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They're Coming to Get You ... Humans

Zombies Taking Over Campus

UMass Lowell Image
Nerf toy guns and shuffling zombies will be a common sight on South Campus in October.

By Julia Gavin

Equal parts tag, strategy and horror movie, the popular Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) game has been played at hundreds of universities, camps and even military bases since its creation at Baltimore’s Goucher College in 2005. Now, 100 UMass Lowell students are waiting for the fun to begin on South Campus as the game returns from Oct. 19 to 23.

Patrick McLaughlin, a member of the Master’s Gaming Konnection (MAGIK) club that sponsors the event, brought the game to Lowell in 2009 and recently passed the reins to nutritional sciences student Ericka J. Haddad and management student Ted Klesaris. Check out an interview with McLaughlin.

The game, open to all students and played only outdoors on South Campus, is managed through an official website by the MAGIK organizers. Participants can sign up until Oct. 19 when the game’s original zombie will be alerted of his or her status. The goal of zombies will be to tag and infect new participating zombies who will join the quest to convert the rest of the humans. The humans will have only Nerf foam dart toy guns and bean bags — which conveniently don’t jam when faced with an approaching menace — with which to defend themselves.

“By lunch on the first day, I like to look outside and see zombies chasing humans around campus,” says Haddad.

Rules of Engagement

Players identify themselves by wearing bright orange bandanas (humans wear them on their arms while zombies switch to wearing them on their heads) and are careful not to interrupt campus or academic activities, says Klesaris who describes the students as “courteous” in their playing.

“HvZ is beyond glorified tag since we also have missions for the players to complete,” says Klesaris. “It’s also a reason to go to the gym and get healthy as well as a way to meet new people. It’s really a sport for some.”

Strategy and teamwork are also important when plotting to ambush peers or avoiding detection while on a mission. 
“The teamwork is quite phenomenal,” says Haddad. “It’s awesome to watch the participants working together to stay safe.”

Siege on South

The battle will be fast and fierce, according to the organizers, and everyone involved is ready for the action to begin. Haddad and Klesaris, along with Vikki Slowick, James Higgins and Daniel MacDonald, have been busy planning missions and producing videos to guide players for the last several weekends. 

Students are already signing up with those hoping to remain humans stocking up on Nerf ammunition while others aiming to become zombies work on their sprints and strategies. Past games have included greedy zombies starving after tagging humans too quickly and a bounty of cookies offered for the capture of Klesaris. It’s tough to say who will win, says Haddad.

“Last semester was a zombie win, but I'm hoping the humans will take it back this game,” says Haddad. “But if people have fun, the game is a win for everyone.”