For video footage of the Bulletin’s friendly game of “Office Assassins,” visit www.youtube.com/mantecabulletin
I get it now.
After about 30 minutes of sneaking about the office, hiding beneath a desk and crouching behind filing cabinets, I understand why the live-action game Senior Assassination can entertain teams of high school and college students for months.
It’s fun to shoot your friends … with guns so obviously fake in color and shape and rules slow clear and widely understood.
On Friday, the boss gave us permission to play a low-key version of the game Senior Assassination, a widely popular game currently being played by hundreds of Manteca Unified seniors.
She cringed and tersely reminded me of that fact as I 1.) recruited players in every department; 2.) passed out rules and regulations to the game’s eight players on official “Office Assassins” letterhead; and 3.) lugged in my son’s arsenal of NERF guns and ammunition.
“Remember,” she said, grabbing her keys and bag shortly before the start time, “you’re the adult in this game.”
As soon as her car disappeared around the corner, I channeled my inner 6-year-old and began the countdown.
We wanted to play “Assassins” to better understand the thrill and excitement conveyed by the students interviewed for this package of stories. We wanted to get inside it, understand it, and for a half-hour, live it.
Still, you could probably imagine the trepidation and cluelessness that filled the building in those first few minutes of the game.
Here were eight professionals, six of whom had probably never wielded much less shot a NERF gun in their lives, thrown into the theatre of (fake) war and tasked to take one another out.
How does this thing work (awkwardly aiming the gun at a co-worker)? Where do the bullets go (searching for the switch that releases the chamber)? They come out right … here (holding gun close to eye)?
Three of the “assassins” were trained in the art of customer service, not combat. They greet each person that walks through the door with smiles as big and bright as the sunrise. They are hard-wired to assist, to be inviting and warm, not assassinate or be stealthy.
Yet, we all accepted our assignment, knowing there were suction-tipped bullets out there with our names’ on them. We split into two teams: the art and advertising department versus the newsroom and circulation.
Each player’s cubicle, desk or office was their safe zone. Assassins weren’t permitted to hunt these spaces. Leave that bubble, though, and you were fair game for your pursuers.
The game began slow, with members from each team stepping slowly through the hallways and rooms that make up the Bulletin’s century-old building. That was until our ads services manager, Kay Garcia – hands-down the sweetest soul you’ll ever meet – wrapped up her assignment, gripped her triple-shot pistol and threw caution to the wind.
She started the killing, walking through the heart of the arena the way fictional hitman John Wick might, spraying spongy bullets at everything that moved. “Got you! … Shot you!” She sniped me twice – once in the gut and again off the tip of my nose. Who knew this gentle grandmother, this faithful Sunday morning parishioner was a cold-blooded killer.
We didn’t have time to appreciate her bold thrust. As soon as she stepped into the game, the action spiked. Players attacked one another with a sense of urgency, collecting kills at all costs. Even if it meant sacrificing their position or, worse, themselves.
From room to room, hallway to hallway, the action moved.
Graphic artist Curt Murray sat camped out in the shadows of the server room with his bolt-action sniper rifle. I found concealment under an empty desk, where I was gunned down after shooting wide of Murray.
In the Bulletin’s bull ring, the video room at the very center of the building, a melee broke out between reporter Vince Rembulat and advertising manager Chuck Higgs, whose single-shot pistol took out two players.
Senior Assassination has its critics and detractors, mostly law enforcement and school officials who questioned the game’s purpose, ethics and safety.
But for those that have played the game, abiding all of the rules and regulations meant to keep the players safe, there’s no disputing the fact that shooting your friends (with weapons so obviously fake) can be fun.
I get that now.