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Zombies terrorize humans at Florida State University

Staff Editor

Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 03:04

Students running playing humans against zombies

Kierstan Craft

Members of the zombie team chase after one of the few humans still alive in the Human vs. Zombies game. The game takes place over the course of five select days at Florida State University, sometimes more than once a semester.

Squads form and strategize. Safely in the courtyard, at least for now, they load weapons and discuss movement plans. The sun is long gone. The only visible light comes from lampposts and cellular phones of zombies calling for backup. The humans are cornered. The "Massacre at Ragan's" is imminent.

"We were wiped out pretty easily," said Derrick Wells, 22, a Florida A&M student from Trevose, Pa. "It was really something scary. I don't think I've ever seen so many yellow headbands at once. And to top it all off, my [expletive] Raider jammed on me."

Two days earlier, the humans were the dominant species in the Humans versus Zombies game on Florida State University's campus. On April 5, students from Florida A&M, Florida State and Tallahassee Community College joined together what is commonly described as a "giant game of tag with Nerf guns."

The simple definition does little to describe what happens over five days of play.

Humans versus Zombies began with a giant meeting to discuss the rules of the game. Humans are armed with Nerf guns and socks to defend themselves from the zombie horde. They move in squads or by themselves from safe zone to safe zone trying to complete mission objectives.

Objectives range from collecting "vials of zombie blood" to hold positions for five minutes.

Five minutes last a lifetime when a Nerf Raider drum can hold 35 shots and 40 zombies close in on a position. FSU student Patrick Murphy, 20, from Palm Beach, knows this better than most.

"To be honest, I never really go anywhere without an escape plan," Murphy said. "I know more about this campus than any normal student should. There are all kinds of passageways, unlocked doors and malfunctioning handicap buttons that'll lead you places I would have never thought of were it not for a reckless curiosity." 

Zombies want one thing: Brains. Their only desire is to tag humans and spread their infection. The slow, shuffling and moaning zombies from The Walking Dead are long gone. These infected monsters mimic 28 Days Later. They are quick, calculating and athletic college students.

"I prefer being a zombie," said Avalon Mallory, 18, a FSU student. "I enjoy the hunt of the strategy, waiting and stalking that climax into the moment of conflict. Also, there is a strong companionship in the horde. Humans don't have that same kind of mindset. It's more of a man eat man kind of thing for them."

Mallory, a psychology student from Tampa, and the other zombies feel less pressure on the dark side. No one is actively hunting them and they can frighten humans with a simple chant of, "What do we want? Brains! When do we want them? BRAINS!"

"They're constantly watching their back and they're too busy being paranoid to really bond with someone else," Avalon said about the humans. "Because at the next meeting, they could be "om nom"-ing on you."

For the first time, the humans were split into two factions, Company and Renegade. Humans struggled to survive as two separate entities. Zombies quickly overran weaker Company members before the end of night one.

Despite heroics from Renegade, by Wednesday, the zombies surrounded their headquarters at Sherrill Williams Ragan's Hall. Humans sacrificed themselves, despite being vastly outnumbered, only four humans out of the original group of more than 20 made it safely off campus.

Away from the madness at Ragan's, humans like FSU student Christopher Hansford, 19, from Boston, managed to stay alive and avoid detection by using the rules to their fullest extent. A discussion board on the Humans versus Zombies Web site called, "To catch a Hansford, " was created to bring down this crafty human.

"I think I was only made famous/infamous from the number of zombie attacks I gunned my way out of during the course of my day," Hansford said. "Well, that and the fact that myself and two comrades slid into a heavily infested zombie base, crawled through a 40-yard ditch to avoid detection and launched a surprise raid on the zombies that Delta Force would be proud of after the rest of the human team had been driven off or killed to accomplish an objective nobody thought we could do."

Zombies controlled campus by day four and mission objectives changed from "collect samples and hunt" to "stay alive" for humans. Zombies spent hours scouring the campus to eradicate remaining humans. Humans like Murphy and Hansford, however, pride themselves on their ability to escape any situation.

Their knowledge of secret hiding places and back routes gave them an edge against the horde.

"It's how I get out of the Union without a care," Murphy said. "It's how I get back to my dorm every day; it's how I can duck a horde of ravenous zombies, and it's why I never feel comfortable telling anyone about them, in the event that they get turned and tell everyone."

A clean hit with a Nerf dart or sock is required in order to stun a zombie. Stun timers last four minutes during a mission and 15 minutes outside a mission. A rules committee sets up what they think are the best rules. Moderators (Mods) are in charge of enforcing those rules and coming up with fresh mission objectives.

Sylvia Amaya, 19, a FSU international business student from St. Petersburg, said balancing the rules is impossible. Loopholes are constantly being found and exploited.

"No matter what rules you make or loopholes you try to see and overcome, some player will always find them," Amaya said. "You have to work hard to figure out not only what is fair but is the most fun."

Disputes over who was shot and who tagged whom are a constant issue. The mods say they are impartial, but their judgment is consistently called into question.

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