Why the Nanny State Shouldn’t Stop High School Kids from Playing Senior Assassin

While the gaming universe is losing its mind over a leaked image from the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Origins game, a different type of assassin is roaming the leafy exurbs of Massachusetts, terrorizing only the uninformed.

Armed and humorous, the “assassins” are high school seniors engaging in a last rite of spring, a game called Senior Assassin.

Pre-Columbine, we would have scarcely given it a thought.

Post-Columbine, to some people, even the idea of it is disturbing, even though the “weapons” that the seniors wield when stalking their classmates are water guns, marshmallow shooters, and in some places, the most terrifying weapon of all, socks. (If you doubt the lethality of a teenager’s unwashed sock, you’ve never done the laundry of a sixteen-year-old boy.)

At least one school—in New York, of course—attempted to shut down the game a few years ago by threatening to ban players from the prom, suspend them from school, or report them to college admissions offices.

But in a refreshing display of reason that’s uncommon in a nanny state, no such blather is issuing from school officials in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, despite a recent incident that ended with police approaching the teen “assassins” with guns drawn.

It started when a seventy-year-old woman who lives alone thought she saw a man enter her garage carrying a black gun. She closed the garage door and called 911, an entirely reasonable thing to do if you think there’s an armed man in your garage.

Only it wasn’t. It was a teen playing Senior Assassin who’d gone to the wrong house and, finding himself trapped in a stranger’s garage, found a garage-door opener and let himself out.

Police responding to the 911 call quickly found the car—someone else had called 911 to report squealing brakes.

They approached the car with guns drawn—appropriate, under the circumstances—and immediately figured out what was going on.  “A large Super Soaker water gun was found in the vehicle,” the school resource officer Phil Powers later wrote in a letter to parents that also contained the usual stern warnings about the need to talk to their children about a “potentially dangerous game.”

Of course, let it be noted, when you’re a teenager, everything is “potentially dangerous.” You can scarcely open your mouth without being chastised for insolence; driving to the library to pick up a book can be as scary as finding yourself trapped in the dark garage of a stranger.  The peril of inexperience dogs a teenager’s every action.

But the most important word the officer wrote in that letter was “game,” a derivative of “play,” which is something today’s teenagers, who are killing themselves in frightening numbers, desperately need.

In fact, even those of us for whom “senior” means a discount on coffee at McDonald’s, could benefit from spending a few days taking aim at strangers with water guns—like adults do every year in Thailand.

At the annual festival called Songkran, which occurs at the beginning of the Thai new year, people take to the streets to soak each other with water guns, buckets and garden hoses. The custom started as a sort of mutual baptism, with people splashing each other “in the form of a wish for the blessings of a new year,” according to a Songkran Day website, but it evolved into a “water fight across the nation and a great reason to party and travel.”

Alas, we’ve already missed it this year’s festival, but make your travel plans for April 13, 2018, if we can’t start our own.

Meanwhile, Senior Assassin continues across the U.S. with joyful abandon, despite the scattered mutterings of people who embody H.L. Mencken’s description of Puritanism, “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”

Smart parents and school administrators should “embrace the horror,” as Steve Buscemi’s character said in the movie Armageddon

Which is what Hopkinton parent Michael Katz did, greeting his senior assassins (a daughter three years ago, a son this year) every evening by saying “How was school? Did you kill anyone today?”

“I have to confess, the whole thing is kind of exciting, if only for the fun of stumbling upon an unidentified teenager dressed in full camo, hiding in the rhododendron as you wheel the trash down to the curb in the morning,” the father wrote on his blog.

Alas, both Katz seniors were eliminated, so the thrill is gone for the Katz family. But there are always other dangers lurking in the driveway, as a Hopkinton police report revealed earlier this year. A resident reported a “suspicious package;” it turned out to be a couple of frozen newspapers. 

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