Conversation: The Scholarly Assassin

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Last week, B&W staffer Brendan Ballou sat down with Dan Okin, commissioner of CUAssassins, to talk about deceit, cunning, and how assassinating targets can make you a better person. Also, Tao Tan’s early years.

Should we be teaching people to assassinate?

I mean, life isn’t always about what you see in front of you. So I don’t see anything wrong with teaching students to use of all of their wits in trying to sneak up on someone. Sometimes it’s the best business strategy. Sometimes it’s the best strategy in life.

How does the game work?

Teams of four are assigned to kill other teams of four…they only know who they are attacking. So anyone could be attacking them. You’re given 72 hours to complete this mission. If you don’t complete this mission in 72 hours, you become what’s known as disavowed. And we use ‘disavowed’ because we definitely try to keep that clandestine, CIA operative kind of thing, and so we’re disavowing all knowledge of you and you’re now a public target. So once you’re disavowed your picture is published to everyone— your picture, your codename, and your residence hall, so anyone can kill you if you’re on the disavowed list, it makes the game a whole lot more interesting. So there’s a really strong incentive not to get disavowed.

What was the best way someone got assassinated?

I know that someone did track their person down and did something really sneaky; it’s the CAVA story. Three years ago, a kid got killed and was made a police officer and one of the members of the disavowed list was on CAVA and he was on CAVA. So they both went down to Baltimore for a conference on medical ambulatory serves in colleges and universities. They slept in the same room together, they were roommates. And this guy slept in the same room with him for a night, they spent 14 or 15 hours together, consecutively, without this guy saying anything, and at the very end around 7 PM around their final cocktail hour, this guy jumps up on a table and says, “in the name of commissioner David Stern, I assassinate you” and this guy is taking a sip of his drink, and the kill report is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and the guy is just like stunned that this could happen, and rightfully so, this is just absurd.

What trips people up?

What trips people up? It’s all over the place. The game is so intense that one or two mistakes and you’re screwed. My freshman year there was one kid with 12 or 13 kills, he was definitely in the league, running it up, made one mistake, came out of a door by mistake, so that a guy was standing behind the door, and the guy shot him. And that was it. In a lot of ways this game mimics life in some things. Because you’ll be going along, going along, going along, and you’re doing really, really well and then one mistake and you’re dead.

But we try to reward students even if they make a mistake if they’re doing really well. The prizes are 400 bucks for the winning team, 100 bucks for the second place team, and 100 bucks for whoever has the most kills. While for the last two years the person with the most kills has been on the winning team, it’s not inconceivable that it would be another person who has the most kills.

How far are people willing to go? How much time do they put into this?

So much time. I say this is equivalent to two 4 point classes worth of time. It never ends, you’re never safe.

I imagine that the people who put more time into it are more likely to survive.

The crazier people aren’t always more likely to survive.

Is it possible to be both a student and an assassin?

It’s possible, but the best assassins are only students in class. But it’s hard to be an assassin and let your guard down so unless you’re one of those scholarly people who spend a lot of time between Butler and class, you’re going to be exposed a lot, and so it’s important to maintain that assassin attitude, which is always looking behind your shoulder. I think it’s very doable to be a scholarly assassin, I’ve just never seen anybody do it. The best assassins I’ve ever seen are freshmen and seniors who never have to give a shit about their work.

What makes a good assassin?

A good assassin is someone who is creative in their methods in luring their people into some kind of trap. They are a resourceful individual who uses every person they know in an effort to surprise their target or any kind of thing that they have that’s special they use. So a lot of people here don’t sleep, god knows why. Or this school’s filled with people who keep really weird hours, and they use that to their advantage…it’s about using the skills they have to their advantage.

And what makes someone a bad assassin?

A bad assassin is usually someone who doesn’t care. There are a lot of people who sign up who don’t understand how crazy the game really is. A bad assassin is someone who’s a little oblivious, a little overconfident in some ways. They would think ‘no one would ever find me, I would never get attacked.’ And so they have this strain of over-confidence that’s probably very prevalent among Ivy League individuals in their ability to win, and they usually die pretty quickly. Two years ago this kid was like ‘I’m going to kill everybody, I’m going to be the best assassin ever. I’m living in the tunnels during the game.’ Nope.

Tao Tan is a cop, right?

Yeah, actually he’s the kid I was just talking about. Two years ago Tao Tan was like “I’m going to be the best person ever. I’m going to be the best person in this game.” So he calls me about all this shit, like ‘Oh Dan, can I attach a giant water tank to my back and go around shooting people?’ Remember when I was lecturing you guys about how you can’t modify guns? He is the sole reason why you can’t modify guns.

He asked if he could use a giant water pack and we said no and he said that he had a pressurized system that would enable him to shoot someone standing in front of John Jay from the roof of Low Library. And I was like ‘You’re nuts for suggesting it.’ And second of all, why? And third of all, have you seen these guns? You put any kind of pressure in them and they’ll explode in your hands. So basically Tao Tan was the single-handed reason why we discourage people from modifying their guns.

And so was he eliminated?

Oh, he died on the first day.


He made one mistake.

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  1. Scared of my cat, now

    Fabulous interview, terrifying kitty

  2. hahahaha

    "He made one mistake."

    was it becoming a right-wing wingnut?

  3. Anonymous

    Wow, Dan Okin sounds like a Valley Girl

  4. Anonymous

    Hey now -- Tao is by far the most compassionate fascist I've ever encountered.

  5. Anonymous

    mistake: it's called being a dick head

  6. Dan & Tan  

    are really secret lovers. I fear their offspring.

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