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New Trier's Paranoia Game Stirs up Debate

The game, which is played with Nerf guns, has people around the area wondering if it's all fun and games or if it's an invasion of privacy.

a popular game played with Nerf guns at New Trier High School, has been causing debate since it debuted three years ago, which continued in the comments section of a Patch blog this week.

The game is played as students — armed with Nerf guns — try to eliminate other players by shooting them with the toy. More than 150 students are estimated to participate in the two seasons each year (a fall and a spring league). The controversy stems from the lengths the students will go to in order to eliminate their target — including hiding in their homes, their backyards and a variety of other places in order to catch the other player off guard. There's a cash prize for the team that wins in the end. 

The game does operate under a series of rules, which include no shooting in a school, church or athletic event, no shooting an individual who isn't wearing clothing (which leads some players to remove their clothing in public to avoid being shot) and the whole team will be kicked out of the tournament if a parent calls the police. But some believe that these rules aren't enough and that the invasion of privacy should mean the end of the game.  

Patch blogger Jennier Mcquet weighed the pros and cons of the game in a blog post earlier this week entitled, "'Gang Warfare' on the Streets of Winnetka — Is Paranoia a Game We Should Condone?"

"When/if some kid that breaks in to a home & gets slugged by the owner or a naked gunner gets pancaked by an SUV because he was fleeing without first looking left-then-right across the street, is the rest of America going to say – My God, in light of all the gun violence and school shootings, what in the world were those North Shore parents thinking?!" she wrote. "They let their children run around and shoot each other for money? Are we being paranoid parents/teachers/residents if we’re a bit concerned about Paranoia play?"

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Patch readers continued the debate in the comment section of the blog. 

"My high school son played Paranoia," Big Mama wrote. "Let's not continue to be the generation that over thinks, over manages and over shadows everything they do. They are outdoors, interacting with each other, laughing, having fun. ... Childhood is fleeting. Let them be kids."

Commenter Patches O'houlihan said that his grade at New Trier hosted the first organized tournament in 2010. 

"The thing I noticed was that it actually introduced ... me to a lot of new people that I didn't know," Patches O'houlihan said. "We also had a rule that you had to tell your parents that you were taking a part in Paranoia, so parents clearly knew that this was just a game." 

Commenter nsmom said that, although her kids played Paranoia at New Trier, she was relieved when they decided to end. 

"I'd say the pros of strategy/planning ... and teamwork are far outweighed by the cons of having muddy kids running into my house when someone answered the door, having kids stalking the house and garage early morning and late at night and having to rearragne school driving so my kids wouldn't be vulnerable," she said. "I was thrilled when my kids stopped playing. Fortunately most kids I know got tired of it after 2 years, even when they were winning."

H Hall, who said in a comment that he/she was the Freshman 2012 Commissioner, said that Paranoia is a game of Nerf, and should not be perceived to be linked to anything more sinister. 

"I see your concern with teh recent shootings and that is specifically why we ban Paranoia at school," H Hall wrote. "The shootings, however, do not effect [sic.] normal gameplay. Paranoia is just a giant game of Nerf and what Nerf is intended to be." 

How do you feel about Paranoia? Have you or your child played the game? Let us know in the comments!

JJ Hanley January 30, 2013 at 02:01 PM
When my son got into the game as a NT freshman, players went into restaurants, movie theatres and stores in order to get what another parent proudly referred to as a "public kill." Play was not restricted to outdoors, as the game may have originally began. I immediately pulled my son's permission to play the game. He went on to have a great year without it.

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