An alternate name for a game otherwise called "Killer" or "Assassin" or similar. The game is played in an environment like a college campus, in which the population density and level of activity is conducive. Each player interested signs up with a central coordinator, who then assigns each player a "target" in a circle of death: each player is the target of one other player in a chain, with the final player's target being the first member. The object is to "kill" your target and not be killed yourself. The methods of killing vary widely between game versions, but they are always wholly painless: tagging the person with a plastic knife, shooting them with a water gun, bombarding them with Nerf ammunition, or what have you. When a target is eliminated, a report is made to the game coordinator, who assigns a new target, usually the former target of the person just "killed." The crux of the matter is that a player knows only one other person who's playing--the target, not the one targeting him/her...

This game is great for four or five days of good clean paranoid fun. Some variants include rules like bombs, which can technically be anything, but must emit sound or light (e.g. alarm clocks), and "kill" anyone within a certain radius when they go off. There is a harsh penalty (ingame death) for killing innocents...

This widely anthologized short story classic was written by Richard Connell and first published by Collier's Magazine on January 19, 1924. Sometimes this story is titled as "The Hounds of Zaroff".

Why the change in title? Well, the answer has to do with the different denotations of the word game.

This story has been adapted over eight times in a variety of mediums: Richard Bachman's book The Running Man recreates it. Orson Welles did a radio adaptation. The 1932 film version is in the public domain and the most recent film version was released in 2008.  

There's even a vaporware adaptation of it. More tangentially, check out Smokey Robinson's song "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game.

In addition to the game which SabreCat describes, Connell's story is also credited as the inspiration for paintball.


Why is this story so popular? Well, it has become an archetype of a particular form of conflict and an exemplary illustration of situational irony. It has fully entered the cultural consciousness to the point that Gilligan's Island and Charlie's Angels both did episodes which use this trope.

You probably read it in school. If you didn't, you should go read it now, as it's a pretty good yarn.

Go ahead. I'll even give you a head start.

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