Campus Assassins Game Targets Malaria

Across the College, 400 students have signed up to play Assassins—a live action game in which players receive human targets and attempt to eliminate them—with a particular focus on malaria prevention and awareness.

The game is sponsored by Malaria Assassins, a group of members of the Global Health Forum who won the 2015 Harvard Malaria Challenge. Sponsored by the Harvard University Defeating Malaria Initiative and Malaria No More, the contest challenged participants to increase awareness of malaria prevention and offered the winners $10,000 to implement a project to engage students in malaria education and eradication.

Harvard’s malaria-based iteration of the Assassins game has spread to other university campuses nationwide. Malaria Assassins has teamed up with students to bring the game to Stanford, Northeastern, and Duke. The game calls itself “the largest nationwide campus game of assassins,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

Bianca Mulaney ’16, an organizer of Malaria Assassins, said that the team of students decided to apply to the competition after discovering the extent to which malaria is a problem globally. Through this game, Mulaney hopes that more students gain an awareness of malaria.

“Malaria Assassins is a starting point for many different avenues of participation and engagement with combating malaria,” Mulaney said.

Students in upperclassmen Houses including Adams, Leverett, Lowell, Eliot, and Winthrop have already begun playing, with 146 participants still “alive” in the game. The freshmen yards will commence play in the coming days, according to event organizer William S. Xiao ’16.

Xiao, who has previously arranged other assassin games in Eliot House, said Malaria Assassins seeks to use an already popular student game as a form of malaria activism, especially because student organizations across the country also play the game.

According to Laura L. Doherty ’19, a participant in the event, the website design seems structured to aid student learning about the disease.

“The setup of the website itself is great because it forces students to be aware by making users answer factual questions about the disease in order to receive their next target,” she said.

Doherty, who found out about the game through the Winthrop mailing list, said she chose to participate to “immerse [her]self in the House community,” adding that she also learned about malaria through the process.

“I think the most important thing I learned about malaria has to do with just how many people the disease impacts,” she said. “When a lot of people think about terrible diseases or illnesses, malaria isn’t necessarily the thing that crosses their minds.”

Students have been appreciative of the event’s intentions overall, and have enjoyed the interactive qualities of the game.

“The most fun aspect is simply being able to build the House community and meet new people in a way that's designed to support such an important cause,” Doherty said.

The Malaria Assassins game will continue through April 22, according the the Facebook event page.

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