By Meghan Mulhern
Staff Writer Host
Jimmy Failla asks, “What song did Pharell Williams sing at the 2015 Grammys?” Hushed, panicked whispers travel in waves across the crowd as they try to figure out the answer. They busily type in the answer as quickly as possible. Each person hits send on the text in haste. The announcer then checks his phone, and calls out the number of the person who sent the correct answer in first. One person cheers, the others groan and begrudgingly clap. The winner steps up to the stage to claim a crisp ten-dollar bill from the other host, Dean Imperial. Text Wars is reasonably simple. Each participant texts the answer to trivia questions to the Text Wars number. The first text sent with the correct answer wins. The winner gets cash in reward. The technology behind the game, however, is a little more complicated. To prevent issues with slow service, the text is first sent through one or two different apps made by the creators of Text Wars. The app authenticates texts and detects messages quicker than many service providers. Once the winning text is through the app process, it arrives at Jimmy Failla’s phone.
Text Wars, and its impressive technology, are not just for the purpose of entertaining college students. The game is simply being tested on college campuses across the United States, preparing for a final version that will one day become a TV show. “The goal is to test the technology to prepare for the TV version of the game,” says Failla. Failla and his co-host, Dean Imperial, travel to about fifty schools of all sizes every year to test the game. Some schools pay for as much as a few thousand dollars in prize money. Sometimes, companies looking to promote their new products sponsor the game. Failla said, “Once, we visited a school and Apple sponsored us to pass out a new product they were testing.” In addition to visiting college campuses testing their game, Failla and Imperial are full time comedians. They travel all over for their job, but Sewanee is one of their favorite places to visit. Failla said, “We love it here! We love the food [at the Smokehouse]!”