Humans vs. Zombies is described by the guys who run the HvZ club here at RIT as “A modified game of tag.” Which is, I suppose, the absolute simplest way of putting it. Like most simple explanations, though, it completely misrepresents the reality of the game. HvZ is not “tag.” HvZ is survival and hunting, paranoia and exultation and fury and ruthlessness. This past week has been most likely the most stressful week of the quarter because, unlike the last game I played, I survived until the very last day and the very last bitter fight.
A brief rundown of the game, for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about. Humans vs. Zombies is pretty much exactly what the title says it is (I’ll be describing the RIT rules here, since that’s what I played). At the start of the game, there are a handful of zombies and hundreds of humans. By the end of the game, there are hundreds of zombies and maybe–maybe–a dozen humans left alive. Everyone has a green bandanna with the club’s logo on it (you can see it here, if you’re interested). Zombies are the guys with the bandanna on their heads and humans are the guys with the bandanna on their arm and Nerf guns in their hands. A human tagged by a zombie becomes a zombie; a zombie shot by a human’s gun or hit by a balled-up sock is stunned and out of the game for seven minutes. The status of every player is tracked on the game’s website–every player has an ID card with three numbers on it, two “Tag” numbers for zombies to put into the system (two in case you find an antivirus as a zombie) and a player ID number. Inside buildings and within 15 feet of any public-access door with a vestibule are safe zones. The game started at midnight on Monday Morning, and ended at 9:00 PM today, with missions every night starting at 9PM, except on Friday, where the extraction mission started at 6. I died somewhere between 7 and 8. Not really sure of the exact time.
This was my week.
Woke up at 9AM. Headed over to class in the Liberal Arts building. All we had to do is get to the academic side tunnels and we’d be good. We had maybe fifteen people to start, and met up with more on the way over. We made it to the tunnels below the field house, and made the quick jump from the SAU to the library and the academic tunnels. On the way over one zombie got taken down in a hail of darts. During Fiction Prose I discovered that I’d forgotten my HvZ ID card, which is worthy of a banning if a mod finds you without it. I tried to go back to the dorms the way I’d come, but zombies were waiting in ambush on the jump between the library and the SAU. Me and three other people took the long way around–from Liberal Arts to Building 7 and from there to Eastman. Got back to the dorms and my ID card by sprinting from the field house to the dorms.
Got back to academic side with Brett and Peter. We were chased by a couple zombies, but they didn’t even come close to tagging us. When we were heading back dormside, though, we were ambushed by Chris the Ninja Zombie. We came out the door of Building 12, and saw him across the plaza, grinning his huge zombie grin. We went back inside and left by the back door. He was there waiting for us behind a car. Peter and I fired six shots total as we retreated towards the doors to Gosnell. Chris dodged every one of them, but we made it to safety.
Later that night, Peter died when the rearguard he was a part of broke during the mission.
Made it to Gosnell for physics, alone, without seeing any zombies. During the midday mission, at about 1:00, Brett died when a fellow human knocked him to the ground in his rush to retreat from the advancing horde. I made it back from Gosnell to the dorms in a group, seeing zombies through the trees. None of them came close.
I went on the mission later that night. It rained for the full two hours. Our squad lost two members, and I myself survived the night by a margin of about half a second (the time between my dart hitting the zombie and the zombie hitting me). We were guarding the retreat back to Gracies for the rest of the humans, in the hopes of preventing what had happened the night before; but very few humans came back that way. There was no retreating. If a human squad was caught out, it was destroyed to a man.
Spent the entire day on academic side, reading during the two-hour breaks between classes. Left for the dorms at eight-fifteen, forty-five minutes before the mission started. We took the long way back, to avoid the zombies mustering for the mission. Wednesday night seemed to follow horror movie logic the entire way–the wind picked up, geese moved in the swamp and made us jump, and streetlights went out just as we passed under them.
Went to academic side early and read until Physics. Made it back to dorms in a large group. The day was largely uneventful. The night was hell.
The human’s objective during the Thursday night mission was to kill four witches, special zombies who would attack zombie and human alike, and who could only be killed by special weapons called Motovs (because the admins didn’t want campus safety hearing us talking about Molotovs) which were, basically, balled-up socks painted orange. We then had to bring scientist NPCs to the witches to extract DNA from them to build some sort of weapon for Friday. Because we’d done so poorly on the Tuesday and Wednesday missions, we needed to ace this one if we were going to have any hope of surviving Friday.
Kill the witches, protect the scientists, get safely back to Gracies. That was the plan. Here’s what actually happened. My squad and I fell in with someone who we would have stayed the hell away from if we’d known anything about him; but as is, the loud kid in the air-force jacket seemed to know what he was doing, so we followed him. Through mud and darkness we followed him, picking our way through the swamp, until we pointed out that at this rate the mission would have ended by the time we even reached academic side. He seemed to take that personally. From “Let’s take a faster route than the swamp,” he got “We all want to go inside the nearest building.” As such, he started leading us towards the library; and, like fools, we followed him, straight into the horde.
After a flurry of sprinting, shooting, and screaming, we found ourselves surrounded in Building 12. This building only has two exits, and is not connected to any tunnels. The only way out was through the fifty or so zombies waiting outside.
So we waited. When there were only thirty or so zombies, most of us made a break for it. Three other people and myself were in the vestibule when the rest of our group made a break for it. We couldn’t get out in time. We were stuck, and would remain so for the next hour and a half.
The building closed at midnight. We left at 11:55. There was only one zombie around back at that time. He burst from the trees, shouting “HUMAN!” I later learned that about two minutes earlier there had been fifteen or so zombies waiting around the corner for us to come out. They’d gotten fed up and left at the perfect time for us. I think the lone zombie was a little surprised when no one came at his shout. We ran, away from the dorms, for the nearest building with open doors–Galisano, on the opposite side of campus from where we wanted to be. Fortunately, in Galisano were the other members of our squad, who had managed to get away from Building 12 when we had not. We mustered there and made the hike along the northern loop back to the dorms. We made it to safety at 1:30 AM, Friday morning.
The lunatic who had led us fruitlessly through the swamp and then into the Horde’s trap elected to spend the night in Galisano. We didn’t miss his presence on the way back.
I had no classes today. I spent the time working on homework, until 5:00. Extraction mission began at six. When the mission was posted, I was in the SAU with maybe twenty other humans, armed for bear. The mission was thus: We had a device behind the Innovation Center that would wipe out the zombies. Unfortunately, it would also kill all humans who were above ground. We had to activate the device with a code on the website, reactivate it if it went down during that time, get disinfected at Building 12, and make it to the Vault in the field outside of Commons.
We made it to the field where the device was. Along the way I stunned the Tank zombie, a special zombie that can only be stunned with socks. They wear pink bandannas and have a two-minute respawn time. We were attacked the whole way over, and I fired off half of my clip, but we made it. We pushed out into the field, killed a Witch with a Motov left over from Thursday, and got to the device. I entered the first code, pulling out my iPod and reciting it to the mod waiting there. Everyone else spread out in a semicircle behind me, fending off the horde for just enough time to get the code in.
I stood up. “It’s active!” I said. “Let’s go!”
Everyone behind me broke and ran for the door and safety, leaving me alone.
I went down, but I went down shooting. At the end, a zombie had to leap over the wall to my right in order to tag me. That was at about 7:30, I think. At 9:00, the game ended. Humans lost. The device was not reactivated after the code I had entered ran out. No one made it to extraction.
The humans lost, yes. But I made it to Friday. Last game, I died on Monday, at about noon. I made it to extraction day, and got the first code to the nuke. I fought the good fight, to the best of my ability. I survived until Friday and that, in the end, is what matters to me. I walked back to dorms from the device, not knowing then what the result would be, only knowing how good it felt to finally be able to walk outside, not scurry from building to building and watch every corner with a Nerf gun weighing down my arm.
It’s good to be alive.