Freshman rewarded for devotion to gaming

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Jan. 17, 2006 


During childhood, playing video games usually amounts to nothing more than sore thumbs and sweaty palms.

For freshman Chris Roberts, his deep-rooted devotion to gaming and technology was rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to Microsoft's Xbox 360 launch party in the Mojave Desert last fall. Roberts entered Microsoft's "Hex 168" contest with a group of five other students. The contest required applicants to submit a short video "expressing the unusual."

"The gist of the video was that there was a role reversal between sled dogs and people," Roberts said.

The group chose IU's Arboretum as its filming location. After two weeks of planning and filming, the submission of the group's 30-second video, "Company Under-Dogs," won them VIP tickets for the 30-hour invitation-only event in California called "Zero Hour." Although the trip interfered with his marching band schedule and classes, Roberts said it was well worth it. Hotel accommodations, airfare and transportation were all provided by Microsoft.

"It was the VIPs. The contest winners like us that got the special treatment," he said.

Roberts also received the premium package of the Microsoft Xbox 360 console one week prior to its Nov. 22, 2005, launch date. A one-year gold membership of Xbox LIVE and three of Xbox's most popular titles, "Perfect Dark Zero," "Project Gotham Racing" and "Kameo: Elements of Power" were also given as prizes to Roberts' group.

Roberts shouldered the responsibility of rallying local support for the video. Many IU students voted for the video online, but because of complications with IP addresses, only one vote per building on campus counted. Microsoft's online voting system became host to many other frustrations of groups nationwide.

"Entrants were artificially raising their scores," Roberts said.

Much to Roberts' satisfaction, Microsoft decided to end the voting system. According to the "Hex 168" Web site, a panel of judges based their decision on the video's originality, "best expression of the unusual among the mundane," entertainment value and production quality. One of Roberts' group members received a call from Microsoft notifying him they were finalists in the competition.

"I thought luck was a certain factor but I also thought that we were putting together a quality product," Roberts said. "The video editing was very good."

This contest was not the first Roberts entered and won big as a result. In August 2004, Roberts submitted an essay for a contest sponsored by Samsung Electronics of America.

Roberts' essay won Bloomington High School South $20,000 worth of electronics through Microsoft, including a 42-inch plasma television and Samsung cameras and printers.

"I'd like to say that I'm a hard worker, but I'm not. I won't lie," he said. "I think I've been extremely lucky these last two years."

Roberts still marks his luckiest moment -- meeting his best friend -- as one totally unrelated to the world of gaming and technology.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have met her," he said.

A member of the IU Gaming Club and IU Marching Hundred, Roberts plans to declare a major in the biology field with plans to become a pediatrician.


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