In the spirit of Halloween and Episode #106 of the podcast, I’d like to tell you my experience with one of the greatest college games ever invented!
From October 8th until the 20th, I was engaged in a huge organized game of Humans vs. Zombies. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s typically a campus wide, live-action game of modified tag that was created at Goucher College (Baltimore) in 2005. Every school does it a little bit differently but the general idea is that humans must defend themselves with rolled-up socks, marshmallows and Nerf guns against a growing infestation of zombies. The game is over once all humans have become “zombiefied”, the humans have survived the 2 week time limit, or in the case of schools like mine have completed certain missions dealing with a plot. The game feels realistic and is very fun when you get a lot of people to play. Friendships and alliances are formed regardless of who you are and leadership skills are put to the test. Stealth, aim, and strategy are just as important as speed and power. If you’re looking for a way to spice up your time in college or anywhere else with a lot of people and a lot of space, I highly recommend looking into starting your own game.
The total number of players playing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass Amherst) exceeded 650 players this year. At midnight on Day One, all players gathered around the large water tower on the hill where we were greeted by admins who served as NPC players and gave us the beginnings of a storyline. Soon the group of humans was roped into helping to escort biochemical wastes from the water tower to a save zone and protect it from bio-terrorists when suddenly someone drops one of the cases. He and those around him are instantly zombiefied and the encounter begins. Neft darts, marshmallows and socks were fired in massive numbers as the group scattered to avoid being bitten. I, along with a good many of the human force survived the night as more and more were bitten during the otherwise successful mission.
The game, however, does not stop there nor does it only function during missions. Unless in a designated safe zone (Academic building, dining hall, dorm building) humans, designated by a red bandana tied to their arms are vulnerable to being attacked by zombies sporting their bandanas on their foreheads, which is what happened to me.
After battling a squad of zombies to get to lunch, I found myself in trouble on my way back to the dorm. Having a standoff with 2 active zombies, a third stunned one appears. Knowing that a 3 on 1 is not a good situation, I spring into action trying to at least stun one of them to give me breathing room. Instead, the stun-timer on the third one ends and now I’m standing in the middle of a triangle. Like something out of a movie, I have my six-shot blaster and with four bullets I am able to stun two of them, but before I can swing back around for the last one I’m unable to dodge a tag, I’m forced to hand over my bite code. I’m zombiefied.
Despite wanting to stay human, being a zombie has its own charms. First and foremost is that the paranoia of zombies finding you and having to fight for your life is gone. If I lose a battle with a human, big deal; I’m stunned for 5 minutes, but I’m not dead. The only thing to worry about is foiling the missions of the humans and “biting” them in order to not “starve out”; zombies must bite a human every 72 hours or else they die and are out of the game.
By the second week of the game, the number of zombies was getting dangerously close to the number of humans that were still alive. Certain side quests would grant a lucky zombie a vaccine or two that turned them back human, but generally the human numbers were dwindling. On the night before the final mission, my roommate and I were of those few lucky ones to score a vaccine after a Slender Man inspired mission in the woods. Sure, I got a few bites here and there as a zombie, but it was great to suit up with a gun in my hand for the last stand.
Like the climax of a first-person shooter, I was among the elites of the humans who were able to survive or be revived. Split up into 2 groups, we had to hold various sections of the campus for 7 minutes and fight off zombies before we could reach our final destination – the water tower. With 20 minutes on the clock, it was all or nothing. Wave after wave, zombies charged and humans fired. Numbers on the human side started to decline but held strong. And on the last charge of the time limit, I was bitten again. The 20 minutes were up and zombies were now killable. The final charge hit, and for the first time in 3 semesters, humans at Umass Amherst were victorious over the zombies.
I can’t wait for the spring semester now.