When more than 40 people in their 20s stalk the streets of Brooklyn with concealed water guns, that can only mean one thing; a gang war game of CounterSquirt is going down.
Earlier this month, NYC's Come Out & Play Festival held a tactical water gun battle.
Equipped with dollar-store water pistols, three coloured wristbands (representing lives), a pair of walkie-talkies, and a map, several seven or eight- man squads fanned out into the night. Their objective was to follow their maps to locate and escort several non-player characters (NPCs) back to the central HQ or mobile drop-off for points in return. Among the NPCs, who were all played by volunteers, were a traitor, informant, hostage and scientist. They were dispersed throughout the neighbourhood within several blocks of the central HQ, the Brooklyn Lyceum.
The stage was set for ambushes, face-offs and squeals of terror as each squad set out to foil each other's plans and hunt each other down armed with their liquid payload.
This was not your average water fight, but rather a live action replica of tactical shooters like Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and Counter-Strike from which CounterSquirt it draws its name. Polite, immaculate urbanites were transformed into hardened water soldiers ducking behind cars, peeking around corners and marching down the street in formation. The inevitable casualties were forced to relinquish one of their wristbands which were then turned into the HQ for additional points; lose them all and they would have to walk back to HQ to "respawn". These points could be exchanged for even larger weapons, the biggest of which was a three nozzle water cannon.
My squad (Team Green) took it upon themselves to have a sprinting start, barrelling down the street towards the farthest NPC location on our map, the scientist. We were an unlikely bunch including me a young Kotaku intern dressed the part in green fatigues and laced up boots, a 188cm Asian man and a tag team British duo, among other colourful characters. By the end of the 50-minute battle we had captured the scientist twice and nabbed the hostage (my sister) three times, often ambushing them from behind a parked Nissan Murano as they neared the HQ. We traded 11 points each for two water cannons we shared in our squad. With 84 points total our Team Green completely crushed the closest squad by over 20 points.
Counter-Squirt proved that, when coerced with the promise of fun, New Yorkers are willing to throw caution to the wind, running through busy traffic, sticking water pistols in their pants, and ignoring the puzzled stares of locals, hipster bar hoppers and the NYPD.