Zack Cornett lurched into the ballroom of the Marshall Student Center of the University of South Florida, his ragged clothing ripped and covered in blood, his face gouged and bleeding.
Cornett, 21, a political science and international affairs student, is one of more than 500 students on campus who participated in last fall’s game of Humans Vs Zombies (HvZ), a campus-wide college game of tag that simulates a zombie infection.
Zombies and humans alike took a timeout from eating brains and shooting Nerf darts at the undead to dance at the Zombie Prom to songs like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the “Monster Mash.”
HvZ was invented in 2005 by Brad Sappington and Chris Weed at Baltimore’s Goucher College. The game spread virally across the Internet as Goucher students posted Flickr photos and YouTube Videos. Today, HvZ is played at more than 600 colleges and universities across the country, as well as high schools, military bases, summer camps, and public libraries.
The game has grown so popular that it has even garnered a mention on The Colbert Report.
“It’s all good, clean fun until there’s a real zombie attack,” lampooned host Stephen Colbert in a broadcast. “Haven’t these kids heard the story of the boy who cried zombie? Of course not because the boy’s whole village was devoured by zombies and no one was left to tell the tale. We must stop these college jerks from trivializing the threat of the undead.”
So what makes this game so popular?
“We hear from a lot of players that Humans vs. Zombies is one of the most meaningful things they do in college,” said Max Temkin, a designer for HvZ and a co-founder of Gnarwhal Studios, the software used to host the game online. “The game creates real bonds between players and instantly removes the social boundaries you normally see on a college campus. HvZ forces players to cooperate for their survival, and that kind of trust and camaraderie often lasts long after the game is done.”
Zombies have always seemed very blue collar to me, there was no exclusive club for being a zombie, and it seems that the groups of people that enjoy them hold to that rule of thumb as well
Here’s the way the game works: One to three people are deemed “original zombies” and must infect the student population through touch tag. Players must be registered on the HvZ web site to participate and identify themselves either as humans, by placing a bandana around their arm, or as a zombie, by placing it on their head.
The only defense a human has is to throw balled-up socks, which stuns a zombie for 15 minutes, or in select areas and times, Nerf guns. When a human is infected, he must give up an identification number assigned at registration to the zombie, who then registers it as a kill on the official website. Zombies must feed every 48 hours or they starve to death.
Ian Kent, 19, is a computer science student at Troy University. He founded the game at his college last spring and loves how HvZ turns a mundane school day into a fight for survival.
“That time between classes you would have been stuck in your dorm room not doing anything has now become an adrenaline-fueled fight for survival. It gives you a reason to step out of your comfort zone, meet new people, get exercise, and form bonds that normally would have never been formed.”
Cornett said HvZ appeals to college students, a diverse population, because it doesn’t appeal to one particular group of people.
“Zombies have always seemed very blue collar to me, there was no exclusive club for being a zombie, and it seems that the groups of people that enjoy them hold to that rule of thumb as well,” Cornett said.
When you’re fighting the undead horde, it doesn’t matter if you’re a religion major or a biology major, Greek or not Greek. Your brains taste just the same. And if you’re a zombie, well, brains are all that matter.
Universities tend to form games in October. The weather is cooler- perfect for running around and hiding in shrubbery- and the mood is just right with Halloween just around the corner. Other zombie activities on campuses have been inspired by HvZ.
At Troy, Kent said, they hope to plan the next HvZ game with the theater department’s annual Zombie Walk.
At USF, in addition to another Zombie Prom this month, the Humanities Institute is partnering up with Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream for zombie film nights, a lecture from a zombie scholar and a Zombie 101 panel.
We picked our days so that they fell in line with HvZ,” said Liz Kicak, Program Assistant for the USF Humanities Institute. “We wanted to completely saturate the campus with zombie mayhem.
“Zombies are interesting to our generation,” said 22-year-old USF English literature student Lindsay Fussell. “I feel as though our generation almost expects to have some type of zombie uprising. With the news of all these diseases appearing and causing panic, the ultimate threat would be zombies.”
As far as the zombie tag itself goes, USF student Luam Pham had a revealing answer on the USF HvZ Facebook message board.
“You know those kind of games that reveal that dark, sniveling, technicality-calling, rule bending, evil side of you that your friends didn’t know you had?” Pham said. “I think HvZ just hit my top three.”
Powered by Facebook Comments