Every year, hundreds of Henry M. Gunn High School students clutch small stuffed animals, crouch over yearbooks in the student activities center and sprint into bathrooms to hide.
Don’t worry, they’re not in danger. The over 500 students are just participating in Gunn’s annual school-wide game of Elimination, a game where students must tag an assigned target and avoid being tagged themselves. With a few revised rules and its own student-made and student-run website, Gunn’s Elimination puts a twist on the common high school game of “Assassin.” This year, Elimination ran from Jan. 17 to Feb. 10.
Senior and senior site council representative Ethan Liang said that one of the best parts of Elimination is how it reaches different groups of Gunn students, from introverts to extroverts and athletes to academics.
“You don’t have to enjoy rallies or playing sports to enjoy this event,” Liang said.
Each participant is assigned another player — their target — at the beginning of the game. Their mission is to eliminate their target by tagging them with a miniature stuffed plushie. Once a player eliminates their first target, they take on the tagged player’s target, and the process repeats. Target assignments also refresh weekly, to keep players engaged.
Players can never get too comfortable: Elimination has a set of rules that change on a daily basis and gradually increase in intensity. During the first week, students could stay safe by following guidelines like touching a wall or holding their stuffed animal above their shoulder. However, things quickly ramped up in the second week: no participant was safe, and students had to follow specific rules to eliminate others.
“The rules are funny sometimes,” Student Activities Director Lisa Hall said. “It’s fun to see people get into the game and really try and adhere to it. … For me, I guess I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing our students enjoy something that we have produced.”
Once a student eliminates their target, they scan their target’s QR code or input their written code into the website to receive their next target. The student that has the most “kills” and remains alive by the end of the game is declared the winner.
When the student council organized the game for the first time seven years ago, Elimination operated with a third-party website. The website shut down after a few years, however, which prompted students at Gunn to make their own.
“The original website was so easy to use, it was really great,” Hall said. “It’s hard to replicate something like that, I think, but it’s a mental challenge and a skill challenge that I welcome.”
Elimination was made and overseen by members of the SEC for the first time this year because the school added a new position of tech commissioner, filled by senior Kevin Yu. Prior to this addition, student developers remade the website every year. Whether students will continue the tradition of remaking the website each year or keep this iteration is up to next year’s tech commissioner.
“I’d like to see people remake it every single year, but I guess it’s really just up to whoever has the position next year and what they decide to do,” Yu said.
Yu, who previously created Gunn’s popular web app, said he worked primarily on the frontend of the website, while Liang and senior Alec Petridis helped build the backend.
“I was mostly just hanging around seeing the progress and then I got sucked into the project because it’s so cool,” Liang said. “We kind of treated the project like a personal passion project to learn new things.”
Senior Nimisha Sivaraman said the highlight of the game for participants is how it provides an unconventional way to meet and connect with new people.
“It might seem a little strange, you’re kind of stalking someone, but I think you actually get to know that there are a lot [of] people in the school that you don’t know,” Sivaraman said.
Senior Kyra Xue, who won Elimination for the second time in a row this year, ended with a total of 24 kills. The secret to winning Elimination twice in a row? Defense, connections and luck, Xue said.
“I made sure to always hold my animal,” Xue said. “Like, always. In a way, it seems a little paranoid and excessive, but I think that’s what helped me. … I literally thought about Elimination the entire day. It was really time consuming because I was just concentrating on it, so in a way, I’m glad that it’s over.”
Xue said that connections also helped; not just for finding out peoples’ schedules, but also for when there was no way to stay safe during the second week of the game. When one of Xue’s friends got her as a target, Xue knew she was safe from being eliminated and was free to eliminate as many targets as she wanted for a few days.
“I really could not have done this alone,” Xue said. “My friends have been there to support me through the games and they also really wanted me to win, so we work[ed] together to find information.”
When she first joined the game last year, Xue said she treated Elimination casually. Surrounded by her friends’ competitive energy, though, Xue quickly found herself taking the game more seriously — leading to her eventual win.
“I had a lot of friends who were really motivated and that motivated me,” Xue said. “During passing period, I would just go out and try to find my targets. … It’s a nice fun break in your day.”
Xue said she encourages students to sign up for and participate in Elimination because it’s a fun event that helps students become more engaged in the school community.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to meet other people, especially across grades and get to know others, and also it’s a chance for you to work with friends on something,” Xue said. “It’s kind of like Hunger Games. It’s exciting to try to stay alive in a game.”