The game, put on by Communiversity with the aid of Executive Director Chuck Strawn, featured a basic set of rules. All humans were to wear a bandana around their upper arm while zombies wore a bandana around their head. At the game’s start, a few “alpha zombies” were released: players capable of “turning” human players while still appearing human with the arm bandana. The humans’ only defense lay in sock balls. These could be thrown at zombies, stunning them for a certain amount of time.
Even if they weren’t tagged, humans had to check in at specified “vaccination points” and have their name taken down every day in order to stay alive. Players could also resist being automatically turned into a zombie by attending the mission: a challenge set up by Strawn and the moderators each night that required the remaining humans to stand against the zombies in some way. The missions featured a variety of tasks from escorting a target around campus to defending a location for a set amount of time.
The game’s play area encompassed all the outdoor areas on both East and West Campus as well as Bowles and University Place, minus the parking lots.
This year featured a number of rules changes from previous years. Previously, the zombies “starved” and were dropped from the game after failing to “feed” for 48 hours. This timer was reduced to 24 hours. Also, zombies who made “kills” were able to share their kills with three other zombies (resetting their “starve” timers) rather than two. The game was shortened to just over five days from the previous 10 and zombies tagged with socks were stunned for only five minutes instead of 15 during normal gameplay.
The game also featured a smaller number of players, around 250 compared to previous years that featured numbers as high as 450.
“This year was really good. Part of it was we had a smaller group, but a more dedicated group of people who were really into it,” Strawn said. “I think those things [the rule changes] impacted the game in some pretty positive ways.”
For the first time in APU Humans vs. Zombie’s history, all the human players were turned before the game’s official end. On Saturday morning, the six remaining humans were told to hold Seven Palms for 45 minutes against the entire horde. They fought valiantly, but after four waves, they were overwhelmed.
At the closing BBQ held Saturday afternoon, Strawn handed out a number of awards for players who performed well or exhibited positive character traits during the course of the game. These included Top Human (last human standing), won by senior business administration major Will Roach and Top Zombie (most kills), won by senior physics major Jorge Macias and junior business administration major Jeremy Lizardo.
In a game that involves so many different people over such a wide area of play, teamwork proved both effective and necessary for staying alive.
“It was a lot of effort. You can’t do it by yourself,” Roach said.
Roach also won the honor of Top Human for the second time in a row, being the last human to fall defending Seven Palms.
Some humans went to great lengths to maintain their humanity. Undeclared freshman Brent Langrehr was spotted in class by the zombies in one of the Multi Media buildings on East Campus. Zombies surrounded the building, but he refused to give up, staying in the room from 4:20 when his class started until 9:30 while the zombies taunted him with food. He even resorted to peeing in a cup. In the end, he was given the Bunker Down Award for his dedication.
APU and local businesses also pitched in for the game, providing shirts, coupons and other prizes that were handed out on a daily basis for getting the most “kills” or completing various tasks. Chick-Fil-A and The Habit provided special coupons and merchandise while the University Bookstore and Computer Store also provided merchandise. Chick-Fil-A stepped it up even further— the local restaurant’s manager dressing up in one of the business’ iconic cow suits to be escorted around East Campus by the humans.
Outside of winning, the teamwork also creates its own little community among the players, bringing different people together who might have never gotten to know one another.
“You get to meet a lot of people you wouldn’t otherwise be hanging out with,” Macias said. “There was this guy I met through Humans vs. Zombies [my freshman year] and now I’m gong to be one of his groomsman.”
As it turns out, this kind of relationship building is precisely what Strawn looks forward to each year when hosting the game.
“I love seeing how students who don’t know each other on Monday turn into these tribes of people that do know each other,” Strawn said. “Even if they’re on different teams, it’s fun to see that they know and respect someone who is still a human or a still a zombie because they’ve been pursuing each other all week.”