Column – Humans vs. Zombies offers great college experience

October 20, 2010 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador. Photo from Flickr.

When we first leave for college, we’re told by many adults that college will give us a taste of “the real world,” but that’s not entirely true, is it? After all, the real world usually doesn’t involve games like Humans vs. Zombies.

Sure, many adults play “Left 4 Dead” or other zombie video games, and zombies movies often manage to be box office hits, no matter their quality. Some adults may even play tag, though this is usually with children. But you don’t usually see college graduates walking around town with bandanas and Nerf guns, playing a massive game of Cops and Robbers. That’s not to say it’s impossible – the website for Humans vs. Zombies notes that there’s no reason it can’t be played in retirement homes – it’s just a lot less likely.

Though, now that I think about it, wouldn’t it be awesome if we did see more “mature” adults take part in the game? I’d particularly love to see Steve Jobs walk out of Apple HQ with a bandana around his arm and toy gun at his side.

For those not yet aware, and who are perhaps wondering what the crap is going on with some students on campus this week, Humans vs. Zombies (usually referred to as HvZ) is a large-scale game of tag where one group, the humans, is trying to avoid being tagged by the rival group, the zombies. Humans can stun zombies for 15 minutes by shooting them with a Nerf gun or throwing a sock at them. If a human is tagged, they are turned into a zombie a couple hours later and have to turn on their former, living brethren.

Not knowing this can make for some awkward looks at HvZ players. This was particularly humorous on Monday, as it was Tech’s University Day. Maybe a bunch of kids running around with toy guns didn’t present the most prestigious image of our great university to the many parents and high school kids who were visiting, but that just made it a bit more special to me.

It may not be all fun and games, of course. While the HvZ website lists strict and very sensible rules for safety, Stephen Colbert has named the game the No. 1 threat to America on his “Threatdown” segment. He argues that it’s all fun and games until the real zombie outbreak hits, after which all hell will break loose.

I’m not playing HvZ myself, and I must confess that I wasn’t even aware of it until it was too late to sign up for this match. I’m not sure if I would have enlisted for the game had I known about it earlier, but I do love the fact that it exists. In a lot of ways, this is exactly what makes the college experience worthwhile. While there’s no rule against games like this existing outside the college campus, universities are still where these things always crop up and later thrive.

Despite the “us versus them” mentality that the game promotes, I can already see the social benefits of the experience. When walking to my car after class earlier this week, I noticed two human players, who didn’t seem to know each other, notice the familiar bandana on each other’s arms and decide to meet up. Within seconds, they were sharing their game experiences and discussing strategies for the rest of the week.

As of this writing, though, I haven’t personally seen a single zombie player – just a ton of shifty-eyed humans. Granted, a couple of my coworkers have claimed to see some out and about, so maybe they’re just hiding from me. Or maybe the humans are just awesome and haven’t been turned, and maybe the zombies really need to step it up. Regardless, I hope to see a lot more of the living dead wreaking havoc in the near future. It would make the walks to class more exciting.

Britton Peele

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Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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