by Brook Gardner-Durbin
Lookout, humans — the zombie horde is coming. Beginning Thursday, April 9, the MSU campus will once again be overtaken by swarms of NERF gun toting, arm-banded humans and evil, head-banded zombies as they partake in one of MSU’s most fun traditions — the semesterly game of Humans vs. Zombies.
Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) is “basically, elaborate zombie-themed tag,” said Josh Thorton, the president of Tactical Action Gaming (TAG), the MSU club that sponsors HvZ. While the club sponsors a variety of other activities, including laser tag and dart competitions, HvZ is their premiere event. The game has been happening on campus every semester since spring 2011, and has become a fixture of many students’ semesters. “I look forward to this every year,” Daphne Carlson, the club’s vice president-elect, said. Last semester the game attracted 250 players and more than 80 have signed up so far this semester.
“The humans are trying to accomplish their daily activities,” Thorton said. Armed with NERF guns and “grenades” of either balled up socks or marshmallows, the human players can stun a zombie for 15 minutes with a hit, which should let them get safely to class, but can not kill the zombies outright. “You never really win against the zombie horde … they go down and they come back,” he said. This lets the game mimic the feel of most zombie apocalypse stories, in which the zombies constantly outnumber the human survivors.
The zombie players have no weapons. Their goal is to make physical contact with the human players, instantly transforming them into another member of the shambling horde. Because they are outgunned and begin the game outnumbered, zombie players “need to engineer scenarios where they have the upper hand,” Thorton said. “A lot of people think there’s no strategy to being a zombie, but that’s wrong.”
In addition to the ongoing goals of surviving or eating each other, players have nightly missions. “It’s a very strategic game,” Thorton said. Ultimately, however, he said “The goal of the game is for players to have fun.” There is no official scorekeeping, but at the end of every mission there are prizes, donated by local businesses, for a variety of categories. These include “best story,” “best killstreak,” and more.
The game has evolved since it first came to MSU. Ideas for new missions often come from players and occasionally safety concerns are raised. Thorton, Carlson and the other TAG officers work with the office of activities and engagement to establish safe zones, such as around construction sites or large gatherings like the rodeo or football games. They also instituted a 10-foot safe zone around doors and don’t allow any unsafe modifications to NERF guns or darts.
Despite these precautions there have been a few incidents over the years. At Catapalooza in 2014, for example, Champ borrowed a large display gun and fired it into the crowd, shooting a bystander in the face. Kent Kwah, a secretary for TAG, said the game’s first rule is “basically the golden rule,” adding that their policy on modifying guns is “if you don’t want to shoot yourself in the face with it, don’t use it.” Another year several players were questioned by police after they were observed hiding in bushes the night of an attempted rape on campus. (The students were uninvolved, but looked suspicious.)
Many of the officers and players became longtime friends over the course of previous years’ games. The game forces players on both teams to work together to be successful, even outside missions. “You see someone with a NERF blaster and they’re your new best friend,” Thorton said. “It’s a really fun way to meet people; to interact with new people.”
Signups are open until the end of Friday at HvZsource.com/msutag. The TAG club meets Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in SUB 232.