Revenge of the Zombies

William Witwer

Credit: Carrie Sloane

Humans versus Zombies (HVZ) is becoming an increasingly popular game both here at Whitman and on college campuses nationally; During this spring’s installment, which began this Sunday, April 3, the moderators (who are also players) have instituted a fair amount of changes for this round, which are designed to put an increased focus on being a zombie and not just a human.

“It’s incredibly fun to be a zombie and stalk humans and chase them around, watch them run away from you across Ankeny,” said junior Sam Schoenfeld, moderator. “We put a lot of focus (buying Nerf guns, modifying them) on being a human, but it’s important to remember that the game doesn’t work unless people are willing to be zombies as well.”

Last fall, a record-setting 265 players registered for HVZ, but perhaps because of this oversized game pool many players found the game too intense, according to junior Michael Schier, who is also a moderator. The spring game has historically been more intimate, since many first-year participants quickly give up playing in frustration when they become a zombie. In order to make being a zombie more appealing, the moderators have added a zombie listserv to allow for zombies to hunt difficult-to-kill humans, as well as missions where the zombies have objectives, not the other way around.

“Instead of the humans having to do something, the zombies will have to do something and the humans have to hunt the zombies, which adds a very interesting dynamic,” said Schier.

“The whole entire game, humans are trying to stay as far away from zombies as possible, this is like, ‘Well, now you have to go hunt zombies,” said Schoenfeld.

Earlier in the semester, the moderators hosted Mission Day, a mini-version of HVZ where they tested out three different missions, which gave participants the opportunity to join both sides. Senior Sam Nortz, another moderator, explained that on Mission Day, zombies were too afraid of Nerf darts to press their advantage.

“Strategy-wise in the missions, I think that zombies need to be a lot less scared of Nerf darts,” said Nortz. “A Nerf dart is not going to kill you, it’s going to stun you, so a lot of the time zombies form this kind of Nerf perimeter and refuse to advance further. If we run a mission with a re-spawn point, you need to keep moving and keep attacking, because you can always go back to the re-spawn point and come back.”

The moderators also used the occasion to refine their missions for the spring session of HVZ. They have also changed how this session will end: instead of letting the second week of the game drag on, there will be a final, extra dangerous mission for the humans, where those who survive will all be declared survivors, and the game will have a definite end. All of the changes are designed to make the game more fun to play for everyone.

Though there are many styles of play, Nortz hopes that, regardless of how one approaches the game, players accept and even embrace the psychosis that comes with the game and just have fun.

“You can play any way you want,” said Nortz. “You can play the stalk-from-bush-to-bush-without-being-seen approach, or you can walk around carrying five Nerf guns [and thinking] ‘NOTHING can touch me.’ As long as you have fun doing it, as long as you embrace the paranoia that comes with this game, then it doesn’t matter.”