The game Assassin, as Wikipedia helpfully puts it, is a “live-action role playing game” where every player is trying to kill other players until only one remains. Unlike a card game or the round-the-table Werewolf game popular at Foo Camp, Assassin can span many days and include dozens of people. That means it collides with Real Life in fairly obvious ways. You can, for example, be killed on the way to class. But what does it mean to be killed? In one game you might be done in with a squirt gun, in another it might be a rubber band. But a new version of the game, as I learned at Collision Detection, involves killing with kindness.
Cruel 2 B Kind is a version of Assassin designed to get around one of the inconveniences of the game: freaking out bystanders with disturbing and apparently dangerous attack and evasion dramatics. Intead of murdering someone with a squirt gun, you do it with a targeted compliment. Thus, a badly-aimed volley will only brighten a bystander’s day rather than dampening their shirt or soiling their pants.
This all sounds clever to me, but I knew exactly where to go for the straight dope. At great expense, we have retained the services of Assassin Expert JMike and asked him for his opinion on the matter. When it comes to Assassin, JMike knows whereof he speaks. Over the past 15 years he has played and managed dozens of Assassin games great and small. Here’s what he had to say.
The “random act of kindness” shtick is a little sappy. Granted,
assassin-style games have always had a problem: how to arrange a game that
is played out in the real life urban jungle? People who design these kind
of games — well some of them anyway — fantasize about being able to set up
stake-outs, open-clandestine meetings, elaborate hits, etc. out in public,
but obviously you have this problem that the more realistic the setup, the
more likely it will be confused for the real thing (with dire consequences).
So the realism wing of the gaming world takes the action into controlled or
semi-controlled environments: college campuses, convention hotels, private
rural land, and they accept the necessary compromises: complex relationships
with the authorities and/or slightly watered-down action (paintball, boffer
weapons, very simplified role playing dynamics, etc.). This other wing of
the gaming world seems to be evolving recently, where they use VERY watered
down action in order to be able to play out in the real world. I’d say that
the recent movement of live performance art — I forget the name of the
phenomenon, but where you get like 200 people to meet and go up and down the
escalators in some iconic hotel lobby in town — is very closely related to
this wing of the gaming world. Anyway, I think modern technology is going
to be a big advance to this wing of the gaming world, in that you’ll be able
to do more complicated things where you get the thrill of the chase and
even, in a way, the thrill of the kill, without having to do things that
look dangerous or threatening to non-players.
SO I guess my take on it is that this is kind of a confluence of the old
school live-action role playing gaming scene with the
whatever-its-name-is-performance-art scene and more power to it. I hope and
expect to see some pretty good and funny things come out of it. Random act
of kindness warfare is a little bit of a sappy start though :)
So there you have it. One of my favorite things in life is knowing just who to ask when a certain topic comes up. You’d be surprised how often JMike is that person.