By Grace Raper – Copy Desk Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
A nervous tension looms over the Quad as a group of orange bandana-clad heads swivel side to side, scoping for possible targets.
October means one thing for UNC Asheville: zombies are coming.
Oct. 18 — Humans vs. Zombies official rules meeting
“This is not a war,” said Jacob Warren, human moderator for Humans vs. Zombies to a crowded room of new recruits
To the unsuspecting outsider, Humans vs. Zombies seems like a chaotic week filled with college students tagging each other with Nerf blasters and handfuls of socks.
However, the true purpose of Humans vs. Zombies runs much deeper than a simple game of tag.
Jaxn Gantt, a veteran of the game, stood outside the Highsmith Student Union with one Nerf blaster holstered to his side and an orange bandana declaring ‘HUMAN’ tied around his upper arm.
“Humans vs. Zombies came to UNCA in the fall of 2010,” said Gant, zombie moderator and a teaching fellow at UNCA. “And the ultimate goal of the game is … to build the community aspect, and that’s really what we’re trying this year: to push more teamwork on both the human and zombie side so that students are working together.”
Warren and Gant led the rules meeting together, cracking jokes and adding a relaxed feeling for the newbies.
“This is a social event, a chance to make friends,” Warren said to the crowd. “We’re all nerds here.”
Oct. 22 — Two days since official infection
Amber Padgett, a junior at UNCA and new player to the world of Humans vs. Zombies, displayed the orange bandana around her head proudly as she explained why she joined the game this semester.
“A lot of my friends had done it and I watched them and thought, ‘This looks cool!’” Padgett said.
Though the true purpose of Humans vs. Zombies seemed to be making new friends, the game could also pit friends against each other for a week, according to Padgett.
“I have a friend who takes this game seriously and she’s a human. She told me, ‘We can’t hang out, you might tag me!” Padgett said.
According to Padgett, an overarching story written by moderators of the game gives both sides a guiding light for the duration of gameplay. Human and zombie missions, often conducted in the middle of the night, provide goals for unlocking new technologies for each side
“I haven’t been able to make it to a mission, but I know one of them involved finding an ancient text and performing some sort of ritual,” Padgett said.
Oct. 23 — Three days since infection
Newly chosen Kyle Garner marked ground zero for the zombie virus when gameplay began on Oct. 20 at midnight. None of the other players knew his position, making them easy targets.
“The first night I didn’t have to wear a headband,” said Garner, a computer science student and Humans vs. Zombies veteran. “My heart was pumping, and it was really invigorating because I had seven people around me outside.”
As the group of naive humans splintered off, Garner managed to tag three of the seven, creating the first zombie horde in the game.
“I was gunning for people who had played the game before because they would know better strategies as zombies,” Garner said.
With the title of original zombie came the task of coordinating zombie attack strategies and helping out with missions to overtake the few human veterans players who posed a true threat, according to Garner.
“Being the leader eats into my school time, and it also eats away at my sleep,” Garner said.
Trayvs McCauley, a fellow zombie and new media student, said he agreed.
“You also miss advising appointments,” he said, pointing at himself.
Zombie presence on campus instills paranoia in human players, and paranoia made tagging new players to the game even more fulfilling, according to Garner.
Garner and McCauley narrated their tag team attempt to scare freshman and other newbies early into gameplay.
“So the second day we trapped the humans in Founders, and there were more humans running in to try and save the others, but then they couldn’t leave either,” Garner said. “We scared the pants off them.”
Zombies are forbidden from tagging humans in residence halls, but they can camp out in front of the entrances to buildings for as long as they’d like, according to Garner.
“We literally had at least five zombies on every single exit,” McCauley said. “Some even had 12 zombies.”
Garner also said the zombies managed to overtake the humans in numbers about 24 hours earlier than in past gameplay, but he added he felt no hurry to end the game.
“We got a lot of people initially, but I want this game to last the full week,” Garner said.
Oct. 25 — Five days since infection
Kevin Forte, a veteran player and one of the last remaining humans, agreed to meet in a safe zone residence hall. His upper arm was remarkably bare of any orange bandana and two zombie friends accompanied him.
“This is my fourth time as a player,” Forte said. “I’ve only been a zombie once and only for one day.”
While many other veteran players agreed playing as a zombie proved more fun than human, Forte said he disagrees.
“I really like being a human,” he said.
Recently tagged sophomore Erik Rubino cut in and said, “It sucks being a zombie.”
Rubino said he was tagged the previous night in an ambush. Two days prior he had defeated original zombie, Garner, using the effective thunderdome formation, a Western-style one-dart attempt to escape a zombie horde.
“You get one shot, and if you miss, you’re most likely tagged,” Rubino said.
Managing to remain alive for nearly a full week of play emphasized Forte’s skill in the game and made him a key person from whom new players could seek advice.
“It all sounds very military,” Forte said. “You know, checking your corners and never letting your guard down. It’s a lot of cardio.”
The human to zombie ratio stood at 24 to 50, according to Forte.
“Human strategy is to mess up the zombie coordinating as much as possible,” Forte said. “Moving is the operative word. A lot of problems could be solved by sprinting.”
Oct. 26 — Last day of gameplay
According to original zombie Garner, UNCA puts on Humans vs. Zombies once every semester, a completely student-led event employing an honor code and a glimpse into a survival-of-the-fittest gaming experience.
“I’m so glad I got to tag all these freshman as the OZ, because they’re gonna wanna play it again just for the thrill of it,” Garner said.