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Title: Humans to battle undead in role-playing game

Source: Pipe Dream, October 23rd, 2009

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Humans to battle undead in role-playing game

Originally Published 2009-10-23

Binghamton University students armed with Nerf guns, socks and marshmallows, will soon be the last chance of humanity’s survival against a zombie onslaught.

This apocalyptic scenario is the premise for Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a role-playing game based on tag, according to Lauren Webb, a sophomore psychobiology major and the game’s moderator.

In celebration of Halloween, Late Nite Binghamton is arranging a nine-day HvZ game for BU students to play, beginning on Thursday, Oct. 29.

At the start of the game, one participant will be randomly selected to become a zombie, with the rest of the players classified as humans.

As the game progresses, the goal for the zombie team is to tag human players, who turn into zombies after being tagged.

If a player becomes a zombie, that player must tag another human within 48 hours, or they “starve.”

Human players can defend themselves from zombies by throwing socks (grenades) or marshmallows (brains) at them. If hit, a zombie player becomes “stunned” for 15 minutes and is temporarily suspended from the game.

Either team can win in one of two scenarios: The humans last long enough to starve all the zombies, or the zombies convert all the humans to their side.

“Play continues throughout the day,” Webb said. “It’s a 24-hour game.”

However, the game is disallowed in safe zones throughout campus, which were created to prevent players from disrupting non-playing students. These areas include all academic and residential buildings and dining halls.

Players are marked with colored armbands to indicate their respective teams and involvement in HvZ.

To keep track of team rosters, software designed by the game’s creators allow players to report their tags online, which in response sends out e-mails to notify others.

According to Thomas Eberhardt, a senior geological science major and games and sports chairman of Late Nite, six nighttime missions will also be offered to increase participation between the two teams.

These missions will allow students to play with Nerf guns in addition to the socks and marshmallows.

One past mission involved finding a 3-foot “radioactive” zombie dummy, glowing with light-sticks, in the woods behind College-in-the-Woods.

The storyline behind the mission was that the zombie holds a secret to why the plague has happened, and the first team to locate the dummy earns more weapons.

“It really becomes a team sport — it’s not just a one-on-one brawl,” Eberhardt said. “You’re working with people in order to accomplish objectives and it brings a lot of people together to become good friends.”

Previously, Eberhardt said Late Nite Binghamton planned an HvZ game last April, but canceled it after the April 3 shooting at the American Civic Association.

To date, HvZ is played at nearly 100 colleges worldwide, including State University of New York schools at Geneseo, Oswego, Potsdam and Oneonta (which runs a club of over 50 dedicated members). Eberhardt and Webb said they were brainstorming the possibility of creating an HvZ club at BU.

However, one challenge all students have faced with organizing the game is convincing their respective administration to permit the use of Nerf guns.

“We were working really hard with [BU’s] administration to get complete approval from them and the [campus police] and now we’re going to be going through with it this semester,” Eberhardt said. “If they don’t understand what’s going on, then they have every reason to [shut] it down.”

HvZ was created in 2005 by Chris Weed and Brad Sappington, two students at Goucher College, a small school in Maryland.

According to Max Temkin, a senior at Goucher and creative director of the game, Weed and Sappington first organized a game called “Assassins,” where players were assigned to “assassinate” individual players with Nerf guns.

But after difficulty organizing the game and seeing how little teamwork it required, they changed the game to Humans vs. Zombies.

However, in the first few attempts of HvZ at Goucher, a problem arose. According to Temkin, students on the human team would stock up on food so they could spend extended periods of time in a safe zone, away from a potential zombie attack.

“It wasn’t the spirit of the game,” he said.

To fix the problem, Weed and Sappington came up with the mission idea, which forced students outside safe zones to participate in them.

“People who play the game are creative people who love to play games and have fun,” Temkin said.

The HvZ team is also working on a future version of the game’s software, which includes social networking features.

To sign up or receive more information on BU’s game of HvZ, students can e-mail binghamtonhvz@gmail.com. Additional information can be found on humansvszombies.org.

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