After a two-year hiatus, Assassin has finally returned to Berkeley High School (BHS).
The game, which was designed by and for the seniors of BHS, officially began on Monday, January 31.
Assassin consists of teams of three — each with one “captain” — targeting and trying to “kill” other teams. Each team’s goal is to kill its assigned target within a week. If a team is unsuccessful, or its captain is killed, the team is disqualified. “Dying” in the game means being the victim of a water gun or water balloons, timer bombs, fake poison (putting salt in someone’s drink), or other fake weapons.
Some students feel that Assassin is one of many senior traditions that, at least in part, make up for the sense of spirit and school unity the pandemic has cost them.
Assassin is eagerly awaited by many seniors every year, especially considering the cash award for winners, which is said to be over two thousand dollars this year.
Though some seniors find this game entertaining and uniting, others at BHS, specifically educators and administrators, are concerned that the game may cause disruptive and inappropriate behavior.
There are some in-class disruptions, although school is mostly considered a “safe zone” where teams can only kill targets using timers or fake poison. However, more severe actions usually take place outside of school. These have included teams hiding in front of their targets’ houses to ambush them when they leave for school, selling peers’ addresses, and even placing a tracking device on a target’s car — though that has since been deemed against the rules.
On Wednesday, February 2, BHS Principal Juan Raygoza expressed his concern about the game in a school-wide email.
“I want to be clear that the game, behaviors associated with it, and its mission (even if only for fun) are not acceptable,” Raygoza wrote. “Administrators will deal with misbehavior by participating students with appropriate school discipline. I want to thank our student leadership and the Activities Department that have been working hard since the Fall, when I announced a delay to any spirit week activities, for advocating for a safe Spirit Week this Spring.” By comparing Spirit Week and Assassin, some students were confused as to whether Raygoza was comparing Assassin to the uncontrollable activities that take place during Spirit Week or calling Assassin an extension of Spirit Week.
However, some seniors have greatly differing perceptions of the game. Senior Norrie White described the value of the game to her.
“This game has genuinely helped the spirit of the senior class,” she said. “Due to [the pandemic] … it’s hard to feel like a unified senior class — let alone a unified Berkeley High, when we are so divided [and] isolated and have nothing fun and full of spirit to bring us together … People understand the school rules and people understand that this is a game, that it is a tradition at Berkeley High, and has been for years — it isn’t part of any Spirit Week.”
To the question of whether bad grades and behavior are related to the game, White said she didn’t see it that way.
“As seniors, we still understand the importance of school and completing your work,” White said. “We have to do well so we can keep our college acceptances. It might be a bit more difficult to focus at school because of the stress of the game, but homes are completely safe. Students are still doing their work.”
Of the seniors that the Jacket spoke to, most said the same thing: the game wasn’t a distraction from their academic priorities, and they play it to make some final memories in high school.
Pablo Lamiquiz, a senior transfer student from Spain, generally agreed with White’s perspective on the game.
“I think this game can cause people to act out, but if we all act with maximum level responsibility, we can all enjoy it while keeping our focus on school and our priorities,” Lamiquiz wrote to the Jacket.
Victor Aguilera, who teaches sophomores and seniors, said that he has seen Assassin directly interfere in his teaching. According to Aguilera, a student who was not a part of his class entered after the bell rang to place a timer in another student’s backpack. The student was caught and asked to leave the classroom, as they had interrupted a lesson, but continued to insist they stay until the task was completed.
“What shocks me is not that the student disrupted my class to play the game, it’s the fact that they kept insisting that they had to stay until they had finished the ‘killing,’ even though the bell had rung and I had asked them to leave,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera also said he thinks the drive for this inconsiderate and rude behavior is due to the cash prize. He said the incentive for money is what motivates students to act out and, in this case, forget a sense of responsibility and of right and wrong. Ultimately, Aguilera believes the negative effects of the game aren’t just a few missed classes, but also the lack of understanding of why their actions are wrong.
“By removing the cash prize, I believe the incentive to act out to the extent that students do would no longer be present,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera also said he thought if the cash prize were removed, students’ drive to win would decrease, and the game would be more enjoyable. There has been much controversy on whether the game does more good or harm, but Assassin continues, with several teams still competing so far.