Millburn, NJ – After four gruesome rounds, Matt Jacob and Cole Paulson have been declared the winners of Water Wars 2016. But at what cost? Sure, Jacob and Paulson will be remembered by many for years to come. And yes, Water Wars will be a game played for many years after they have graduated. However, for Jacob and Paulson, they will never get those four gruesome weeks back. Better yet, imagine a player like Jordan Shiffman, who got seven of his eight targets out only losing in the last round ultimately getting nothing in return. Shiffman dedicated four weeks of his life to Water Wars ultimately to come up short.
Some reading this article might not know what Water Wars is exactly. Well, in the most simplest of terms, Water Wars is a competitive game where two players are on a team and their goal is to get their targets out. If they get their targets out they make it to the next round. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! In attempt to get your targets out, each team needs to make sure that they themselves don’t get shot in the process. Meanwhile there are some areas where a person cannot be shot (otherwise known as a “Safe Zone”). For example, a person cannot be shot at school or walking to or from school, at a place of work, or at a school sponsored event like a sports game or band concert. There are more rules and “Safe Zones”, but these are just a couple of the most basic ones.
Now back to Shiffman, many say he and his partner, Kyle Yu, played “the best game” throughout all the rounds of Water Wars. When some people cannot get their targets they resort to a “buyout” in which they pay the players that they are after in order to get into the next round. Shiffman never had to resort to a buyout, instead he managed to shoot all of his targets. Well, all but one.
That is what made losing in the finals even more frustrating for Shiffman. When asked about the “buyout” Shiffman said, “The most important thing for me was the win, and I also wanted to make money. So, if I were to win with two winners [essentially buying another team out] I’d have to pay off Joe [another player in the final round] and also pay the buyout fee so I’d be left with [less money for myself].”
Some may call Shiffman a little greedy because he did not want to buy someone else out. Others may say that Shiffman’s actions were admirable and how the game should be truly played. As the final round came to a close, Shiffman had made a few alliances that had been broken and ultimately, he was never able to shoot his target, Jake Sauberman (who was partners with Dan Antselevich). Paulson and Jacob on the other hand, with the help of Dan Antselevich, paid off their targets and became the champions of Water Wars 2016. Although Antselevich officially did not win, he still split the winnings with Jacob and Paulson. When asked about not being declared the official winner, Antselevich said, “Well, it definitely would have been really nice to get the glory of winning, but in the end it is really about the money.”
Interestingly enough, after totally dedicating four weeks of his life to Water Wars, for Antselevich, it was more important to make a profit from the game than to actually win. Both Antselevich and Shiffman agreed that it is more important to make money from this game than it is to win. Ironically, this mindset contrasts with the mindset of many Millburn students. Coming from one of the most competitive schools in the nation, most Millburn students would argue that it would be more important to win.
The official winners, Jacob and Paulson, had a similar mindset going into the final round. Jacob said in an interview that “going into the final round we wanted to make as much money as possible […] but we also wanted to be the winners”.
However, coming from Millburn, with the competitive mindset all of the students have developed over time, one may wonder how competitive this game would be if no money was involved. That would truly show the competitiveness of the game itself. In all honestly, many would agree that the game would not lose its competitiveness, and people would still play with the same intensity.
Reflecting upon his defeat, Shiffman did something out of the ordinary for him. He posted on Facebook reflecting his Water Wars adventure. His post stated:
“I don’t post very often, but I feel like I have to say something:
Water Wars has dominated my life for the past 4 weeks. I entered the game this year knowing little to none about it. I did not participate in my junior year and, this year, I decided to join with a few days left. Soon enough, it became an obsession; as time went on, it consumed me more and more. Even when I was doing something else, all I could think about was how I was going to shoot someone or how to avoid being shot. However, 4 weeks later, after shooting 7 out of 8 targets, executing fake kills, creating fake texts, curling up in a ball for hours to hide behind cars, lying face down in the wet grass, sneaking into gyms, and telling countless elaborate lies… here I am, leaving the game with a loss of $15 that had been spent on the initial buy-in.
For those that have played already and will again, or those that are yet to play, there are a few things that I’d like to mention. Don’t take it too seriously, and don’t allow your life to revolve around it. It’s just not worth it. As the game goes on, you will start to hate it more and more. The most important thing is just to have fun with it. There’s no reason to make enemies or have hard feelings towards someone just because of a game. Also, if you make it to the last round, don’t be greedy. Take a buyout if you are offered one. And keep in mind, when you think you have the best scheme, your scheme is being outdone by someone else’s scheme.
Finally, shoutout to Kyle Yu for surviving this long journey with me.”
Shiffman’s statement made many people begin to question the game. Is winning Water Wars really worth the time and effort that was spent on it? Someone like Shiffman, who put in just as much work if not more than Paulson and Jacob, ended up with nothing. Some food for thought when deciding whether or not to play next year or in the years after.
Jacob and Paulson were both in agreement that it was worth it. Paulson said, “I mean it’s always worth it when you get something out of it, but like I feel like if we didn’t win anything then it probably wouldn’t of been worth it, but because we won it, it was definitely worth it.” Jacob responded similarly by saying, “For us definitely worth it cause we won, but you gotta feel for someone like Jordan Shiffman. He shot seven out of his eight targets and came up with a lot of elaborate schemes and ultimately walked away with nothing.”
While describing the game Antselevich said that “it’s definitely a great game. It tests your mental strength with how you can handle against that kind of stress and pressure and it really shows what you can personally do against other people that are working against you. And it can build great relationships like our alliance with Cole, but, it can also make you some great enemies like Shiffman”.
Paulson, Jacob, Antselevich, and Shiffman were all in agreement that if you do decide to play the game that you should not take it to personally. They all believed that at the end of the day, it is just a game, and although it can get intense, people should try not to take it too personally. All four of them recommended the game for people interested in playing next year, but they cautioned that it can get intense and emphasized not to take the game too personally.
Although none of them betrayed a good friend, it is quite common to see friendships hurt or ruined by Water Wars. The competitive nature of the game forces people to betray even their best of friends, but ultimately, people should understand that it is just a game and nothing should be taken personally.
So after four gruesome rounds, Matt Jacob and Cole Paulson go down in the history books as the winners of Water Wars 2016. Commissioner LJ Horowitz said that “over 100 teams entered the competition at the start”. So winning the competition takes a lot of hard work, but also a little bit of luck. Paulson and Jacob prove that anyone can win Water Wars if they play with the right mindset. Jacob said that they “decided that they were going to play the night before”.
So next year as Water Wars 2017 approaches ask yourself one question before playing: Is it really worth it? To some the answer may be yes, to others the answer may be no, but ultimately take the advice of Paulson, Jacob, Shiffman, and Antselevich: Don’t take the game too seriously!
I’d like to thank and congratulate the winners Matt Jacob and Cole Paulson. Also, I would like the thank Jordan Shiffman, Dan Antselevich, and LJ Horowitz for taking their time to make this article possible.