Humans vs. Zombies brings the zombie apocalypse to campus

Players could ask for sponsorships to support the MU Children’s Hospital.

At this point in the semester, most MU students might only be thinking about Thanksgiving break. However, a few have a much more pressing matter on their mind — the zombie apocalypse.

Each semester, MU Zombies puts on a week-long Nerf war that takes place across the entire campus called Humans vs. Zombies. For one week, students armed with Nerf guns must defend themselves against an ever-expanding zombie horde.

“It’s kind of like you can still be a kid,” HVZ moderator Nicole Rodgers said. “(When) you’re in college everything gets super stressful, but this is kind of a nice way to go back to being 6 again.”

HVZ began in 2005 at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, according to, and has since become an international sensation. The game got its start at MU in spring of 2009 and has been going strong ever since.

The rules of the game are fairly simple: zombies infect humans by tagging them. Humans stun zombies with Nerf blasters or balled-up socks.

“As a human, there’s a lot of stress involved,” Rodgers said. “You have to look everywhere. You have to check your corners (and) you have to go loaded out. But a zombie is kind of free. You don’t have to be stressed out walking from place to place.”

One aspect that is completely new to MU’s HVZ game this semester is a partnership with Extra Life, a charity that raises funds for hospitals in the Children’s Miracle Network. Players who wished to participate could sign up on the Extra Life website and ask friends and family for sponsorships. In the case of MU’s HVZ game, the money collected went to MU Children’s Hospital.

While the use of Nerf guns on a college campus has caused some concern in previous years, MU Zombies President Joe Rexwinkle said that the organization has a good working relationship with the MU Police Department.

“We’ve always tended to get along (with MUPD) even from the days when we weren’t an official campus organization,” Rexwinkle said. “We contact MUPD before the game ever starts. We tell them what we’re doing, when we’re doing it and how long the game is going to last and just tell them to keep an eye out.”

In addition to membership fees and private donations to keep HVZ going, Eric Pherigo, manager of The Textbook Game, has sponsored the game for a number of years.

“Humans vs. Zombies (is made up of) good kids,” Pherigo said. “They’re trying to have fun in a controlled way and they’re being creative doing it. We have a lot of respect for what they do and that’s the kind of thing that we want to get behind.”

In addition to the 24/7 game that takes place almost everywhere on campus, HVZ includes various “missions” that occur throughout the week, during which each side has the opportunity to earn rewards that will help them further along.

“Planning is an ordeal,” Rexwinkle said. “We probably put about 100 planning hours into any individual game. Leading up to the game, throughout the summer, over winter breaks, we’re generally communicating online continuously, writing missions, suggesting rules, planning meetings (and) planning locations.”

Rexwinkle said there is a rule change almost every semester, but that these tend to be minor things, such as banning a blaster that is too strong. Larger rule changes, such as not playing in buildings or on Stankowski Field, were added in the past to minimize disruption of normal campus activities and are now enforced every year.

“I get to see this organization bring people together,” Rexwinkle said. “I get to see people make stories. You see people do some really impressive things in the game that they’ll tell stories about for years. That’s something I love being a part of. We’ve got such a large game and so many people get to meet each other and have a ton of fun.”

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