Assassin Game Gains Popularity, Hype

Alex Seclow

What if instead of stressing out about that third period math test, you have to worry about getting to school without getting “shot?”

The game of Assassin is increasing in popularity in high schools and universities across the nation. While it has many names, from KAOS (Killing As Organized Sport), and Battle Royale, to Circle of Death, the principles of the game remain the same.

The rules vary but the main objective is to “kill” your assigned targets until you are the last person standing.

Weapons range from Nerf and dart guns, to water guns. In another variation, players are eliminated when directly touched with non-projectiles such as spoons, plastic knives, and Sharpie markers. Some games include “safe zones,” such as homes, school campuses, and common hangout spots, where players are safe from being “assassinated.”

The game can get complicated and include “bombing” and “poisoning” targets. An entire Costco store in Fife, Washington was evacuated because of a bomb threat. In the end, police officials discovered a box with a note that said, “Bomb, you’re dead.” A student later confessed that it was all was part of his school’s Assassin game.

In the bombing version of the game, if a player opens a package, envelope, or email attachment that says the word “bomb,” then that player is out of the game. To poison a player the word “poison” is taped on the bottom of a food item or object. Many players wear gloves to protect themselves from potentially “poisoned” doorknobs.

While the game’s popularity among high schools is a more recent trend, it is nothing new for college students and adults., run by 2007 University of Illinois grads Ryan Mulligan and David Grayson, who manage and record college games, has been in existence since 2005.

StreetWars, a program also started in 2005, is a three-week assassination game involving water guns that takes place in major cities from New York, Los Angeles, to San Francisco. Participants receive pictures and home addresses of their targets.

At Amador High School, participants each put in $10 towards a purse often exceeding $3,000. The Grand Master, or umpire, sets up an order so players know whom their targets are and who is targeting them.

“It is a senior tradition,” said an anonymous Amador senior. “We start playing second semester and it gets really intense. It’s funny because people stop going out so much because they are scared they will get ‘shot.’”

In Amador’s version of the game, students play in pairs and the players can only play off school grounds and away from students’ homes. At San Ramon Valley High School last year, a student broke into his target’s home, which caused the game to be temporarily suspended. Now these schools make homes “safe zones” to ensure the game doesn’t get out of control.

The game involves a lot of strategy as players research their targets’ background and schedules to predict where they will be to find opportunities to “shoot” them. Players use Facebook and targets’ families and friends to gather information about their whereabouts. Sometimes alliances form and get tangled as friends are forced to attack each other.

In 2006 there was an incident in which the Foothill High School administration came across a MySpace page titled “Assassin FHS” that was dedicated to keeping track of the 104 students participating. This page included a scoreboard of all the “kills,” specific rules, and stores where participants could find black rubber bullet guns.

Foothill Vice Principal addressed this MySpace page in Pleasanton Weekly’s article “Assassins descend on Pleasanton.”

“The only thing the school can do about it is, if we hear any activity happening on campus, make sure the students are held accountable for playing on campus,” said Campbell.
“But as long as they do it off campus, not during school time, all we can do is inform them that it’s not a game we think they should play.”