By Alyssa Melillo
When walking around campus this week, don’t be alarmed if students carrying Nerf guns begin to shoot at other students wearing bandanas on their heads. They’re just protecting themselves from virus-infected zombies.
Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a giant game of tag that has become popular on many college campuses, is returning for its second year here at Stony Brook. After participation from more than 300 students last year, expectations are high for this week’s game, which has a total of 1,000 registered players.
“This year will definitely be much more fun with so many more players,” says participant Michael Yen, a student in his fifth year here at SBU.
The week-long game, which starts on Thursday, begins with all players as humans. One is randomly picked to be the “Original Zombie,” and from there it is that zombie’s job to tag humans to create more zombies. Humans, identified by a special bandana wrapped around an arm or leg, have to fight off the zombies, those wearing bandanas on their heads, with their only means of protection—Nerf guns and clean socks. When hit with a dart or sock, a zombie is stunned for 15 minutes, letting its potential prey escape safely. The goal for both sides is to try and survive, although only one can claim victory.
The rules for this week’s game, which can be found on the official website for SBU’s chapter of HvZ, are not very different from last year’s. Game play is still not permitted anywhere off campus, near the train station, on hospital grounds or in South P lot. Dorm buildings, dining halls, libraries, the SAC, the Union, the daycare center, veterans home, indoor sports complex and health center are considered safety zones. Nerf guns are not to be visible in any buildings, darts may not hurt on impact and the use of cars is prohibited. Shooting non-players with darts will result in a ban from the game.
One of the rules that is new to this year’s game is that humans are required to carry provided official Stony Brook HvZ ID cards on them at all times. They must hand over their ID to the zombie that tags them, but the rule stating that they must wait an hour after being tagged to resume game play as a new zombie remains the same.
During game play, humans and zombies must participate in missions. Each day there are two to three “mini-missions” and one “major mission,”where rewards are given upon completion. Humans must participate in two during the course of the game while zombies must participate in one. These missions are assigned to keep humans from staying in safe zones all the time, as well as to make the game more interesting.
Many students have been preparing for the game for weeks. The Shadow Company, a team founded by Yen that is made up of several different squads, has been holding training sessions twice a week to teach participants various tactics on how to survive. “In the training session[s] we are essentially going over basic survival skills from simply going to class to working with your squads during missions,” Yen says. “[Players] learn above all to work and fight together as a team.”
Because this is the second year HvZ will be taking place at Stony Brook, many returning participants know what to expect as it progresses, so dynamics have changed. Zombies will be more organized and deadly, while humans will be more knowledgeable and resourceful.
In addition to learning new tactics and skills, players are anticipating using Nerf’s two new guns, the Stampede and the Alpha Trooper, which Yen thinks seem to have been designed “with zombies in mind.” In response to the humans’ new weapons, zombies will now be able to wear ghillie suits that give them the opportunity to camouflage themselves in the bushes. These recent developments will add new dimensions to the game, Yen says.
The success of last year’s event has not only resulted in the soaring popularity of the university’s chapter of the game, but in the establishment of a new club as well. The Stony Brook Undergraduate Network for the Defense Education and Annihilation of the Dead, or SBUNDEAD, launched just last month. Although there is a distinction between HvZ and the club this year, the club’s vice president, senior Max Kammerman, says the game will be held directly through the club in the future. However, SBUNDEAD is not necessarily all about HvZ.
“Ultimately this club gives the freedom to explore some more creative options which should improve HvZ game play,” Kammerman says. “[But it] could actually become more of an urban gaming club rather than just associated with HvZ, which would mean more or altered Nerf related activities.”
The game is currently operating with help from the USG, but because of communication issues, Kammerman predicts that the club will not be using its help in the future. “We are willing to help the USG by allowing [it] to be involved, but not at the expense of the club and not if the game suffers as a result,” he says.
Last year, HvZ proved to the USG that funding was not really needed. Now that SBUNDEAD is in the picture, though, any funding it receives will most likely go towards prizes for applaudable game play and possible trips to other schools’ HvZ games, Kammerman says.
With the increase in amount of players signed up this year, Humans vs. Zombies is sure to liven up the campus for the week it takes place. Zombies will be defending their winning title from last year, but that’s not discouraging humans from doing whatever they can to come out on top. Yen is hopeful that humans will dominate this time.
“No matter what,” he says, “the humans will have to stand together to ensure a human victory.”