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Today's headlines

It's 'The Game' for Silicon Valley execs and it's for real

They spend up to $1.8

Straits Times
6 Aug 2001

LOS ANGELES - Some of Silicon Valley's smartest and richest young men will gather at a secret location next weekend to compete in a bizarre game that tests their physical and intellectual limits.

The 30-hour game, which is described as a cross between a James Bond thriller and a challenging TV quiz show, will see some West Coast millionaires forking out as much as US$1 million (S$1.8 million) to compete for a small black obelisk.

But the trophy is not what drives the male thirty-something computer executives and tycoons, with IQs of more than 140, to win, according to Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

What is at stake is the honour of beating some of the smartest people in Silicon Valley.

One executive reportedly received a US$30,000 bonus when his bosses learnt that he had done well in last year's chase across Seattle, Washington.

The game was devised in 1985 by Microsoft employee Joe Belfiore but it was Paul Allen, the co-founder of Bill Gates' software giant, who financed its transformation into an underground game with cult-like following among the super-rich.

Expectedly, the competition is fierce. One wealthy team leader has gone to the extent of reserving airline tickets for Berlin, Rome and London because the venue is not yet announced.

The game, a well-guarded secret, has been played out across North American cities for the past 15 years. But as it becomes more ambitious in scope, its details are beginning to seep out.

A team leader told The Sunday Times: 'Every year the game takes a different form, from foiling a spy plot to helping a friendly alien escape Earth.

'You follow 30 clues that can take you anywhere, so you have to be prepared for everything. I could spend up to US$1 million on equipment for our team, from the latest laptop computers, night-vision goggles and satellite receivers to electric saws, scuba gear and a microlight aircraft. We have to be prepared.'

Clues in the past, the newspaper quoted a player as saying, included spotting a fake weather report on local television that gave directions to a street vendor.

In the hollow eggs that the vendor stocked was the telephone number of a supermarket where a block of ice contained another clue.

Mock arrests and assassination attempts to blur the line between the event and reality have been featured in some previous games and have antagonised the police.

Even Hollywood has been inspired to produce a film called The Game, in which actor Michael Douglas plays a San Francisco millionaire who is given an entry into the contest as a birthday gift.


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