The game "assassin," in which students shoot at each other with plastic guns, is usually a source of amusement among college students.
But at one college campus, the University of Massachusetts, the game has scared more than a few innocent bystanders, who have mistaken the play weapons for real guns.
Frightened non-players of the game have complained to university officials, said Carol S. Wallace, a senior residential adviser at the University.
In one incident at the end of October, campus police, not realizing that the plastic guns were fake drew their real guns on several "assassin" players carrying fake guns.
Wallace said that while no one has been hurt yet, several students have been taken to the administrative board for harassing other students. The University has not formally outlawed the game, Wallace said.
In an effort to stop the harassment associated with assassin, however, Wallace said that she distributed a letter last month to the residents of her residential area "to point out the potential dangers of the game." In her letter, she wrote that plastic guns pose a potentially life-threatening situation because they can be mistaken for real weapons.
The facsimiles resemble real guns so much that "it's hard to determine whether they're real or not," said Philip J. Cavanough, associate director of public safety at the university. Unlike versions of the game at other schools, UMass undergrads shoot each other with plastic disks, rather than with water.
Also known as "killer," assassin first appeared on the campus about five years ago in the form of water guns. Playing the game with plastic disks is a recent development according to Wallace.
She said this is the first year anybody has complained about the game. She added that no complaints have been filed in the past few weeks.