Passing the Torch

The first two Pankrations didn’t really have a title – it was just a personal tradition. I played video games starting at sunset the Monday before Thanksgiving because a) as a rule I didn’t play games during the school semester and b) no one goes to class that Tuesday. It was only the third year that I started to invite people to play with me. Last year we had close to a hundred people participating on two continents (three, if you count Turkey as two in itself). This year, two of my former pledges took on all the publicity and planning for the event. They made shirts. And it’s good, too, because I forgot to participate.

I’ve realized that I have several boyish habits that I’ll have to get rid of, or at least severely minimize, when I get married in less than a month. When I list them off to people, I often include watching Farscape for hours at a time or buying comic books without forethought, but really there is one habit that dominates this category. Video games. Yes, adults can play them, but after I’m married I know that I can’t fight dragons with an sword and a shield for two hours each night. Maybe not two hours each week. And who would want to? Though it’s possible to get married in some video games, from my understanding its much more rewarding when real.

Kind of a solo thing, anway

I value video games as one path of imagination. I think that playing good games, like watching good movies or reading good books, opens you up to new ideas and new ways to tell a story. But also I realize that sometimes I’d rather be fighting a dragon than a cedar tree with a pole saw. In those instances, it may not be as healthy as, say, sit ups.

Marriage, many websites tell me, is a give and take process. And without being told I know that video games is something I am going to give. Possibly the whole Pankration, though I’ll have to wait until next year to find out. Or until Mass Effect 3 comes out.

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5th Annual Pankration

I divide my readership in half – former fraternity brothers and my mom. But there’s a small unaccounted percent that get redirected here when they Google information for a Fulbright ETA grant. This is for you.

Besides being a handsome maintenance worker, I also have a history inventing things, including Imagifighting, the sport of Phishball, and the line of Legos entitled, “Dragons vs. Robots.” My corporate petitions have gone unanswered. But additionally, I invented a holiday my sophomore year of college called the Pankration. Pronounced Pan-krat-i-on, it’s a sun-down to sun-up video game marathon starting the Monday before Thanksgiving. I originally created it because no one goes to class the next day and I wanted to play Mass Effect, which came out at midnight that first Pankration eve. Now, the holiday is in its fifth year, and while its still not recognized by the national government, we’re printing shirts for the second time.

(I should also mention that I invent Laffy Taffy jokes. For instance:

How do insects surf the internet?

A spider web.

You walked right into that one.)

Last year marked the first time the holiday went international – I played Final Fantasy VII on my 2006 MacBook Pro for twelve hours in Turkey. I was joined by a few other fellow Fulbrighters scattered across eastern Turkey who had similar interests.

This year I’ll be moving away from Final Fantasy games (I’ve played them the last three Pankrations) and play Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, which comes out November 11th, a marketing scheme I’m sure was designed to make the game eligible for my holiday. If you’d like to participate, we’ll start at sundown on November 21st. You can buy shirts here.

Prepare for the Pankration

>In a week and a half I’ll be celebrating the fourth annual Pankration (Pan-krat-e-on, not pan-kray-shun; it’s not a medical operation). The Pankration is a video game holiday that I made up four years ago. Since then it’s grown to be honored by dozen(s) of people, mostly my ex-pledges in the fraternity. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.

For those of you who do not know, SPOILERS AHEAD. Like I said, the Pankration is a video game holiday, a gaming marathon from sunset the Monday before Thanksgiving until sunrise the following Tuesday. It started in 2007 when I decided not to go to class the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Now I’m extending an offer for you to be as lazy as me.

Ever want to be this man? On Nov. 22, you can.

(The name is Greek; pan, meaning all, and kratos, meaning awesome, roughly translated. Literally, strength, as in all-strength, but the Greeks hadn’t yet invented the word awesome because they had yet to play video games. In ye olden days, the Pankration was an actual Olympic event between Greek city states, a wrestling match with three rules – no eye gouging, the fight ends when the sun goes down, and no Spartans. Spartans would never give up, so a number of them ended up dying before they were banned.)

This will mark the first time the Pankration has ever had an international following. I’ll remain in Van, Turkey for the festivities. I asked off but since my department head couldn’t pronounce the name, he said he thought it would be best if I taught my classes on Monday, which, since Daylight Savings Time, now end right after sunset.

Unlike the original event, participation is open to everyone, so please join in. The only piece of electronics I have with me in Turkey is my 2006 MacBook Pro – if I can’t get my pirated copy of Final Fantasy VII to work, I’ll be playing Knights of the Old Republic (both of these games would be in third grade or higher if they were humans. The technology in Turkey is sort of limited).

It Is Finished

At my house, we don’t have a television, or internet. We’re off the grid, just in case the robots come looking for me. Therefore, I don’t play video games during the semester. I [SARCASM BEGINS] focus on school work [SARCASM ENDS] instead. This was the original purpose of the Pankration – to provide a video game binge after a semester in rehab. Thus, I spent months (literally, months) of deliberating which game I would play, oscillating between titles like Dragon Age: Origin and Fallout 3. Last week I sat down with my little brother in the fraternity, Tim Yopp, and asked his advice. After a solid half hour, we decided on Final Fantasy VIII, a RPG released in 1999 for the original PlayStation. I had to go back a decade to get the proper Pankration experience. That’s why I’m the Laser Wolf (which I just decided is the title of the head of the Pankration. I’m shooting from the hip, but I think it will stick).

Final Fantasy VIII uses Roman numerals instead of Arabic characters to communicate that it is a very serious game. It uses four discs, and Tim told me it took him ninety (90) hours to beat the game. That’s like four days. Without ever sleeping.
I fell asleep around 3:30. At that time, I had been playing for ten hours, and I had completed the first disk and turned off the console in order to put in the second. That was my mistake. I should never had given my body a chance to escape. Curse my flesh! It can’t even play a video game for ninety hours!
I love Japanese stories. They are entirely too melodramatic; they always involve young people embroiled in strong emotions. There’s always an unexplainable, spiritual element circulating. Some nights, I will go to Blockbuster without a specific movie in mind, just with the parameters that it must be anime, because I want to experience emotions so over the top that human actors couldn’t pull them off.
Final Fantasy VIII is no different. It’s everything I hoped for in my own life, but cannot have, because the leading scientists it the world still can’t figure out how to make swords in the shape of eight foot long planks of wood.
My pledges all reported in yesterday. They all saw the sunrise; most fell asleep immediately afterwards, around 5:30. One, David, made it to 7:02 exactly. I’m not sure what’s significant about that. I talked to Tim Yopp around lunchtime. He still hadn’t slept. He was just starting his third game.

Today is the Pankration

Two years ago tonight, I created a monster, and by monster I mean the acronym M.O.N.S.T.E.R., More Oreos, No Strong Tea ETERNAL RAMPAGE! (exclamation mark my past self’s emphasis, not present self mine). I acknowledge that I threw out grammar for the sake of the final acronym, and yes, I’ll come close to but not entirely follow through with admitting that I started with the word monster and worked backwords. However, I can explain.

Two years ago tonight, I bought a gallon of Arizona Iced Tea and a package of Double Stuffed Oreos, along with several double-A batteries for my 360 controller and the game Mass Effect. This was the first Pankration, as I played from sundown to sunup the Monday before Thanksgiving. I skipped all my Tuesday classes.

Last year, with the same supplies, I logged twelve straight hours into Final Fantasy X. That Pankration heralded a new era of holiday, as I finished celebrating a week later. I played over thirty hours that week.

Previously, I have been the only person to honor the Pankration. My goal this year was to raise participation at least 10%. Even the Olympics can’t claim to do that. Instead, through an aggressive marketing campaign that enslaved the pledges to promote my holiday, there’s now over 250 people from multiple states and college campuses that will pankratronize. That’s several month’s worth of video games, in one night.

I got the name from my Classics teacher, Dr. Levine, who has hair like Kid from Kid ‘n’ Play, and huge black rimmed glasses that someone could punch through without touching the frames. He told me that the Pankration was an ancient Greek combat event where the only two rules were 1) no gouging of eyes, and 2) no biting. As apart of the Olympics, all nations competed in the event except the Spartans, who would never surrender and thus died in competition whenever they lost.

Piggybacking on the historical validity of the old Pankration, I linked from its Wikipedia page to create my own, which was sadly deleted. However, the talk page is still open. Visiting it, you will notice there is a strong and honorable fight between the editors of Wikipedia and some unknown elements. Those are pledges. I told them of the movement to delete the page, and they led a valiant crusade to keep the page legitimate as well as existant.

You can witness the argument go downhill, however, at the point where a user with the name “Half Man Half Rancor (Mancor)” enters the arena and challenges the editor who was our main antagonist, “Singularity42,” to “prove that he is in fact a human and not a cyborg trying to infiltrate the plans for a mass expansion of the Pankration sensation.” He then demands that Singularity42 cite his sources as to his humanity. At another point, he attempts to appeal to Mr. Wikipedia, and upon discovering there’s no such person, he tries to spin that fact into the argument that made up things are still legitimate.

I haven’t yet identified Half Man Half Rancor (Mancor).

I am proud, though, that we put up enough of a fight that one of the head editors of Wikipedia thought the issue had enough relevance to sum up the arguement after the page was deleted. He said this:

“The result was a snowball delete. The discussion has spawned a lot of confusion and some rancor. As for the confusion, the repeated references to [the article] Wikipedia is not for things made up one day made it appear that Wikipedia’s standard for inclusion is existence. It’s not. Instead, the issue here is notablity…But that has not swayed the consensus in the discussion, which is trending heavily and irreversibly delete. Where a discussion is certain to lead to only one outcome, it’s time to close it.”

I feel like this is an equivalent of a Supreme Court decision, which provides a precedent for all other similar minded cases. This is the Pankration’s legacy. Also, no word yet if the editor meant to pun when he said the discussion spawned some rancors.

Capture the Officer

The pledge mission this week was Capture the Officer. For three days, from noon to midnight, pledges had to track down, chase, tackle, and tie up the executive officers of the fraternity. We did not go quietly. The police can attest to that, in at least one case.

Our pledges are divided up into four houses, named after four of the founding fathers of the fraternity. Each pledge mission is worth house points, and the cumulative house point total for the semester decides who wins the Area Cup, the prestigious pledgeship trophy. Yes, this all came from Harry Potter. That would make me Dumbledore, and all I have to say to that is, I’vepretended to be lesser wizards before.
Points were attached to the circumstances of the capture, to make the competition more interesting. Fifty points were given for each individual capture, but bonus points were available; these points were earned by the items or setting of the hostage picture the house took. Here’s a quick menu:
In the Union food court – 25 points
On a moped – 25 points
Kissed by sorority girls – 25 points
In a shopping cart – 50 points
In Barnes and Noble – 50 points
At Mount Sequoyah – 50 points
Buying the office ice cream – 75 points
Riding go carts – 75 points
With a live horse – 100 points
You can see the logic behind some of these. I love Barnes and Noble. Most guys like kisses. All the officers love ice cream. The horse was sort of a “what the hay” thing – I didn’t think it would actually be done. Little did I know.
These could also be combined. If the officer was eating ice cream at Barnes and Noble astride a live horse, that’s 225 points, plus the fifty for the initial capture. That being said, let’s score some of these photos, you and I.
This is Jessie Green; he was the first to be captured. Since all the doors were locked, the House of Duke broke through a window screen in his basement, came up the stairs and pulled him out of the top bunk he sleeps in every night like he’s a five year old. Kudos for the special operations night vision, but that’s all. 50 points.
Jessie had a rough night Tuesday. House of Wagner. 50 points. No extra for caressing.
Our president Lowell, captured by the House of Miller on Thursday. Lowell’s original plan was to lock his doors every day at noon and not come out for any reason until the next morning. He even made a grocery run before the game started. This plan fell through, though, when two complete houses came to his house on Wednesday night demanding his blood in some sort of spiritual communion exercise. This spooked him enough to attempt to switch hide outs, at which point he was captured. Ice cream, shopping cart, and girls make this worth 200 points.
The House of Miller’s capture of me. They followed me from the library, waited for an hour outside the Kappa house (because the Kappa’s refused to let them in), and then ran me down like a loose puppy trying to make it to freedom in the middle of the road. Marks for moped and girls; 100 points.
Also note David Norris, who is wearing a Pankration shirt. He’s been a major force in the promotion of my holiday, and tells me there are 200 people in a Facebook group committed to a Pankration celebration. He even made flyers.
Miller’s capture of both Eric Barnes and Andy Brown. Miller was a busy house on Thursday, capturing in all six officers. These captures came off tips from the paterfamilias of their house, Ryan Miller himself. That’s like Godric Gryffindor catching the Golden Snitch. Okay, maybe more like Helga Hufflepuff. Two officers, two mopeds, ice cream for all: 300 points.
The House of Cooper captured me on Wednesday. They waited outside my Classical Literature class, and chased me literally halfway across campus before I collapsed like an asthmatic. They duct taped my arms from the wrist to the elbow, and my legs from the ankles to the knees. They put me in a truck with a bag over my head. They tickled me.
I tried to resist at every possible moment. Escape wasn’t really an option, because I moved like a pogo stick, but every time the cab door opened, I managed to fall out onto the pavement. I wouldn’t stand, either – I’d make them put my dead weight back into the truck.
Sorority girls, moped, shopping cart, AND live horses: 250 points. They would have gotten 75 more with ice cream, but one of the pledges put the ice cream sandwich in my hands before they took the picture. That’s a mistake. Before they could get the camera turned on, I ate the entire sandwich with the wrapper still on. You can’t see it, but my face is covered in chocolate.
I like to think of all this as training for when my cover as a human is eventually blown. I’LL TELL YOU NOTHING!

A Real Life Video Game Character

Until last week’s Halloween game against Eastern Michigan, I hadn’t attended an Arkansas football game in over a year. This is due in part to listlessness, in part to the small amount of homework that I put in the upper cabinets of free time, and in part because I simply forgot to buy tickets. I can’t force pledges to give me their ticket vouchers every week, can I? (I actually can, but the listless part of me always makes it seem like too much work to make them do so.)

However, I count my attendance at the Eastern Michigan game a miracle no degrees short of a dove descending from heaven and a loud voice saying, “Behold my servant Cass, on whose account I have mixed feelings.” Because that day, I saw Garrus Vakarian in person.
I’ve known Garrus for about two years now; we met initially during the first Pankration, when I played Mass Effect. I was playing it, he was in it. From there, we met off and on, mostly during holidays, when I would pick up saved games which were in the middle of exciting plot developments. Garrus and I would spend hours killing the dastardly robotic geth, hunting down mischievous mad scientists, and tracking the rogue spectre Sarren using our powers of deduction. We were a great team. Some nights, when it got really dark, I would forget that Garrus was a graphic summoned off of a storage disk, and think that, for the first time, I had met someone with whom I could share my hatred of robots.
At halftime during the Arkansas – Eastern Michigan game, with a score of rock to scissors (there was no way Eastern Michigan was getting out of that one, even if it was best two out of three), the Arkansas Alumni Association honored a group of graduates who had ventured out into the world and made their fortune. Among them was Brandon Keener, who they announced as an actor from Fort Smith. Intrigued, I went to the library (I don’t have the internet at my house; this way they’ll never find me) and Googled him. And God said, “Behold Brandon Keener, who voiced your best friend Garrus Vakarian in Mass Effect.”
Garrus Vakarian! I saw him, from a distance of around a hundred yards. Plus a significant elevation change. I invented the Pankration just to be with him. And he walked out of my life without me knowing it.
The whole situation reminded me of an ancient Greek myth. One day, Apollo was walking through the fields at Delphi when he heard the wind carrying a beautifully melody. He immediately fell in love with the voice an flew off in search of the singer, knowing that when he met her, he would make her his bride (or rape her and then she would bear his bastard offspring – this is how Greek myths actually worked). He flew over forests and mountains, past mortals and gods, in search of his beloved, who he could not find. Eventually, exhausted, he stopped in a grove of olive trees. There, washing clothes at the water’s edge, was a beautiful maiden. He asked her, “Do you know of a girl who sings a most beautiful melody? I am in love, and I will make her my bride/rape her and she will bear my bastard offspring.” She sheepishly looked away and said, “I know this girl.” Apollo asked, “Is she close by?” “Ay,” the maiden said, “she is here in this grove.” Then the maiden began to sing, and Apollo realized that Garrus Vakarian was his only true friend, and he was ashamed that he didn’t recognize Brandon Keener when the man was a hundred yards away from him.
Do not fear: Garrus has been announced as one of the characters in Mass Effect 2, out at the end of January. Announced. As if the video game designers could keep best friends apart.

Save the Pankration!

I’ll admit – I have never posted about the Pankration before. I promise to explain it in full, but I’m assuming if you’re reading this blog, I’ve probably told you in person, so anything I write on this website I’ll just embellish. But that’s why you read it. Because when I write, I turn my brain off and write ridiculous things like this.

However, you must act quickly to save the Pankration from wikiocide! That’s right, I wasn’t thinking, I just turned my brain off and the word “wikiocide” came out. If you’re curious how I come up with posts, that’s a perfect example. Rechecking Wikipedia this morning to calm the fears which I had hoped were unfounded, fears that told me the article I wrote concerning the video game holiday I made up called the Pankrationhad been deleted, I found this:

“It has been proposed that this article be deleted because of the following concern:
Not notable. See WP:ONEDAY.”
My first reaction was elation. For someone to post this, that meant that they had to have actually read my article, and now they have knowledge of the Pankration. And knowledge of the Pankration is like a virus: once you have it, you can never fully get rid of it. You can only hide it, until it surfaces every ten years like syphilis and you are publicly shamed.
I followed the link to WP:ONEDAY (with the help of technology, you can too!) and I was so surprised by what I found that I killed a man by putting a butter knife up through his jaw all the way into his brain. Never sneak up on me again, Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia is not for things you or your friends made up. If you have invented something novel in your school, your garage, or the pub, but it has not yet become known to the rest of the world, please do not write about it on Wikipedia. Write about it on your own website or blog instead.”
First off, I cannot start a retort until pointing out the aristocratic insult that insinuates that I might have invented the Pankration in a school building, a garage, or a bar. The Pankration was born in my head like Athena, and spilled out of my ears like a rainbow waterfall in the land ruled by koala bears. It is not novel – it is revolutionary (but only if you’re playing a video game that involves you taking part in a revolution).
But listen closely, Wikipeedmypants, because I know you read my blog – just like you read my article on the video game holiday known as the Pankration. Wikipedia is only for things taht I or my friends have made up. Each word on that site has been made up by someone sitting at a keyboard, and each of those typists is someone’s friend (except you). I consider your website the only valid option for posting false information, stae secrets, and lies that I’ve had to stop telling children because they called me out on them. Furthermore, you don’t work for Wikipedia. You are not getting paid to delete my article. By deleting my article, you are only depriving millions of Eastern European children the chance to enjoy video games from sunset to sunrise. That’s millions of sunsets that you’ve just stolen. You are the main villian in the next dream that I have.
I will never give up! You may be able to delete my article on a holiday that I invented, but you cannot delete my soul, and that’s what counts. The only ones who can delete my soul are the Master Friends, who watch over the computer program that we’re all hooked up to that simulates life while simeltaneously using our brains as billions of organic computers that power their starship as it works to stop what we know as Alpha Centauri from going super nova and destroying the life force that binds the universe together.
Did you see what I did there? I just started typing, and I had no idea where I was going.