By Ainsley Rufer
Special to the Chronicle
A lone figure dashes across the Unispan, pursued by a pack of sprinting undead. If he makes it to the nearest indoor safe zone, he’ll survive to fight another day. One touch from a zombie, and he’ll join the ranks of the infected. No, it’s not a page from a science fiction thriller – in fact, the sight of someone running for their life is not all that uncommon at Hofstra University. In late October, as the campus became a live-action battleground, the hottest apocalyptic pastime, Humans vs. Zombies, arrived on campus.
Humans Versus Zombies, or HvZ, is a game of moderated-survivalist tag played at schools, camps, neighborhoods and conventions across the globe. Starting with only a few “infected” players, participants must try to remain human as the zombies try to hunt them down. Armed with foam darts, Nerf blasters and their wits, human players must be constantly vigilant to avoid being tagged by the ever-growing zombie horde. Games can be played for any stretch of time, with some staged apocalypses stretching over a full month and other games taking place in a single action-packed week.
Graham Howe, sophomore and moderator, explained the appeal, “It’s very cool to see everyone get fully engrossed in the act, as if the zombie plague had actually struck campus. Zombies stalk unsuspecting humans relentlessly, and humans make sure they have their own backs covered at all times. It’s great to see how everyone reacts and adapts to the situation at hand.”
Starting at Goucher College in 2005, Humans vs. Zombies spread across the world at an infectious rate. The game has received coverage from The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associate Press and more. The HvZ webpage brags about catching the attention of Stephen Colbert, who named the group the “number one threat to America.” The epidemic has spanned six continents, with regular games hosted in a variety of locations, including Australia, Denmark and Spain. Despite its success both at home and abroad, the creators of Humans vs. Zombies made the game available under a Creative Commons license to ensure their apocalyptic pastime would always be free to play.
Hofstra’s branch of HvZ, aptly titled “Hofstra vs. Zombies,” is the university’s student organization that plans and administrates the collegiate game twice a year. The current Club President, Alex Demarest, was part of the original founding crew at Hofstra three years ago. Now a senior, Demarest applies his years of experience to make the game as comprehensive and enjoyable for everyone involved. Having forged careful relationship with Public Safety, the HvZ officers negotiate safety conditions that allow eager zombie hunters to roam campus with an array of foam-dart weaponry.
This semester’s game of HvZ took place over Halloween weekend, providing an eerie, supernatural atmosphere across campus as students valiantly fought to survive the undead masses. Marked by orange “HUMAN” or “ZOMBIE” bandanas, nearly 120 participants broke out their Nerf guns for the fall 2012 match. Starting at midnight on Wednesday, Oct. 24, zombies were on the prowl until the epic conclusion in front of Hofstra USA on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28. It was fitting apocalyptic finale, with the zombies triumphing over the human population just as the first winds of Hurricane Sandy began.
“Everyone was into it, and the zombies were really good sports. It was a great game for a really awesome club,” said Brandon Davis, a senior graduating after a full college career in the club. Students are already excited for next semester’s game, and the club is always looking to reach out and grab new participants. “In the end, it didn't matter who gave us weird looks or questioned why we had Nerf guns holstered to our hips with cardboard,” said first year Mark Perkins. “None of that mattered. We were having a blast."