Art and Entertainment

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StreetWars Return to New York City

June 11, 2009 06:00 PM
by Shannon Firth
Some New Yorkers are starting summer with a throw back to their youth, spending June in a month-long water gun assassin tournament known as "StreetWars."

Young at Heart

“StreetWars,” an urban game of hide-and-seek tag, is transforming New York City into a playground. Players signed up and paid a registration fee of $45 in exchange for a "dossier" with "targets" who, by the game's rules, are other agents with secret names. The dossier also includes real names and photos. The game, according to the StreetWars site, began at midnight on June 8 and ends June 29.

A fall tournament began on Sept. 7,  2008. More than 250 people picked up dossiers containing their target’s identity and contact information. Using water pistols, balloon grenades, and for some, their own handmade contraptions, assassins began shadowing their assigned stranger while simultaneously outsmarting their own predator.

Past players have worn disguises, staked out prey from rooftops, mined trash cans and hoodwinked coworkers into giving up a target’s location; all to make their kill. With each victory, the killer takes the dossier of the victim’s assigned target. If the assassin kills the target and that target has the killer’s dossier, he or she wins the game.

Ezra Donnelan, 22, told The New York Times last year about the police questioning him and his teammate over their suspicious behavior. The players explained the game to the officers and were left alone. The Village Voice reported on the police arrest of one person at a promotional water fight in New York’s Union Square, however.

StreetWars, which began in 2004, has been played in Vienna, Canada, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London and New York. Aliquo, the self-titled Supreme Commander of the Shadow Government, told a KRON-4 reporter in San Francisco: “This is perhaps the most perfect escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.”

David Styles, a London player, in 2006 told U.K. paper The Guardian why he plays: “I live a regular, ordinary life. I’ve got a wife and kids, I work in the City. I’m a bit overweight. I saw this as chance to feel like I was living in an action movie for a couple of weeks.”

Related Topic: Other urban games

Other urban games being played throughout the western world include Pillowfight Clubs, Manhunt and Botfighters. Botfighters, a game played by tens of thousands of Scandinavians, involves each player having a virtual robot identity and killing other players through text messages. “Shoot Me if You Can,” a photo tag game, has been popularized in Korea.

In May 2004, a CNN video clip explained how a group of New York University graduate students in the Interactive Telecommunications Program arranged a live game of PacMan in Washington Square Park. Players dressed as ghosts chased another player dressed as PacMan through a six-by-four-block city grid. CNN Anchor Erica Hill explained: “Just like the real PacMan the game ends when PacMan eats all of the dots or the ghosts get him.”

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