Seattle, WA - Two hours worth of work lost on a term paper or coding
project is a nightmare that most students like to avoid, but many
students are tempting fate just for fun. A new, dangerous game is
sweeping college campuses and it is causing more harm to academic
records than unlimited bandwidth ever did. It's called "Blue
Screen Chicken" (BSC) or "DLL Duel" by the participants.
It's a face-to-face showdown of wills over who will flinch and save
The game is usually played at college computer labs. Students decide
on several programs, usually between 8 and 10, that use large amounts
of resources or that are particularly crash prone (Netscape 4.7 with
a Java applet loaded, ICQ and MS Money are common choices). These
programs are loaded into memory before starting work on their projects.
Now the race is on. The students must continue working on their project
without any safety net until someone chickens out and saves, prints
or does anything else to preserve their work. A crash by either competitor
ends the game in a draw.
"I noticed the computer started slowing down. The mouse got
sluggish. I was torn between saving my hour and a half of work and
beating that bastard Goldman," said Ryan Hendricks a self-proclaimed
BSC addict. "When I ALT-Tabbed back to Word from Photoshop,
It took a full 10 seconds for the screen to re-draw. I wasn't gonna
give in, but the for some unknown reason I decided to listen to some
tunes and started RealPlayer. Blue screen for me and another victory
For many students losing a game of BSC means late nights, missed
deadlines and lower grades. Professors report that "losing a
game of BSC" has become the top excuse students give for late
projects surpassing "There was 2 for 1 on pitchers at Shooter's
Many computer lab monitors have expressed concern over the competitions. "To
the students, it's all fun and games, aside from their potential
minor loss of a paper. But WE'RE the ones that have to go give the
machine the three-finger salute and uninstall all those buggy programs.
That pisses me off," said lab assistant Dan Yaeger. "I
mean, this is just work-study. I shouldn't actually have to DO anything."
Fran Kessler, a Debian Linux user is the champion of BSC on her
campus. "Well, I never lose. My box never crashes so I never
have to worry about losing my term papers. However, the professor
can't open OpenOffice.org .sxw files, so I still get screwed in the
For some the standard DLL Duel isn't enough. These thrill seekers
engage in extreme versions of the game where the competition is held
during a lightning storm, or only hours before the project is due.
One BSC player compared playing the game to other extreme sports
such as mountain biking and snowboarding, "I don't have any
athletic ability, but that doesn't mean I can't play with fire."
For a growing number of students "playing with fire" means
a crash and burn. The thrill of winning quickly fades and they move
to riskier behavior such as loading Windows 95. It's a vicious cycle
that usually ends with academic expulsion. If you find yourself in
this spiral a hotline has been set up to assist you at 1-800-DONT-CRASH.
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