Guessthics! takes a turn for the meta

AB Tech’s music boomed out of Rangos 1 on Thursday. The atmosphere was reminiscent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Spotlights lit up the audience, building excitement. Technical equipment worth thousands covered the small room; plasma screens, laptops, and soundboards all came together to produce Guessthics!, an ethics game show brought to Carnegie Mellon by Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE).

SIFE’s primary purpose is to reach out and educate people about entrepreneurship. The group, which has grown from four to about 100 since 2000, is organized as a central executive board governing 11 different outreach projects. The two leaders for Guessthics! were first-years Kevin Kwan (a business administration major) and Alex Woo (economics).

Like its title might suggest, Guessthics! is a game show based on business ethics. In past years, the show was simply called “The Ethics Game Show” and attracted very little attendance. The contestants were primarily high school teams and the event took place in McConomy.

“We basically built the show from scratch,” Woo said. The first step was changing the title. The project leaders then introduced a different concept to govern the game and new technology. Replacing high school students, the contestants were members from different organizations on campus. The event was moved to Rangos, which was filled with contributions from AB Tech, cmuTV, and Information Technology (IT).

Another new idea was to encourage audience participation by distributing remote answering devices to everyone who entered. A buzzer system, contributed by Carnegie’s College Bowl team, laid on top of the tables set up for each of the groups. Featuring an assortment of small sandwiches and snacks, in addition to a bombardment of game show music, Guessthics! caught stares from all those walking by.

The contest was broken into three categories: “Flashback,” “Toss Up,” and “Case Study.” Business administration major Lisa Ly, also a first-year, was the emcee for the show. Ly had to improvise a bit due to some minor technical difficulties, but her primary duties were to read questions to the teams and encourage the audience to vote. Each question appeared on the Rangos screen, in addition to the plasmas on either side of the stage, for the viewing of both the audience and the contestants. A scoreboard was also projected off to the side of the stage.

“Flashback” involved multiple-choice questions that asked about business ethics violations in the past several years, such as Enron and Martha Stewart. The audience was allowed to guess an answer for every question, but it had no effect on the results of the round. On the other hand, “Toss Up” was formulated around audience response. After receiving a situation, each team would present an interpretation of and resolution to the problem. It was then the job of the audience to vote for whether or not they agreed with the response given. Finally, the “Case Study” round involved a question about Wal-Mart’s underpaid workers and affordably priced goods. The answering order was randomized, and each team was able to analyze the situation and provide an opinion as to whether or not the government should step in and force Wal-Mart to provide better health care programs to its employees. The audience could then decide which response was the best, and this final round was designed to determine the winner.

There were four groups competing for the aforementioned honor. Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi), SIFE alumni, and the International Student Union (ISU) all sent representatives.
The fourth group, called “The Mob” was — in Ly’s words — “a group of common people representing the masses.” As the contestants became more and more anxious about winning, the atmosphere grew tense with some accidental errors in scoring.

Based on the final scores, AKPsi’s representatives were the winners as SIFE alumni followed close behind. However, many SIFE alumni protested the results, which they insisted included incorrect numbers from the first round. ISU agreed, though any mistakes would have been in their favor. The game show came down to a question of ethics: Should the prize go to SIFE, despite the team’s anger when reporting the mistake? Should the prize go to ISU for telling the truth? Or should AKPsi receive a reward despite the mistakes on the scoreboard?

Ultimately, Kwan and Woo chose to leave it up to the audience. Each team was permitted 10 seconds to plead its case. Kohta Wajima, a senior on the SIFE alumni team, tried to feed off of the humor of the situation and simultaneously plead for his team, saying, “We just wanted the truth to come out. We did not have sexual relations…. [We] wanted the truth to come out under ethical circumstances.” In the end, his testimony didn’t help them. The audience surprised everyone with their choice for the winner: The Mob.

Each team, however, received a partial prize. The audience members were also able to share in the benefits. Guessthics! had many raffles that gave out prizes such as a sled, stainless steel mugs, a George Foreman grill, and an iLamp (a lamp that plays your iPod). The spotlight randomly chose people from the audience to try their luck.

After all this elaborate design, it’s hard to imagine the amount of money Guessthics! required. Kwan and Woo, though, reported that the price of the game show actually came under budget at approximately $1500. Junior Eugene Gaysinskiy, SIFE’s current president, said that most of SIFE’s money comes from “the business department, Student Senate, and corporate sponsors.” Another big contributor is the prize money that SIFE wins from its annual regional and national meets that they usually excel in.

It’s impressive that Guessthics! was created, planned, and executed by the two first-years, Kwan and Woo. Gaysinskiy commented on their work, “About 60 people applied to be project leaders and from that we picked 15. To be a project leader as a freshman, you have to be really good.”

Kwan and Woo led a team to make Guessthics! happen, delegating different aspects of the show to each member of the team. Did it help lessen the workload over the past few months? “No,” said Kwan, “this has been my SIFE.”