Controversial teen game scrutinized after national tragedy

BY GABE MARTIN

“Assassins,” a game that involves students shooting one another with Nerf guns to ultimately win a prize, is causing turmoil within the community after the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, two weeks after CHS seniors started the game.

 

Since the game’s appearance at Carmel High six years ago, it has become increasingly popular with each senior class, consisting of 135 participants this year. The objective of the game is to eliminate one’s target, another CHS senior, by either shooting that person with a Nerf gun or “stabbing” them with a spoon.

 

The game has been seen as ill-advised by the Carmel High School administration since its sudden spur years ago, but clear intent to stop the game was made after the recent national tragedy. Assistant principal Debbie Puente is strongly against the senior class participating in the game now more than ever because of the school shooting in Parkland.

 

“I think it’s a lot rawer,” Puente explains. “People are a lot more attuned to the negativity of it. Before, the name and the idea were looked at negatively, but now it’s like triple negative because of the school shootings, because of all killings that have been taking place.”

 

On the other hand, assassins commissioner West Whittaker believes the game is being wrongly persecuted by the administration and community. Despite the pushback, the CHS senior says the game will not be stopped and that it will continue to be played just like any other year.

 

“Some people say it’s unsafe because you’re driving around and you can get hurt,” Whittaker says. “You can get in an accident, you can get kicked off private property, and it’s just unsafe in some eyes, but as long as you stay safe, this game will bring our senior class together.”

 

Whittaker declined to comment on assassins in relation to school shootings.

 

Most of the senior class agrees with Whittaker and believes that the administration is in the wrong for asking the game to be stopped.

 

“People freak out whenever there is tragedy,” assassins participant Nathan Suess says. “When there’s a hurricane, people freak out about gulf housing. When there’s a tornado, people freak out about Oklahoma housing. When there’s a school shooting, people freak out about guns and schools regardless of their lethality.”

 

Those who oppose the game, such as English teacher Barbara Steinberg, see the game as a poor excuse for a class-bonding experience and encourage students to get to know their peers and find common ground without the inappropriate image given off by students simulating shooting or stabbing one another.

 

“I think a giant game of tag is super fun, and it’s important for the seniors to have fun,” Steinberg says. “But the assassins game itself and the concept behind it, using the Nerf guns in this day and age, with the amount of school violence going on and the issue of gun control being so prominent in the news right now, shows a huge lack of awareness and sensitivity. For our students to be pretending to shoot each other is in poor taste.”

 

Either from insight given to them from teachers or because of personal objections, some students have decided to abandon the game after news of the fatal event in Florida reached them. Senior Kenshi Husted deserted the game after hearing that news and an in-depth philosophical talk with others on campus.

 

“I thought it wasn’t right for me, personally,” Husted explains. “Considering in our same country, there are kids who instead of going through a simulation of being shot or being chased, they actually experienced it.”

 

Despite pushback from the school administration, assassins will continue to be played by this senior class as it stays student-coordinated and its presence is absent from school campus.