Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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During a recent out-of-town trip I observed that despite the abundance of digital entertainment available (what with all the NDS and PSP owners bringing the goods, not to mention some people bringing a Wii), some people still got together to play some face-to-face IRL games. I’m talking the types of games that are not easily translatable into digital format and will probably remain so for quite a while.

One such game is known locally as “Killer-killer”. Obviously a local name due to the Filipino’s penchant for repeating words in a single term, I have no idea if it is known by other names elsewhere or if it exists outside this country at all. (As you can imagine, “Killer-killer” is not a very easy search term.) For the purposes of posterity, I will record the details of the game here.

In this game, a group of people sit around in a circular formation, such that each person can easily see each other’s face. A good number of participants would be around 6-8, although more can play with a few rules adjustments (we played with around 15 people on the night in question).

Each player is given a role, usually written on a scrap of paper and drawn randomly. The players don’t know each others’ roles. The following roles are available in the game:

“Killer” – the titular role obviously. The Killer’s objective is to assassinate a particular other role, usually named the “Judge”. The Killer kills people by winking at them silently, and tries to avoid getting caught by the Police. Other players who notice the Killer winking at them must declare that they have been killed. Once the Killer has killed his mark, the game ends and the killer wins.

“Judge” – the assassination mark, his only objective in the game is to stay alive. If the Judge is killed, the Killer wins and the Policeman loses.

“Police” – the law, his objective is to catch the Killer, either by catching him red-handed “killing” someone, or if the Killer attempts to “kill” the Police, the Police may immediately arrest him. Once the Police catches the Killer, the game ends.

“Doctor” – an important role, his objective is to “Heal” other people who have been “killed”, by winking at them as well. The person who has been healed usually declares something like “I’m alive again!”

“Victim” – other players are usually assigned randomly-named roles but have no gameplay significance; their only purpose is to delay the Killer in his hunt for the mark.

When playing with more people, the game can be balanced by adding more Killers and Policemen as needed.

The game is best played with a group of people who know each other well and are comfortable staring into each other’s eyes. It’s a game of concentration, bluffing and deception that is probably close to impossible to accurately translate into a digital game.

And because I just now noticed that WordPress now allows me to tag posts, I will tag this one with a term I coined just now: “meatspace-games”

Update 2020! I found out there is a Wikipedia entry about this game! (I checked the edit history, and the name “Killer-killer” was not part of the entry at the time that this post was written.)

Posted by under post at #meatspace-games #favorites
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i LOVE killer-killer. i believe the doctor heals with a blink though.

I guess it depends on the particular set of rules that people know. I didn't even remember how the game could handle 10 or more people until playing it again.

Besides, blinking can happen involuntarily. Healing cannot. And making the doctor blink means the Policeman can make a mistake and catch the Doctor!