Hordes of the hungry undead stalked around USF’s Tampa campus from March 28 to April 2, hunting for human flesh in USF’s highly-anticipated fifth installment of the popular live-action game, Humans Vs. Zombies.
Played by hundreds of students every semester since spring 2010, the weeklong event is essentially a campus-wide game of tag between teams of “humans,” or the Resistance, recognized by a bandanna on the arm, and “zombies,” the Horde, adorned with bandannas on the head.
Humans can arm themselves with socks, Nerf or other branded foam-projectile blasters and their wits to overcome the expanding undead population, while zombie participants must try to “tag” all surviving humans and turn them into zombies.
The game is played for five days, at all hours of the day. Humans must try to stay alive by completing objectives and “stunning” zombies by hitting them with Nerf darts or socks, while zombies must try to infect all human players by tagging them. Zombies are only “stunned” for 15 minutes each time they’re hit, so humans must keep on their feet at all times.
During the first 24 hours of the game, one or more players are selected to be an “OZ,” or Original Zombie, whose duty it is to “infect” as many people as possible. The first day usually induces the most paranoia in players, as the Original Zombies are not required to wear bandannas, or can even wear them on their arms, like the humans.
Game moderators, who act as referees and coordinators for the event, organize on-campus missions for both sides to participate in, with rewards and punishments for a team’s successes and failures.
Rewards for missions have grown largely in variation since the game’s earlier installments: Everything from the much sought-after cure and immunity cards, to special human or zombie “classes,” like “Medics” and “Hunters.”
The human team even came to acquire an “Armored Personnel Vehicle,” a trusty, Flintstone-style foot-powered cardboard and PVC box promptly named “Rodney” as a reward for completing a mission.
Sophomore Brandon Breedwell, a medical technology major, has been a moderator of the game since spring 2011.
“In a way it’s like taking part in a large scale movie or TV show of sorts,” said Breedwell. “Knowing what the characters in a book or show don't know and then seeing the future unfold for them is always exciting and it’s much the same with HVZ.”
Humans Vs. Zombies began in the fall of 2005, at Goucher College in Maryland. Since the humble efforts of founders Chris Weed and Brad Sappington, Humans Vs. Zombies has expanded to over 1,000 game locations, a great majority college campuses, on over five continents.
At USF, Humans Vs. Zombies is run by shared collaboration between school organizations. Fall games are typically organized by USF’s Christians In Action Campus Ministries, while spring games are usually a joint-effort between the Association for Nerf Appreciation and the USF Quidditch Team.
The spring 2012 installment of the game featured multiple plotlines and over a dozen premeditated missions for players to attempt. A committed group of roughly 250 students registered for this semester’s session, a more focused player-base than the many hundreds that normally participate in fall games.
The latest installment of Humans Vs. Zombies on our campus also served as a tie-breaker for the previous four games, settling the split score between “human” and “zombie” teams. The human factions scraped by in the last moments of the dramatic final mission with a surprising human victory. They can rest assured, however, that zombies will be back in fall 2012 with a vengeance.
At the bare foundation of Humans Vs. Zombies, beyond the pure adrenaline and suspense that accompanies participation, is a strong sense of community. Each game brings people from all walks of life together, acting as a networking bridge for students with the game-required commitment to excitement and fun.
Geoffrey West, a junior double-majoring in philosophy and religious studies, has participated in all five of USF’s sanctioned games and recognizes the significance of networking within player community.
“HvZ [Humans Vs. Zombies] builds friendships and relationships with people who one may not normally meet and anyone playing is going to make many new friends,” West said, after the conclusion of spring’s game. “HvZ has been one of the most fun things I have ever experienced in college and anyone who does not play is missing out on an experience of a lifetime.”
Perhaps the greatest gift of Humans Vs. Zombies is the escapism that comes with playing: “Saving humanity” with your new best friends for five days noticeably diminishes the weight of importance participants place on the standard troubles of student life.
“It is, in my opinion, one of the best games to socialize because it builds on a sense of fear and unity,” said sophomore Rohan Trivedi, an electrical engineering major, after playing in his fourth game this spring.
“My roommate told me about the game and it sounded very interesting and exciting,” Trivendi said. “However, I will admit that for my first game, I did not at all expect it to be as terrifying as it is to be a human. I think that aspect of the game has kept bringing me back to HvZ.”
Currently, the dedicated community of players at USF are motioning towards creating an official Humans Vs. Zombies club to sponsor future games and expand the player-base of the events. While the game has raised safety concerns at other schools and has even been banned for its perceived violence, students can remain confident that the game will not be leaving USF any time soon.
Viva la Resistance!