Nearly 120 Washington State University students, some decked out in camouflage gear and all packing high-powered Nerf guns, battled this week in the campus’s most recent game of Humans vs. Zombies.
The glorified game of tag played on college campuses nationwide offers fun, flying foam bullets and a chance for students to reduce stress.
“It gives us a chance to be kids again,” said Adam Kester, WSU’s Humans vs. Zombies moderator. “It brings friendships, and it brings different groups of people together.”
The game was invented in 2005 at Baltimore’s Goucher College. It gained popularity through Facebook and has spread to over 650 colleges around the world, according to the Humans vs. Zombies website.
The first game on WSU’s campus was played in 2008, mostly by university marching band members, and has grown, Kester said.
All players start as humans with the exception of one, the original zombie. Humans tie a strip of cloth around their arm to identify their game role. Once a human is solidly touched by a zombie they must put the band around their head and cross over to the side of the undead.
In the first 24 hours of the week-and-a-half-long game, the lead zombie is allowed to be deceptive about the role, posing as a human. Humans can use Nerf guns and balled up socks to stun zombies, which brings a 15-minute penalty, allowing humans time to escape.
“On the first day, every one is really suspicious of each other,” Kester said. Students scan the outdoors and run from safe zone to safe zone, such as buildings, dorm rooms, libraries and bathrooms. Anyone outside is fair game.
Melissa Davis, a junior, joined forces with her siblings Ariel Geffe and Jonna Davis for the battle. She sat studying in the school bookstore on the first day, her arsenal of Nerf guns hidden in her backpack nearby.
“My family loves zombies, especially my mom,” said Davis, 27. She and her sisters managed to stay human for most the game. “It’s lots of fun.”
Throughout the game, players engage in missions, mostly at night. For example, the humans have to escort a person or an item from one location to another without getting turned into zombies, or the zombies have to try to tag a heavily defended player, Kester said.
Zombies usually do quite well, he said. The only way zombies can be killed is by starving, which is what happens if they don’t tag a human for three days. This is the second game for the academic year; last time the zombies won and no humans remained.
Anyone can join in and play for free, Kester said. “The only requirement is to be willing to have fun.”