"If any of my competitors were drowning, I'd stick a hose in their mouth."
-Ray Kroc, McDonald's Founder
Were you to peek into the maximum-security recesses of our dark lair on any other day, you would find the fine men and women of Bungie toiling as a unified team in the quarries of art and code. But on Friday, January 27th*, we will be torn from our desks, divided into four schools by tenure, clustered into strike teams led by captains drunk with power, and sent into battle. This is our day to shed the thin veneer of friendship and ruin our workplace relationships in ways that will take all year to rebuild.
This is the Winter Pentathlon. It begins with an opening ceremony to reinforce the oaths that we all have sworn. On bended knee our veterans will prostrate themselves at the altar of World Domination. The fates themselves will then collide in trials as diverse as the warriors that will participate in them for glory, honor, and immortality.
*Seems even the fates can't make it into work when it snows in Seattle.
Along with Bagel Fridays and Chuckie’s naked ass, the Winter Pentathlon is among the most cherished traditions at Bungie. It’s a celebration of games, and a reminder of why we make them.
To lend some context on this cornerstone of our shared culture, I paid homage to the Exalted Committee that plans the affair. Behold the historic wisdom of Grizzled Ancient, Dave Dunn.
How will this Pentathlon live up to the wild expectations that are swirling through the studio?
We’ve jumped up the number of scored events to 9 to try to encourage all the employees to play in something. With so many more people having joined Bungie, we felt we needed more opportunities for people to participate.
Which School (or “Skool” if ye be Olde) will emerge victorious?
I think all the pundits agree that the Grizzled Ancients will scrap and claw their way to another victory.
You are clearly abusing this official inquiry to exercise a position of bias. Explain the process. How do you guide this event to victory year after year?
We procrastinate as long as we can until we realize that we’re screwed and then we organize a bunch of frantic meetings to draft captains into service, pick events, and plan the day.
Aside from procrastination, what values are weighed most heavily in these frantic meetings as you give shape to the pentathlon?
We try to foster an environment that caters as best we can to all the different types of gamers we have; hardcore competitive, casual, players of videogames, players of traditional games, strategic, etc.
Cater to us Newbies and describe the origins of the trophy that our elderly seem insistent upon calling “The Cup.”
Way back in the day, we decided we needed something to play for other than bragging rights. Joe Staten, I believe, took it upon himself to craft a trophy from a lamp, a colander, and a plastic skull. On a visit to Chicago for the summer pentathlon, the Oni team lost the battle but won the war by stealing the trophy back to California with them. Thus began the phrase “Cup Stays Here” which the Grizzled Ancients have adopted as their battle cry.
But why do you call it a cup? It doesn’t look anything like a cup. My attempts to drink from it have been met with nothing but broken teeth.
Because it sounds better than “Trophy Stays Here.” About four years back we decided we needed a real trophy for the Pentathlon so I came up with the idea of a trophy inspired by the Stanley Cup. I wanted something that represented Bungie – thus the Fist – and had space to engrave the names of the winning team members, like the Stanley Cup tradition.
Behold! The Fist! Now that Dave has revealed all he can about the Pentathlon planning process, allow me to introduce you to the schools who will strive for eternal commemoration on the metal plates that adorn The Cup.
To those about to Pentath, we salute you.
The Four Schools
Huddled over their tennis ball-capped walkers, the Ancients will stalk slowly and painfully toward a victory that they feel is their birthright. Attempts to retrofit a typewriter to serve as a peripheral to play DOTA2 were abandoned, in favor of bottle-thick bifocals to focus in on the ideal hand in poker. Can this beloved Cup be pried from the vice-like grip of their tonic-soaked dentures?
In a desperate attempt to grasp the fleeting residuals of their youth like sand in an iron grip, the Old Skoolers have intentionally misspelled their own school name. Glory days of Pentathlons past will drive them forward as they defend previous titles. Are their best days behind them? Or have the ages seasoned them as the ultimate power in the studio?
Like the adolescent child striving for attention alongside adorable infants and distinguished adults, Middle Schoolers will struggle to make a name for themselves in the family. Having shrugged off the naïveté of early childhood, the Middle School will issue forth with textbooks strapped to their backs and a prowess to prove. Can they take their rightful seat at the grown ups’ table? Or will they be sent to clean their room without supper?
The pacifier will be spit onto the dusty grotto so that teeth can be gnashed in a blood-thirsty snarl. The voice-stifling fear of saying the wrong thing in a meeting will be replaced with a barbaric yawp. Newbies don’t know well enough to be afraid – very afraid. Will this be their tactical advantage, or their untimely undoing?
The day-long event planned for this cast of players represents a gauntlet of competitions from almost every genre and category imaginable. From the desktop to the tabletop. From the fog of war to the fog machine.
Let’s do this. The competitive shooter in the line-up boasts a class system that fits in lock step with the theme of the day.
DOTA 2 Beta
Each school will cast their best spell to conjure up victory while a live cast tells the tale of their magical battle.
Take the wheel. Mind your torque. Keep that priceless prototype off the wall. It would be a shame to scuff your custom paint job before it
can be judged by race fans.
The boundaries of human intellect will be stretched to the point of shattering. Complex riddles will require the mindshare of entire teams to crack the codes therein. Root beer will be mercilessly drunk.
This challenge will draw from both sides of the brain. Problem solving meets creative expression. Communication will be forced through the prisms of numerous artistic mediums. Including clay.
It’s like a game of horseshoes, only slightly more (if not completely) suitable for indoor use. We already have the divots in our drywall to serve as evidence of much practice.
Texas Hold ‘Em
There is no limit to that which will be wagered. All cards will be wild, from a certain point of view.
Dance Central 2
So you think you can dance? The Bungie Webcams make a triumphant return, andfor those with two left feet there will be nowhere to hide.
Rock Band 3
No celebratory gathering of family would be complete without a house band to murder the classics. A panel of distinguished judges will make the star makers of reality television look like the nicest people you have ever met, while our alpha-geeks channel their inner rock star.
Our At-Home Audience
While we play the roles of the gladiators on a stage of our own making, you will be invited to serve as the carnage starved audience. You are all invited to the party, attending through the virtual interfaces of your choosing. Feast your eyes on Bungie.net this Friday to witness the revelry as it unfolds.
Monitor webcams that reveal the feast and the dance.
Browse photos, uploaded to illustrate the story as it is written.
Decide the winner of the Forza 4 paintjob fashion show in a forum election.
Spectate the gilded mediocrity of our DOTA tournament, along with expert color commentary provided by Tobi Wan from JoinDOTA.com.
Keep an eye out for episodic updates to our scoreboard.
Follow the chorus of Bungie Tweets (@bungietweets)
The Pentathlon awaits.
Victory will choose only the most cunning of the four schools entered into this pageant of jubilation and sport. The rest will be sent home to sulk in a vanquished state, waiting for their next opportunity to settle old scores, birth new legends, and totally redeem themselves.