Humans vs. zombies game prepares students for apocalypse
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 22:10
For most students, exiting class can be a moment of relief and freedom, but for a particular group, exiting class can be a matter of life or death by Nerf gun—a push to the limits of physical and mental ability.
This is Humans vs. Zombies, and it isn’t just a game—it’s preparation for a possible apocalypse.
Humans vs. Zombies is a game of tag that originated at Goucher College in 2005. The game spread virally and is now played at more than 650 colleges and universities around the world, according to humansvszombies.org. All players begin as humans and one is designated the “Original Zombie,” who must tag humans in order to turn them into zombies and stay alive. If a zombie fails to tag and “eat” a human every 48 hours, they are considered starved and out of the game.
Junior Chris Rodriguez says he was infected by the craze surrounding the game.
“I was talking to a friend from Purdue [University] and he told me about this awesome game he had been playing on campus,” Rodriguez says. “It sounded like so much fun.”
Rodriguez contacted friends, senior William Reeck and junior Ryan Palmer, and recruited them to start a game. They became the founders, and Humans versus Zombies then took off at the university.
“At the very first informational meeting we had, I was shocked,” Reeck says. “We were meeting outside Trabant, and by the time we got there, there were over 100 people. There wasn’t room on the sidewalk.”
Due to the nature and popularity of the game, the Registered Student Organization office and university police quickly took notice. Rules and guidelines for play vary between schools depending on the environment. More enclosed campuses can have very loose rules—a more open campus like the university must take the surroundings into consideration when playing.
“I had to go to certain people before any games to make sure that we would be allowed to play and would be staying in line with safety guidelines,” Rodriguez says. “They were very accommodating.”
By the spring of 2012, Humans vs. Zombies had become an RSO and took home YoUDee’s title of Best New RSO. The club hosted their first official “Z Week” in April, a week-long event during which a different mission is held every night to spark battles between the humans and zombies.
“This is a week where you will see students running all over campus with Nerf guns,” Palmer says. “If you are wearing a bandana that signifies you as a player. Once you step foot outside, you are in the game.”
Players describe this experience as one of anticipation and heightened awareness.
“You are in this constant state of nervousness, but it’s excitement as well,” sophomore Nicholas Indrisano says. “It gives you a break from the monotony of school.”
According to the founders, there is much preparation for Z Week with an estimated 200 participants. Some students aim to minimize their school commitments, taking time off to “stalk,” while others amplify their Nerf guns to the fullest capabilities.
“There are so many parts to fiddle with on a Nerf gun,” Indrisano says. “If you remove a gun’s air suppressor, it can shoot further and faster. If you modify the battery pack to increase voltage, you can make the gun more powerful.”
Once altered, guns must be approved by moderators. However, there is a universally approved weapon—socks are allowed due to their assumed innocence. With a bit of throwing strength, the best players can use this menial laundry item stun a zombie for 15 minutes.
“One night during Z Week, there was this girl playing who was up against six zombies,” Rodriguez says. “With just socks, she faced them all down, taking them out as they came.”
Similarly sensational stories are not uncommon among players. Indrisano says he knew someone who was trapped inside Gore Hall for five hours by zombies one night.
For large groups of zombies and humans, battles can become even more intense.
“During Z Week, a bunch of guys stepped in and made the outside of Kirkbride into a fortress,” Palmer says. “It turned into our D-Day.”
Humans versus Zombies participants have positive reviews of the game, citing the excitement and the fun of the experience.
“There is something that is so much fun about the chase of the game,” Indrisano says. “You don’t get many opportunities to experience that same thrill.”