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A new take on zombies


Supernatural has become super-fun at Mizzou, where hundreds of students are playing Humans vs. Zombies — a campuswide version of tag. Illustration by Asaf Hanuka

Anyone who has pulled an all-nighter for a final remembers the zombie-like feeling of trudging across the Quad. Now a new game of tag has hundreds of undead campus-dwellers feasting on the brains of fellow students.

The game is called Humans vs. Zombies, and it’s spreading like gangrene at Mizzou.

“I’d heard about it from my cousin who played at Truman State University,” says sophomore club president Sarah Hirner, a chemistry major from Hannibal, Mo. “We had 300 players last year, and this year we made an orientation class mandatory so that everyone would know the rules.”

The concept is simple. Zombies wear headbands and humans wear wristbands. All participants begin as humans, save a few randomly selected “original zombies.” When a zombie tags a human, that human becomes a zombie. The horde grows quickly, and the game lasts for a week until the zombies completely take over or the humans survive the duration. The game is confined to outdoor campus, and all players register on a Web site to keep score.

To make things interesting, a zombie must “feed” (tag a human) every 48 hours or it will die. And humans aren’t defenseless. They can “stun” a zombie — meaning it can’t tag for 15 minutes — with a balled-up sock or a Nerf Gun. More than 400 students played “HvZ” at Mizzou during the 2009 fall semester.

“Someone will suddenly come sprinting after you, everyone looks at you like you’re crazy and it’s a lot of fun,” Hirner says of the nationwide college fad.

For some, the game even unearths some creativity. “Moderators” in the club concoct missions to keep humans from holing up in their dorm rooms. Scavenger hunts, wacky assignments and other games-within-the-game keep students guessing.

Even faculty members have joined the legions of living dead.

“It sounds funny, but I like being hunted,” says John McCormick, professor emeritus of chemistry. “I know the campus pretty well, and I know how to get from building to building in ways they don’t. Once one of my students saw me downtown and chased me three blocks.”

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