A new group of assassins is running the town

Marcus Garland, aquatic biology sophomore, started a game in San Marcos involving water guns and assassins.

Marcus Garland, aquatic biology sophomore, oversees
the San Marcos watergun fights. Emily Messer photo

By Emily Messer
September 20, 2007

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At 30 years old, Marcus Garland has already been shot in the back twice. And he’s lived to tell each story.

The aquatic biology sophomore sits back at an upstairs table at the Showdown, a musty local bar, and recalls the incidents. The first happened as he was leaving a local Mexican food restaurant near the bar. The other occurred as he was purchasing a burrito just down the street. He doesn’t even fuss or flinch about the shootings, just sips his glass of Shiner and grins.

“As long as it’s a water gun, it’s not too bad,” Garland said.
The two water guns used to shoot Garland were a part of a game played in cities like London and New York and Austin, where Garland first played it.

The rules of the game are simple. Each player is an assassin assigned a target at the beginning of the game. If you shoot your target, they are eliminated you proceed to their target. If your target shoots you, they have one-hour immunity to escape you. The Showdown and Tantra are the two places of immunity. But you can’t kill from places of immunity.

There are additional rules: If someone is being “creepy” or is deemed a bad player, they can be ejected. These rules aren’t clearly defined; it’s only clarified that a council can remove you. The other is that if you haven’t killed in two weeks, a terminator will be assigned to you. That terminator is anyone who has died in the game. Or if your water gun looks like a real weapon, you are eliminated.

The San Marcos game was conceived after Garland was sitting on the front porch at Tantra one morning and decided to throw an assassin game. Two weeks later, 40 people at $5 a head were being given targets and made into targets.

“None of this would have happened without him,” said former Tantra employee Felipe Portela. "He puts it all into action.
At the beginning of the fall semester, 58 people started the game and there are now 10 left. The third game is expected to be in the summer, when people have more time.

Players tend to devote much of their time to the game. There are stories of hiding in the back of trucks, jumping on other people’s cars, hiding in bushes and attics and chases down alleyways.

“The best thing about it is people get way into it,” Garland said.

The game has stirred up questions with the local authorities. Garland was in a downtown alleyway trying to kill a target and run to Tantra when he was stopped by a police officer.

“The cop pulled me over and tell me to drop me weapon,” Garland said. “He was surprisingly cool about it.”

Garland said the game has been a controversial issue, but that it does more good for the community.

“Everybody gets to know each other,” Garland said.

But don’t plan on too many alliances with fellow gunmen. Pseudo-outlaws just can’t trust their own kind.

“There’s a lot of set ups,” Garland said. “There’s lying, stealing, backstabbing. Nobody can be trusted.”

Of course, everyone has to watch his or her back, too.

“The moral of the story is to be sneaky,” Garland said. “Hopefully if you’re good, you should shoot your target in the back.”