Oh, the horror, oh, the humanity. One of the benefits of the game, say organizers and participants, is that it helps students get to know one another.
Story last updated at 10/16/2013 - 7:19 pm
Five zombies stood in the courtyard between Egan Library and the Mourant Building at the University of Alaska Southeast. A human emerged from the safety of indoors.
"C'mon, dude," one of the zombies taunted. "You can bum rush us."
The human stood quietly with his neon Nerf blaster, evaluating his choices. He took a few steps forward and fired three shots. He missed. The zombies ran toward him. The human ran back to the safe zone around the building, perhaps to find another exit... or not.
Last week, for the fourth time since spring 2012, the UAS campus was infested by zombies.
"Humans vs. Zombies," or "HvZ" for those in the know, is a weeklong game of "moderated tag" run by the Student Activities Board at UAS. Since it started at Goucher College in 2005, the epidemic has spread: thousands of colleges and communities have played. Humans vs. Zombies is now a nonprofit that offers the game for free. To participate, students are required only to have a bandanna that tells participants whether they're human or zombie.
"It's actually a really great way to meet people here," said Bruce Allen Malazarte, a zombie and student organizer.
The game starts out with only one zombie. Zombies tag humans in order to turn them. Humans can defend themselves with Nerf "blasters" (this semester, sold by the student government at a discounted rate) and rolled up socks, which stun the zombies for five minutes.
Zombies chat amongst themselves online, as do humans, which helps organize players. The game is managed through an HvZ website, where students can see how many people have been turned into zombies, which zombie is in the lead, and other statistics.
UAS student activities coordinator Tara Olson said this semester, 198 students are active players.
Humans vs. Zombies is the Student Activity Board's highest attended multi-day activity.
"We get a good amount of people that show up. It even goes on at night in housing, too. So it'll be 10 p.m. and there's like 50 people outside trying to chase each other down," Malazarte said.
Even students that aren't participating take notice. "There's a complete shift in the energy on campus," Olson said.
"It's just a really big rush," said student Allison Lihou, participating for the second year. "It's really disappointing when you get tagged."
There are a number of rules to HvZ. Number one is "don't be a d-bag" - think about names you might call a jerk and you'll fill in the blanks. Another is not to modify weapons in any way. They have to be clearly identifiable as bright plastic Nerf "blasters." Buildings and a 10-foot area around them are safe zones, so students don't have to worry about becoming undead during class.
For "missions," if someone gets turned into a zombie, they can turn back into a human once it's over. For the seven days of the main event, however, if they're turned into a zombie anywhere on campus, they're a zombie for the rest of the event. Human "squad missions," after which humans stay zombies if turned, can earn victorious humans prizes like blasters and t-shirts.
The first game at UAS, five or six humans survived. The second game two humans survived. The last game no humans survived, Olson said.
"We ended our final "evacuation" mission tonight and 5 humans survived," Olson said. "The final game stats were: 5 humans, 109 zombies, and 84 corpses (zombies who starved before the end of the game)."
"I think it's really fun running around with guns and watching people get super serious about it," said human Paige Nelson. "It just makes everything more exciting - trying to get something to eat and trying not to die on the way there."
Olson said the game has "completely changed our campus culture in a huge, huge, way. Students are meeting other students," she said. "They're making meaningful connections with those students. They're finding students that they have things in common with, students that they can study with later after the game. Those are all things that help students persist throughout their college career."
Mary Catharine Martin is the staff writer for Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.