Brian Bolinger, chief executive officer of the Texas State Historical Association, had a feeling that the Denton-based nonprofit organization’s new “Virtual Race Across Texas” online game would be a hit with Texas history buffs.
How big a hit? Enough people participated to crash the server on the first day.
“We had 8,000 people sign up to play during the first 24 hours,” Bolinger said. “It kinda overwhelmed us a bit, but we were pleasantly surprised that so many people logged on to play and learn more about Texas history.”
The free game, which began March 9, runs through March 31. Winners can lay claim to in-state travel packages, a big-screen TV, a Texas-size barbecue grill and many other items.
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The Virtual Race is in commemoration of March being Texas History Month.
The first week’s questions were about the Texas Revolution; this week will be about Texas’ network of frontier forts.
The final week will educate players on “Texas treasures,” Bolinger said, “about places they may not know about and may never have been to.”
Players rack up points by correctly answering multiple-choice questions about Texas history. Participants are allowed to click on the TSHA’s Texas Almanac online edition to make sure they’ve picked the right answer. Players can double their points by enlisting 10 friends to play the game as well.
“We have well over 10,000 people online every day playing, and only about 1,500 were [TSHA] members,” Bolinger said.
“We want to get people who don’t know about us playing and learning about Texas history.”
Bolinger said the process of putting the game together took six months. The TSHA’s education department came up with the questions and bonus follow-up questions, which Bolinger said were the most difficult.
The questions were vetted by Mike Campbell, the group’s chief historian and the Lone Star Chair of History at the University of North Texas.
A Boerne woman was in first place Sunday afternoon with 8,500 points.
“We’re very excited,” Bollinger said. “This is the first time we’ve done it.”
Some 175,000 people played the TSHA’s “Are You Smarter Than a Texas Seventh Grader” online game last year. Public school students are taught Texas history in the fourth and seventh grades.
Sample questions in the Virtual Race include, “Who coined the battle cry, ‘Remember the Alamo’?” and “When and where did Texans first dare the Mexican Army to ‘Come And Take It’?”
People 18 and older can play and win prizes; those 13 to 17 can play but are only eligible to win the weekly prizes.
Those who join the race now won’t get left behind.
“It doesn’t matter,” Bollinger said. “There are catch-up provisions, and everyone who even attempts to answer questions is entered in a chance to to win a two-night stay at the Hyatt Lost Pines in Bastrop.”
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657