Ah, kids these days. What with their tight pants and cigarettes and rising-from-the-dead-to-nosh-on-delicious-human-flesh . . .
Humans vs. Zombies, a complicated role-playing tag game that can go on for weeks at a time, is spreading as fast as the zombie apocalypse itself. What started as a handful of college students looking for kicks in Maryland has now expanded into more than 200 gaming groups across the United States, England, Australia, Denmark, and Korea.
“Zombies have always been the cool kids and vampires are the emo kids,” says Boston University senior Rachel Richmond. A self-identified “zombie snob,” Richmond organized BU’s Zombie Masquerade, coming up this Saturday: a Halloween dance-cum-“homage to the city on fire and being the last people standing.”
Unlike the survival rules featured in the hit flick Zombieland, the rules for HvZ are fairly simple: to win, the zombies must “feed” (read: tag) every two days or they “starve to death.” The humans’ main objective is to kill the zombies — by shooting Nerf guns or throwing socks at the hungry corpses (who are identified with bandannas). Zombie infection is tracked online: each participant registers with his or her local college group, using HvZ official software. To keep collective sanity, dorm rooms, bathrooms, and academic buildings are off limits.
The game’s popularity has increased so much (it’s even been incorporated into a gaming company) that campus security and administrations haven’t all caught up, especially in spirit. Northeastern University’s “crime log” on October 4 reports an alarmed call about “several people with guns chasing others around West Village.” A plastic shotgun was “confiscated,” and participants were given a lecture on urban safety.
The game has had to evolve: it was first played in 2005, two years before shootings at Virginia Tech left a permanent welt on public memory, one that doesn’t handle bloodied students or guns (even water-filled ones) on campus very well. Some institutions have also outlawed red or blue bandannas, for fear that they might imply affiliation with gangs, rather than affiliation with an infinitely expanding army of death and brain-slurping.
But these zombies are persevering. “Every generation has their monster that resonates in the collective unconscious of a certain age group, and I think zombies are the perfect post-modern monster for our generation,” says Max Temkin, a senior at Goucher College, in Baltimore, where the game originated. “That the unthinking masses are out to get you.”