Socks and armbands accompanied with fear and paranoia. These are just some of the elements accompanying Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a game similar to tag only accelerated —a lot. For two weeks each semester, HvZ takes over more than 650 colleges and universities, who abide by a standard set of rules (on humansversuszombies.org) created by the game originators at Goucher College.
In each game, one zombie — who wears a headband to distinguish himself — tries to grab other humans’ armbands to turn them into zombies. Players must be vigilant and humans use socks and nerf dart blasters to protect themselves from the zombies. Although HvZ started in 2006 as a single 60-person game, it spread virally with the help of Facebook and is now played nationwide and even abroad. People who play think of HvZ as more than just a game; it’s a community on campus. The following are 10 reasons YOU should be joining the HvZ world:
1.) It gives you a break from reality
“In college, we have so many stresses and struggles, so the game is a vacation from all that,” said Shane Walker, a two-year veteran of the game at the University of Maryland. Walker added that most games take place in the middle of the semester and make sure to stay away from finals or midterms so players don’t have to worry about schoolwork.
2.) You feel excited but scared all at the same time
Walker said that because HvZ is so intense and players have to watch their backs every time they step out of the building, real stress is substituted with a fake stress that is “refreshing.” “You get a feeling of paranoia, fear that is completely made up so it’s easier to handle and deal with,” he said. “Psychologically, the game is a stress reliever even though you constantly need to watch your back.”
3.) It’s always enjoyable
“ The biggest reason to play for me is it’s a fun thing to do,” said Christopher Weed, one of the co-creators of the original HvZ rules. “There’s really no means to an end, you just run around, be silly and have fun with your friends, which is the most important thing.”
4.) The last few humans gain prestige
“One reason I play is for the glory,” Walker said. He added that people recognize you when you run around with nerf blasters and there are a lot of spectators that urge you on throughout the two-week game. “It’s a good feeling, like you’re a hero on campus when you’re really just playing around.” He added that when you’re one of the last humans left, people really respect you and know you’re a good player.
5.) It adds a sense of belonging on campus
For Walker, HvZ is great way to make connections with people on campus. “The [HvZ] community is unbelievable,” Walker said. “Everyone is very friendly, very close and everybody is open and nice to new members.” He added that people from all over campus come to play so you can always find new faces.
6.) You can find your future spouse?
“We know quite a few people, at least three, that have met through HvZ and gotten married,” Weed said. “People really make lifelong friends and establish strong relationships.” Fun fact: Weed actually met his current girlfriend through the game.
7.) There are no winners and losers
For all you sore losers out there, you don’t have to worry about wallowing in defeat. “Everybody loses so therefore everybody wins,” Walker said. Because the goal of the game is to turn everybody into zombies, the game is really just meant to be fun and not make anyone feel bad, he added.
8.) The games are easily accessible
As a co-creator of the game and its rules, Weed helped develop and maintain the website’s software to help people organize their own games and see games going on at different colleges. On the website, players can find player rosters, an extensive description of the game rules and keep track of the games going on around the country. Though HvZ became an official company in 2010, Weed and his co-creator Brad Sappington vow to keep the game free for everyone to make sure it continues.
9.) You can be as involved as you want
“It’s insane how into it people get sometimes,” Weed said. “People start training for it, running laps, which I guess is a good reason to exercise, too.” Walker added that he is a dedicated player and actually keeps a journal documenting each two-week game to see how his thoughts and performances change. “I like watching how I deteriorate through my words,” Walker said. “It starts off as fun, but as friends die off I sometimes get so paranoid that I can even hallucinate.” Although, Walker says, his experiences tend to be the extreme.
10.) It becomes a way of life
“It’s really hard to get the game and understand it unless you play,” Walker said. “Some people might make fun of it, but they don’t know how much it means to players. The game is really a big part of our college experience.”
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