For the last week, 50 seemingly normal citizens of Mumbai have been moonlighting as freelance “contract killers”.
Their task is simple. Scheme, plot, track down and carry out a “hit” on one of their kind (specified by the folks running the game) by splashing them with water, and work your way up a virtual leaderboard till you’re the last person standing. Called Supari, the game is what’s called an ARG, an “alternate reality game”. These are games that bleed into the real world, but follow the tiered progression and rule framework that characterize video-game worlds.
Here’s how it works. You sign up at the Supari Facebook page (registration is currently closed, but a new round is coming soon), give them your personal details—this is important, since the game is centred around your real life—pay a nominal entry fee (keeping out the spammers) and get your first “target”. “We need complete details from people—home address, work address—so others can track them down for the kill,” says Ajesh Shah, the co-founder of the game. “We have participants from all over Mumbai—Colaba to Thane to Borivali and everywhere in between.”
Assassin’s creed: Kumar Jhuremalani (left) and Ajesh Shah will host the current run of Supari. Courtesy Kumar Jhuremalani
But it’s not as easy as just waiting around a corner to splash your target. There are madcap rules that allow for escapes and mad chases through the city, as well as the constant lurking presence of the person who has been assigned to you as their target. “We have some basic rules, of course. No “killing” at work, for instance,” Shah says. “But we also come up with random stuff...like, if you’re wearing a green T-shirt on a Tuesday, you can’t be killed. Or you can take refuge in the so-called ‘safe houses’ where you can’t be killed.” These “safe houses” have included, in the past, bathrooms in railway stations.
The slain player’s target becomes the killer’s and the game continues. Shah, who will host the game with Kumar Jhuremalani, is also one of the founders of Board Game Bash, a group that conducts board-game events in Mumbai’s cafés. “Supari was an extension or offshoot of that,” says Shah. “In fact, the Board Game Bash events have been the locations for complex, multiple kills.” This is the second “season”, so to speak, of Supari, and there have been a few interesting tweaks to the rules. “We have a cool, secret system now,” says Shah. “Killed players can come back as vigilantes to exact revenge.”
For more on Supari, log on to the game’s official Facebook page at http://bit.ly/Supari