February 3, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 20°F


When zombies attack

There are only three humans left on campus. Behind the doors of Hilliard Hall they stand alert, foreheads shining, chests pounding, aiming their guns at the mass of zombies before them.

Diana Cowdery/ The Ithacan

“You gonna stand there or you gonna bring it,” a zombie yells from far away.

“This is going to be long if you don’t just run,” another urges.

They make a break out a back door of Hilliard, down to the Roy H. Park School of Communications, through the Campus Center and back up to the library — zombies lumber behind.

Witness the final showdown between the Humans and the Zombies.

A human crouches in a bush, then barrels toward the zombies, firing one shot after another. A zombie flails at him and he shoots back. Not fast enough this time. Meanwhile, a zombie sneaks into the library and lunges from behind at the last two humans. Game over.

It’s a typical scene on campus these days as zombies roam the walkways and buildings of the college hunting for humans. Humans versus Zombies, an elaborate game of tag similar to games like “Assassin,” divides players into humans and zombies to see who can last the longest in battle.

Played outdoors, humans defend themselves from being tagged and killed with Nerf guns or wound up socks that can stun a zombie for 15 minutes. Humans wear a bandana on their arms, and zombies wear them on their heads to distinguish between sides.

“Basically, we play as long as people are humans,” sophomore Adrian Fisher said. “Then we do it again.”

The game began two weeks ago as a Facebook group created by sophomores Fisher and Elias Barkey. Humans versus Zombies soon grew into an army of players united by Nerf guns and bandanas.

“People in my [residence] hall all went out and got crazy Nerf guns, and we were laughing and having fun and people started joining,” Fisher said. “And then it got huge.”

The last game, which attracted more than 160 players, was considered a test round. Fisher and Barkey said they didn’t know what to expect.

“This was a bit of a beta game, working out all the rules,” Barkey said. “I was trying to rewrite the rules that [Adrian] sent me to make them fun and put them into a storyline to get people into it.”

In the last round, Barkey and Fisher wrote in special rules for a superhero named Captain Mexico who terrorized zombies in a cape and sombrero.

Captain Mexico, also known as sophomore Jared Vinci, held strong for several days before putting up an incredible last stand when Barkey and 10 other zombies attacked him outside of the Park School.

“Captain Mexico shows up trying to save all the people inside Park by sacrificing himself,” Barkey said. “It really did take all 11 of us to take him down.”

Vinci said he decided to join the fight to protect humans and keep their numbers up.

“I was thinking, what is a better loss for the human side?” he said. “Do we lose one superhero and save a whole bunch of humans or lose a bunch of humans and save the superhero for later?”

Barkey, also known as the Red Baron, a reference to the movie, “28 Days Later,” has carved himself a cutthroat reputation. Barkey has kept a running tally of his 18 kills as a zombie. His last tally was the death of Captain Mexico.

Fisher said he spent much of the game behind the scenes taking care of logistics. He called the Office of Public Safety to address the use of Nerf guns and playing the game on campus.

“They had to give me the speech about the danger of projectiles and basically OK’d it as gently as they could,” Fisher said.

Investigator Tom Dunn who was unable to confirm the conversation, said only one person had filed a complaint relating to the game.

“One person has come to us with a complaint about 10 people with Nerf guns running around,” he said. “They never involved this passerby, but he felt it was disturbing.”

Fisher said the game took a violent turn in several instances when humans forcibly threw their Nerf guns at attacking zombies to keep from being killed. Fisher said new rules in the next game would address this.

“It’s been crazy trying to work out all the logistics of the game,” he said. “People get upset because people do things that are hairy.”

Vinci said he found that the campus was generally responsive to the game and even found it entertaining.

“Most people I saw [during the game] thought it was awesome and wanted to join or hear more about it,” he said. “Some of them just thought it was silly, and I only saw one person who ever got angry.”

Sophomore Kailey Denzer-Weiler, a history major, said when walking back from class one afternoon she found herself in the middle of a zombie battle.

“It was pretty interesting,” she said. “I was a little afraid at first, but it was really pretty funny, and I definitely think it adds a lot to campus atmosphere.”

Sophomore Mike Sutter, who joined the game late and lasted to the final three, with Vinci and sophomore Colin DeMatteis, said he was enticed by the game’s premise.

“I was very psyched about battling zombies,” he said. “It’s a good thing for people to come together on campus. You know, you see someone walking around campus with a Nerf gun and you just say hi or someone you don’t know starts chasing you across campus. It’s pretty fun.”

Barkey said even though the first round is finished, he and Fisher plan on playing and planning more games as long as players are enjoying themselves.

“What’s great,” he said, “is seeing the people’s faces when one person just starts running and 10 people run after him yelling, ‘Human, get him!’”