Are We Humans? Or Are We Zombies?

Courtesy of Alex Ellick.
Courtesy of Alex Ellick.
Courtesy of Alex Ellick.

His primary weapon is a Nerf Vortext Pyragon blaster with  40-disc capacity and rapid-fire capabilities. A smaller Nerf blaster, the Nerf Recon acts as his secondary firearm.  These blasters, along with as many socks as he can carry, are the arsenal of fourth-year creative writing major Henry Varona. Armed to the teeth with foam projectiles, Varona is ready for battle.  His enemy: SUNY New Paltz students-turned-zombies.

Varona, along with over 100 other New Paltz students, are active members of the Humans vs. Zombies (HVZ) Club on campus.  HVZ is a moderated, modified game of tag played outdoors on the New Paltz campus. Each semester the club holds campus-wide, weeklong games between two teams: the Humans and the Zombies.

The zombie team players chase their opponents. A two-handed touch turns a Human player into a Zombie. Human players use nerf and other foam projectiles such as socks to “stun” their zombie pursuers.

During these weeklong events, or “weeklongs,” players are in-game twenty-four hours a day, for five days straight, said HVZ President, fourth-year secondary education major Bryan Isaia.  He said this aspect of the game elevates the overall excitement level surrounding it, keeping players on their toes at all times.

Players on the Human team are only safe inside a building or off-campus during a weeklong. Because of the constant threat of being tagged and turned Zombie, Varona said he plans his gear accordingly.

He said before he leaves his room, he makes sure he has an ample supply of Nerf ammunition to fend off Zombie attackers.

“I run two Nerf blasters as my main load-out.” Varona said, “But my first line of defense is a wall of socks.”

Prior to the weeklong, Varona said he scopes out the campus to know where construction is occurring, and to plan his course for a hopeful safe passage.

“I’ll have my routes well planned out prior to the weeklongs in order to avoid conflict,” he said.

Varona said during weeklongst he consciously packs light, but carries snacks to avoid having to go to the campus eateries, where he knows Zombie team players will be waiting. Travelling light and in small groups of two to four people is important, he said, because larger groups are cumbersome and attract too much attention.

A great deal of preparation goes into each weeklong, Isaia said. He and other HVZ executive board members are hard at work to organize every aspect of the weeklong two months prior to its start. Public relations officers work to spread the word and increase the number of active players. A content committee designs missions and produce videos with the public relations officers for promotional purposes. Isaia and his vice-president authorize the game with campus police and administration.

“It’s about a two-month process to set up and play the games at the standard we like to play them,” Isaia said.

Isaia said that as a player, his favorite part of the game is the added level of excitement it adds to everyday campus life.  It helps him to wake up, get out early and make the most of his day, he said.  As president, Isaia said, the parts he relishes most about HVZ are the weeklong finales.  He said its “really impressive” to see over 100 people playing the game altogether sharing a deep bond and sense of community.