On Friday, April 24th from 12PM to 5PM, over ten thousand people tuned in for the first-ever digital Penn Relays event hosted in partnership with gaming company Gen.G. And while it wasn’t the typical three days of constant races and a vibrant carnival atmosphere at Franklin Field, it was certainly one to remember.
Before COVID-19 foiled any chance for the 126th consecutive running of the Relays, there were plans for an e-sport element to happen in conjunction with the races. So when it became clear that number 126 was a no-go, Executive Director of the Penn Relays, Scott Ward, set bigger plans into motion.
Andrew Guo and fellow students got to work creating “Penncraft” after Penn began to take social distancing measures due to the Coronavirus. It was only a matter of time before there was a Minecraft version of Franklin Field, and the Digital Relays came to life.
Using Minecraft’s feature that allows users to create a universe, Gen.G created the famous Franklin Field that will feature a few custom-built courses. Instead of the usual hurdles and steeples, users will now have to speedrun (the term for running in the gaming world) around lava and ice barriers. Team competitions will take place on individual runs and the total time will be collected from all participating members.Andrew Dawson for Runner’s World
While the digital competition was a success, there’s an entire community of runners and spectators who will be rearing to go on the last Thursday in April next year. The oldest and largest track and field meet in the world can’t be replaced by a video game. But I’m hoping that the collaboration with Gen.G exposed a new generation of young gamers to the history and tradition of The Penn Relays.