Friday, April 8, 2011

Humans vs. Zombies

So the post every other day idea failed miserably. Oh well.

Anyway. Recently, the people of my residential college have begun playing a game of Humans vs Zombies. For those of you that don't know, HvZ is basically a complex game of tag. You start with an original zombie (OZ), who doesn't have to mark themselves as a zombie, and seeks to tag other players to turn them into zombies. Humans are identified by a red band worn below the neck, zombies (other than the OZ) wear the band neck and up. Zombies are required to 'feed' every few days by tagging a human or else they starve and are entirely out of the game. Humans can defend themselves from getting tagged by stunning the zombie with either Nerf or foam weaponry (or just some rolled up socks), stuns last for 15 minutes. The game continues until all the zombies starve or all the humans are turned into zombies. In our game, the moderator for the game has created missions for humans to undertake, and the humans can only win if they can continue the story for the missions and complete the final mission.

The reason I'm writing about HvZ today rather than video games as usual is mostly because I can't think of something to write about for video games. Coming up with topics is tricky business. Aside from that, though, I did actually want to discuss briefly what makes HvZ so fun.

First of all, immersion. It feels kind of stupid saying this, but real life is realistic. Games like Left 4 Dead do a fantastic job of getting players into the game (after one narrowly survived round of L4D2, my arms were trembling, a quite strange experience), but it still doesn't quite compare to the adrenaline and exhaustion of actually running away from a wave of zombies. In some ways, it's games like HvZ that make me want to start playing horror games, despite me being completely unable to deal with horror films in the past. In HvZ, you know you're just playing a game, but at the same time, you really are one of the last humans fighting for survival against the zombie horde.

Secondly, social interaction. The people playing the game are all in it to have fun. We all dream of being epic badasses and fending off the entire horde on our own, but while it is somewhat disappointing to get turned into a zombie, it really is just as fun (if not more fun) playing for the other side. And because of that, humans and zombies are friends, at least while they're both within a safe zone. It is not uncommon for humans to congratulate a particularly effective zombie, nor do zombies hesitate to commend a human for narrowly avoiding the grasp of death. Tensions run a little higher during the heat of a mission, but infinitely more friendships are made during a game of HvZ than are even slightly cracked. Compare this to the experience of playing something multiplayer on Xbox Live, and it's easy to see why HvZ might be preferable to other games where you have to deal with other people. No comment about MMO games, since I haven't really played those very much since middle school. I can imagine that for a game like WoW, joining a guild may be similar in experience.

Third, and this one is a little silly, but fulfilling childhood dreams. I have always loved fighting with fake swords and Nerf blasters as a kid, and honestly I don't know anybody who didn't. Now that we're in college, we have the money to buy the weapons and the ability to organize large games like this, so we can do it whenever we want. And it's great. Whatever it might say about my nature or human nature as a whole, I think it is tremendous fun to 'fight' somebody with fake weaponry. I've always enjoyed doing it as a child, and now at college I have the resources to fight with and friends to fight with. And being able to make the little kid inside me happy honestly feels a lot better than almost anything else I could be doing with my time. And I think that's a huge part of what makes HvZ so fun.

I think that's all I really have to say about HvZ for now. I highly encourage you to try starting up a game yourself, it's not that hard to get organized. The only things that are really required are some red bands to use as identifiers, everything else is entirely optional. It's fun!

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