Vanessa Bastidas ’14 opens her door quietly, sticks her head out and glances suspiciously down the hallway. The coast is clear. She grips her water gun and sprints to the bathroom, where she is safe once again–at least temporarily.
For an intense and fearful few days during spring quarter, paranoia and deception are the norm in most dorms. The game is called Assassins and no one is safe. The rules are simple–a player is assigned a victim to eliminate using a water gun. Once “assassinated,” the assassin will inherit the victim’s target. The last one standing is the victor.
“It gets really intense,” Bastidas said. “People try to avoid common areas and carry their guns wherever they go.”
The Assassins experience for Peter Wang ’15 differed.
“I didn’t take the game too seriously, but some people in my dorm definitely did,” Wang said. “Some people came up with all these strategies to avoid the dorm as much as possible.”
Assassins is a long-standing Stanford tradition played in many dorms across campus. Although widely considered a freshman experience, many upper-class dorms and students choose to participate as well. Crothers, an upper-class dorm, takes the game very seriously.
This year, each hall in Crothers had its own preliminary round of the game, The last two people “alive” in each hall were allowed to go to the finals. This final showdown was held on the front lawn of Crothers in front of the entire dorm.
The winner this year was Ilya Gaidarov ’14, who believes his success was due to a combination of luck and talent.
“It’s all about brains over brawn,” Gaidarov said.
However, as for most other players, his experience was a stressful one.
“It was the worst,” Gaidarov said jokingly. “I was so paranoid. At first, I wasn’t even that invested in the game. I just didn’t want to get shot.”
Gaidarov’s initial plans to not take the game seriously were almost immediately changed.
“During the day, I tried to be in a place where people couldn’t kill me, so I basically sat in my room during the day,” he said. “Then at night I would go out to kill my target.”
To achieve victory, Gaidarov formed a partnership with another resident on his hall, Youssef Hedroug ’13, after Hedroug’s roommate tried to assassinate Gaidarov.
“Because Youssef was honest, we were in a partnership,” Gaidarov said. “There were others who I knew I couldn’t trust.”
“It was a bit hectic. I felt like I was always looking behind my back,” Hedroug said.
“I didn’t leave my room, and I always had a friend with me as a witness so no one could assassinate me,” he said.
For Gaidarov, part of the drive to win came from missing the experience during his freshman year.
“I didn’t get to play freshman year, so I’m glad that we did Assassins,” he said. “I would have preferred doing it at the beginning of the year because I’ve gotten to know people better since playing.”
Bastidas recalled assassination attempts when playing the game last year.
“I had killed my person and thought I was safe,” she said. “But then I got out of the shower without my gun, and my assassin was waiting right outside the door and shot me.”
“Last year I got really into it,” she added. “Even when I got out and wasn’t in the game, I was still so invested. This year I knew I wanted to do better.”
Every year, dorm staff put in a great amount of effort to make the game a worthwhile and memorable event. Sometimes, they also participate as “terminators” who have the power to shoot residents who do not “kill” their target within 24 hours.
“I think the staff put in the time because honestly, Assassins is a really fun game,” Wang said. “It’s a good break from regular activities.”
“The terminators this year were intense. They had huge water guns, and I was actually scared,” Bastidas said. “They were bribing my roommate with donuts [to co-operate with them].”
In spite of the occasional drama, paranoia and scheming terminators, the ultimate purpose of Assassins is to bring residents together.
“Assassins is great because it gets everyone involved, even for people who don’t normally participate in a lot of dorm events,” Bastidas said. “It’s something fun– something you can laugh about later.”