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Stop, then go! — UC Irvine sets record for largest red light/green light game in Aldrich Park

Campus Spirit co-commissioners Eduardo Barbero, center, and Leah Beastrom, second from left.
Campus Spirit co-commissioners Eduardo Barbero, center, and Leah Beastrom, second from left, hold the official Guinness World Records certificate for largest game of red light/green light, with a total of 1,415 participants, as they celebrate at UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Sweat dripped down the brow of competitors of all shapes and sizes as a hot September sun beat down on Aldrich Park.

They waited at the top of a grassy knoll. Many knelt, others made the choice to stand. Resting would delay them, and this was a marathon, not a sprint.

Then over the loudspeaker came the cry: “Green light!” And just like that, a veritable horde of students surged toward the stage in search of he who would name them the victors of this game: Peter the Anteater.

On Wednesday afternoon, 1,415 students at UC Irvine set the new Guinness world record for the largest game of red light/green light.

An official counter from the organization verified the results shortly after what was about a 15-minute game. Willamette University in Salem, Ore., set the previous record of 1,203 participants in 2015.

Students cheered, screaming the university’s official battle chant, “Zot! Zot! Zot!” when the announcement was made and a certificate was handed over to campus spirit commissioners who helped organize the event.

Hundreds of UCI students run to tag Peter the Anteater.
Hundreds of UCI students run to tag Peter the Anteater as they participate in breaking the Guinness world record for the largest game of red light/green light on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Looking to break world records is a longtime campus tradition, though the last such effort was made back in 2018 when the Associated Students of UC Irvine organized a game of balloon tag. ASUCI president Sarah Semaan, a fourth-year philosophy and earth system sciences major, said the intent was to kick off this new school year with tradition that was new to many students, including herself.

“I think [red light/green light] made a really big resurgence because of “Squid Game,” I’m not going to lie,” said Semaan, laughing as students shouted “Zot” behind her. “A lot of us, when we were kids, used to play that game as well. So in the spirit of having something that everyone would kind of know how to play, we chose red light/green light ... It’s really rewarding to see how many people turned out to show their school spirit.

“I know it’s a little cringey, and UCI isn’t particularly known for its school spirit, but I think this year is really different. I see a lot of people this year who are really willing to just let go of that conception of ‘Oh, I’m too cool for this’ and just really have fun and play the game.”

Freshman Maximus Cantos, 18, celebrates after being the first participant to tag Peter the Anteater.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Semaan organized the event with Connie Nguyen, vice president of student services, and professional staff.

Nguyen said organization for the event started in July and said all the welcome week events were directed and run by different commissions within ASUCI.

“My campus spirit commissioners Eduardo [Barbero] and Leah [Beastrom] are just really on top of it. Our professional staff had to work here with Guinness to figure out what’s the best possible world record that we could break,” said Nguyen. “Once we found that out, we were able to advertise it, find all the decorations, set up student speakers and all other speakers.”

The online notice for the event said about 2,198 people were registered to attend. Nguyen said she knew not everyone who registered would come, but the fact they were able to bring out more than half of that number meant the students were excited to accomplish something together.

“It’s a really beautiful thing, honestly,” said Nguyen. “It’s really nice to be able to work with a lot of students and meet with a lot of students that are so excited to be Anteaters.”

Hundreds of students at UC Irvine run to tag Peter the Anteater.
Hundreds of students run to tag Peter the Anteater as they participate in breaking the Guinness World Records for largest game of red light/green light at UC Irvine’s Aldrich Park on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Second-year student Prinz Sabate said he heard about the game through Instagram and decided it was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to be a part of setting a world record.

Sabate said he joined the game at the last minute and said that while he managed to get halfway through the cordoned-off play area, he didn’t quite manage to reach Peter the Anteater by the time the game ended.

“The competitive spirit in me — I was trying to race my way through to the front, but no luck,” said Sabate.

Mya Huetter, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, said she started attending UC Irvine in 2020 when classes were completely online because of the pandemic.

“Honestly, all of my friends wanted to do it and I never got the chance to do it before so I thought it’d be a super fun opportunity to do it this year,” said Huetter. “I think I won? I got to give [Peter] a high five, so I think I finished. I just thought the [game] was super fun. Everyone was super hyped ... I think it’s really special.

“I feel like my first two years — first year, completely online. Last year was like a hybrid, so it’s super awesome I’m finally getting to have that real college experience the second half of my time here.”

UC Irvine students celebrate as they gather for a group photo.
UC Irvine students celebrate as they gather for a group photo after setting a new record with a total of 1,415 people for the Guinness World Records’ largest game of red light/green light.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Matthew Banuelos, a second year in electrical engineering, agreed.

Banuelos said he heard about the game from his dormmates on Tuesday, all of whom came out to participate on Wednesday with him.

With the university’s colors — yellow and blue — painted on his cheeks, he said he wanted to check it out.

“Last year, I didn’t feel like we had much school spirit. I remember the only thing we really did was a grunion run, and that was the only time I really felt like, ‘Oh, I’m really part of this school,’” said Banuelos. “So, the fact that we could do this, it’s fun. It makes me proud to be an Anteater.”

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