Wei-Ming Kao approaches a heavily guarded truck in a secluded parking lot in an industrial area of New York to pick up his orders — to “stalk” and “kill” his target. But all is not what it seems. Kao, 27, a graduate student, is playing “StreetWars,” a version of a popular high school and college game “Assassins” that kicked off in New York on Monday with around 240 players.
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Kao is given a photo, name, home and work addresses and phone number of a target whom he must pursue and “kill” with a water pistol, water balloon or other water-based soaking, while eluding the player who is coming after him.
“I thought it would be fun, a way to meet new people, even if I die in the first week,” said Kao.
Contestants pay $40 to enter. The winner gets $500, a bottle of Jack Daniels and a water gun mounted on a trophy.
Game co-founder Franz Aliquo, dressed in a vintage suit and aviator glasses, also known as the Supreme Commander, said the game was born largely out of boredom.
“As a kid we used to get around and play in parks, and use the city as a playground,” said Aliquo, a 31-year-old lawyer. “I kind of wanted to make it a place to play in again, particularly as an adult.”
Others agree. After making its debut in New York in 2004, “StreetWars” has been played in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, London and Vienna, Austria, with games also planned for Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and Reykjavik, Iceland.
Aliquo plans to develop the game into a reality TV show.
Part of the fun, say players, is avoiding the daily grind by living as though they are in an action movie for three weeks, in which they are unable to have any routine.
Typically around 25 to 30 percent of players are women, said co-founder Yutai Liao, 31, known as the Mustache Commander. But about half the players in the last New York game were women, and a 76-year-old grandmother played in Los Angeles.
The game also has a social aspect, and has led to one marriage, said Liao.
In preparation for the game, many players have devised secret means of entering and exiting their homes, while others stocked up on an arsenal of water-based weaponry and practiced surveillance techniques.
“It’s interesting how into it people get,” said Aliquo, noting one player in a previous game who spent most of his time on players’ rooftops dressed as a ninja.
In a recent London game some male players also disguised themselves by dressing as women for the month, he said.
If more than one person is left standing at the end of three weeks the game goes into sudden death where the remaining players chase after Aliquo.
This won’t be easy since Aliquo has a wardrobe full of disguises, and a posse of bodyguards.
Bars, subway stations and bus stops, are off limits in the game. “They hold sacred ground, and we want people to be able to get drunk,” said Liao.
Player Paul Quigley, a 26-year-old attorney, said he hoped to meet his “target” and “assassin” in a bar.
“What’s really appealing about ‘StreetWars’ is that life is quite sanitized, and life especially for someone working in an office,” said Quigley
“You’re not even exposed to certain emotions and certain things that are inside us as humans,” said Quigley. “I think that this is going to bring those out and I’m kind of curious to see with what results.”