(AP Photo/Billings Gazette, Ruffin Prevost)

July 27, 2006 | Post Archive

Who says that squirt guns are just for kids? If you're one of 125 participants in London's upcoming "StreetWars," you probably take exception to that statement, no matter what your friends think. We understand -- you're just misunderstood; you want to have a good time running around the city squirting other very "big kids."

StreetWars is a 3-week competition that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The object of the game is to assassinate another player of the game (via squirt gun), which the game masters assign to you. As the competition proceeds, the game masters keep making assignments until there's a single winner who walks away with $500.

Most of the rules for StreetWars are kept secret from everyone but those enlisted in the competition. According to the competition's Web site, each participant receives these things when starting out:

  • A picture of your intended target(s)
  • The home address of your intended target(s)
  • The work address of your intended target(s)
  • The name of your intended target(s)
  • Contact information of your intended target(s)

With this information, tracking the assigned target and exterminating him is up to the discretion of the assassin (within the boundaries the secret rules lay out, of course.) The weapons considered to be in fair play are water balloons, water guns and super soakers. Once you've eliminated your target, you take that person's assignment.

The competition is what some might consider LARPing, or Live Action Role-playing. Tracy Wilson interviewed Laurie Zolkosky her article "How LARP Works." Zolkosky offered this definition of LARPing:

...a cross between a game and a form of theater. It's designing a character or persona to fit into an imaginary world. This, depending on the game, can involve something almost like a sport where you fight out the fights, or it can be just a lot of talk...but the gist of it is that someone creates this imaginary setting with its own rules and its own themes and sometimes its own ideology...It's a kind of total immersion, and it involves a whole lot of people accepting an alternate reality at once.

StreetWars differs from other forms of LARPing, though, in that it fully integrates one's everyday life with the game. It causes you to "live in fear" as the competition's slogan admonishes its participants. Almost everything is fair game. Suppose you've gone to the cinema with your significant other and halfway through the movie, you feel a stream of water running down your neck. You've been assassinated. Hand over your envelope. The possibilities for ways to assassinate are endless.

If the idea of such a game sounds disconcerting to you, you're not the only one. Just check out what the Superintendent of the British Transport Police had to say to iTV:

Those thinking of taking part should consider that they may be committing criminal offenses and are putting themselves and others in danger...The sight of people carrying what appears to a be a firearm on the London Underground system, one year after the tragic events of July 2005 will cause passengers and staff genuine fear...Calls to the police may lead to disruption to services and the deployment of armed officers. Any offenses committed will be treated seriously.

Scotland Yard has also presented similar concerns, going as far to say that it may deploy armed officers because of game play. The competition organizers are quick to tell the participants that you play at your own risk, so responsibility ultimately rests on the players' shoulders. So far, there haven't been problems in any of the competitions held in New York, Vancouver, San Francisco, Vienna and Los Angeles -- but that doesn't mean a few crazies couldn't slip under the radar.

StreetWars sounds pretty fun, but perhaps the stress of constantly watching over one's shoulder for three straight weeks -- even when comfortably at home in bed, by the way -- isn't worth it. But, as the saying goes, to each his (or her) own.