On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the Swarthmore College Instagram posted an unusual picture. The photo captures two students walking across campus with, bizarrely enough, snorkels strapped to their heads. The photo is captioned “students found a creative solution to the heavy rain this morning.”
However, these students aren’t worried about the rain; instead they’re worried about being “killed” by a fellow Swattie. The snorkel-wearing students in this photo are swimmers on the Swarthmore varsity men’s and women’s swim team, playing a game the team is resurrecting from the pre-COVID days: Assassins.
To play Assassins, everyone on the team is assigned a person to “kill” by tapping them with a spoon that each swim team member carries around. The game is being run primarily by Daniela Kim ’23, one of the culture coordinators on the swim team (also known as a “vibe captain”). In an interview with The Phoenix, Kim explained that she is in charge of assigning everyone the person who they have to “kill,” essentially creating a loop among the swimmers of people killing and being killed.
“Every person is assigned a victim and every person obviously is an assassin. I assigned people victims in a little note on the spoon so people know they’re victims. And then you basically have to tap your victim with the spoon, so it’s pretty straightforward,” said Kim.
After “assassinating” their target, though, the game is still not over. Swimmers must then take on the target that their target had been trying to kill.
“Once you tag that person or your victim, you get that person’s victim. So you’re just like collecting victims in a sense,” said Kim.
To keep the team updated on who has been killed every day, Kim sends out a slideshow of the “fallen,” a reference to “The Hunger Games,” that comes complete with the Capital logo from the movies and a photo of each killed swimmer.
In order to allow students playing to still attend class and practice, they are also designated “safe zones” around campus for players.
“You can’t tag them in the bathroom, Sharples, the pool, [or Matchbox] because it’s too easy … but otherwise, it’s a free for all,” said Kim.
Besides the safe-zones, the only other way people can avoid being killed in Assasins is by wearing a snorkel. Vijay Chhabra ’24, another culture coordinator who helped Kim pitch the idea to the whole swim team, was the one who came up with the snorkel idea.
“If you wear the snorkel, you’re safe, like you’re basically immune. On day one, [the snorkel] did not have to be in the mouth, but then starting Wednesday morning it had to be in your mouth because it was just too easy to kind of like throw it on your head and be safe,” said Chhabra.
Chhabra picked the snorkels as the immunity item because he thought it would be hilarious.
“I just thought it would be funny to watch our team walk around campus with snorkels on to be honest,” admitted Chhabra.
As the Assassins game rolls into its second week, the immunity item has changed from wearing snorkels to wearing swim caps. Chhabra decided on the swim caps both because they allow people to talk and eat while wearing them and because he thought a swim cap was sillier to wear than a snorkel.
“There are probably like ten or fifteen people walking around campus with caps now. So that’s just funny. A swim cap is so stupid. It’s ridiculous. I think it’s worse than snorkels,” said Chhabra.
The swim team’s game started at midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and it will continue until everyone on the team has been killed and there is a last person standing. Kim and Chhabra predict it will last maybe a week longer as people have been getting killed quickly.
“We’re pretty competitive. So people are just killing each other left and right,” said Kim.
As the coordinator of the game, Kim is not actually playing Assassins. Chhabra is, but was killed on Wednesday night on Sept. 7.
“Finn [Conaway ’24], who’s my favorite to win, got me. I have a class from 7 to 9:30 on Wednesday nights, and Finn’s one of my good friends so I knew he was crazy enough to be waiting outside my classroom. But I was just like ‘well hopefully he’s not out there,’ and I didn’t put my snorkel on, and he got me right there,” said Chhabra.
Being able to score a valid kill has tested the swim team’s creativity and dedication. Some players woke up early to track down a target before they got to a 7 a.m. lifeguarding shift, while others waited outside people’s dorms for hours.
Zoe Myers-Bochner ’23, who played Assassins during her sophomore year, talked about how intense this year’s version of Assassins has been.
“People started getting really into it this year … One morning I’m not really thinking about the game and then that same night I’m running around campus with a snorkel on my head, coordinating a junior teammate’s whereabouts with two of my friends over text just so I can hit him while snorkel-less with a wooden spoon,” said Myers-Bochner.
Myers-Bochner was eventually killed in Assassins by a very determined freshman.
“One of my teammates had looked me up on Cygnet, wandered around NPPR looking for my apartment, knocked on my door, and explained the situation to my roommates, and then tried to get them to let her hide in my room until I got back. She then hid outside my apartment for two hours waiting to ambush me,” said Myers-Bochner.
While the game has been chaotic and fun for the swim team, Chhabra and Kim also hope it has done its job in creating a positive team environment.
“I think that this has really brought our team together. It’s been a lot of fun because we’ve had senior guys assassinating people that they’d maybe never interacted with before and some of our freshmen have been assassins for people that they’ve never met before. So it’s been a good way to bring the team together and have everyone meet,” said Chhabra.
In fact, Kim purposefully assigned people targets so they could meet someone they didn’t know well.
“Our whole role as culture coordinators is to create an environment where everyone is interacting with each other and you want that to translate to a good team environment and to practice. So, I purposely made the loop so that people that they would never have interacted with otherwise had each other,” she said.
Swimmers echoed the culture coordinators hopes that the game has bonded members of the team and has been a fun break from the intensity of Swarthmore.
“It all feels a bit unreal, and very silly, but in the constant barrage of academic assignments there’s something really fun about spending your time worrying about chasing your teammates around with compostable spoons,” said Myers-Bochner.