This semester, I decided to play Humans vs Zombies through the CWRU Big Games Club. The game is, as described by the game’s site, hvz.case.edu, “an intense, 10 day long, game of tag played everywhere on campus.” For “humans,” the goal is not to get tagged and turned into a zombie. For “zombies,” the goal is to tag every human. Humans can use Nerf blasters and socks as projectiles to defend themselves, but a single mistake will cost them their humanity. As the week progresses, the game gets harder and harder for humans as their numbers dwindle and easier and easier for zombies, whose numbers swell as they tag more victims.
As I heard it from one of the final humans left last semester and one of the current people on “Core” (the game’s administrative body), Christina Brancel, “Making it to the end was amazing. The game honestly feels real, so it was as if I had really survived the zombie apocalypse.”
She told me that after the game ended, everyone went to Mitchell’s Ice Cream to celebrate the end of the final day of the game. The final day is a grueling challenge where humans first attempt to recruit certain allies by completing certain objectives and then fight and defeat what Adam Doros, the president of Big Games Club, called a “a super-powerful boss zombie.”
I have friends (including Christina) who survived all ten days last semester, and I thought I would try to do the same. Instead, I survived approximately forty hours. For those forty hours, however, campus changed completely. Every corner was a blind spot where a zombie could run out and tag me while I wasn’t looking. I looked around my lecture halls at the beginning and end of lectures to count the number of zombies in my classes and decide whether to take the risk of leaving in a crowd or to wait until the zombies left to go to my next class.
Because I’m a first-year student, I live in the North Residential Village. The trip to the Main Quad (and back) was terrifying; I had to traverse almost all of campus, making sure that I didn’t miss a single detail, a single hiding spot where a zombie could tag me. Paired with some anxiety about the tests I have next week, my normally relaxed walk turned into more of a hunched shuffle.
I’m almost glad that I was tagged so early in the game because I have significantly more freedom as a zombie than as a human. As a zombie, the game is a hunt; it’s a search for information about surviving humans. As part of the game, the zombie horde shares information about humans and coordinates attempts to tag them through a group chat called “Gravemind.” When one of the zombies sees a human, they can tell other zombies where the human seems to be headed and how many humans there are.
When I became the hunter instead of the hunted, the walk to my classes changed again. Instead of looking for places where a zombie might wait to ambush me, I look for where a human might slip past me when I should have caught them. I look for opportunities and for people in my classes who are playing as either humans or zombies. What I’ve found in the short time I’ve been playing is that the community of players is committed both to having fun and winning for their respective sides.
I’m excited to see how the game finishes this year.
Zubair Mukhi is a first-year computer science major. He writes opinion pieces bi-weekly and is currently undead as far as Humans vs Zombies is concerned. He evaded about five zombies before joining their horde. His biggest complaint is that the headbands for Humans vs Zombies make it annoying to wear a hat and that he has to wear it while on campus.