohesive WoW community at the school.

People do, however, bring it up in casual conversation at school as they would a recent episode of “Entourage” or the latest Shins album.

Resnick generally plays with people he already knows and doesn’t necessarily make new friends on the game, at least, not in the conventional sense of the term.

They are not the type of friends with whom he goes to the movies; they are the type of friend with whom he takes epic quests through a computer-generated world. He does, however, play on the same team as people he has never met in real life.

“I don’t become friends with them,” he said. “I just sort of know people on there. The whole game is a world full of random people, so you can always group up with them,” Resnick said.

Even if there are Harvard-Westlake students playing, Resnick said, he may not know that they are the same people he passes every day in the quad.

Crane once found that he was on a team with a pair of fellow Harvard-Westlake students.

“You can hear people on your team talk. I definitely heard them talk about something I recognized, like a teacher or something,” Crane said. “It was a huge coincidence.”

 “[All players] just have random names that they make up,” Resnick said. Because of this, it is hard to identify when one is playing a schoolmate.

It is, then,  possible for a player to go on an entire quest with a fellow WoW-er and be unaware that the same person sits next to him or her in physics class.

Resnick estimated that about 20 upper school students play WoW on a regular basis.

Jon Cheng ’07, Victor Hogen ’07 and Michael Wee ’07 also join the World of Warcraft on occasion. Cheng said that he only plays “for fun,” but Wee plays significantly more.

Cheng has started playing less often, as he is waiting for Hogen to match his level so they can play together.

MathNerd1729 was the last man standing during the second round of the Saturday morning Gears of War battle.

“He was the last member of our team left alive,” Crane said. “It was a three-on-one situation. It didn’t end well for him.”

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