Being stalked by a stranger who wants to eliminate you sounds like a nightmare to most. To the Hendrix community, it’s just another year of Assassins.
Those who aren’t familiar with the game might be wary of the name. It’s hosted by the Handler, an anonymous and all-seeing figure hiding behind a classic Guy Fawkes mask. The Sunday before the game begins, the Handler emails the contracts; 384 students and staff signed up to play. They each received the name of another assassin. The goal is to find the contract, kill them by placing a sticker on them and then absorb their contracts. As long as an assassin hasn’t been eliminated, they’re constantly searching for their contract, while trying to avoid their own killer.
Terms like assassin and kills sound daunting, but the official rules are clear. Violent behavior results in elimination. Two days in, the Handler sent out a reminder that physically blocking a target is not acceptable nor is skipping class. Stickers are a scarce resource, and the Handler chose to limit the game even further by announcing that the spots in the residential halls and the library will not be replenished. Still, there’s prize money at stake. Players have to be competitive, clever and committed.
Throughout the week, it’s not unusual to see students involved in a high-speed chase across campus. Yelling from the dorm lobbies occasionally erupts, a tell-tale sign that someone’s been caught. The paranoia is heavy within the first day, but as more and more assassins are eliminated, the game becomes harder. There’s a purge seventy-two hours into it. Any assassin who hasn’t made a kill by then is eliminated. This means that players can’t just hide in their rooms and still win; they have to actually play.
At first, I was taken aback when I tried to say hi to a friend, and they hurdled over a couch and sprinted out of the SLTC. I realize now that when there are college students using resources like face-finder and social media to hunt others down, it’s justified. Friends are even willing to turn on each other in order to get a kill; someone even found that assassins are willing to use dating apps to get their target.
For an amateur, the game is difficult! I searched everywhere for my target, with no luck. In fact, I spent an hour sitting in the Burrow (trying to tempt my assassin to show themselves) while also staring at the girl who I thought was my kill. It wasn’t her.
That awkwardness aside, it’s easy to tell who’s playing. Assassins are constantly checking if they’re being followed. They creep around every corner, and they’re highly suspicious of anyone who makes eye contact for too long.
Players each have their own strategies. Some wear sunglasses and hoodies to high their faces; others have their friends and allies scope out the hallways before they leave their classroom. A pair of students knocked on my door to ask if I knew a specific student, and I was ready to shut the door in their faces when I saw one of them holding a sticker. There are rumors that someone jumped off the bridge to the WAC, and a brave few throw stealth to the side and run down their targets with reckless abandon.
It’s not apparent which way is the most effective, but the best advice an assassin could follow? Trust nobody.
As the Handler says, always look both ways before crossing the brick pit, and happy hunting.