Humans vs. Zombies week infests MU campus

About 670 students are participating in the week.

It’s Day One of the infestation and freshman Tanner Fortune is about to walk straight into it.

His bus shuttling him from his apartment stops on the curb outside the MU Student Center. The doors swing open.

“All right,” says the man driving. “Y’all have a nice day!”

Fortune pulls up the red bandana looped around his left bicep, the symbol of his human existence.

“Right when I get off, I’ve got to be ready,” he said.

He reaches into his satchel and pulls out a Nerf pistol. He looks either way for anyone wearing a bandana around their heads — the “zombies.”

His steps are quick to his 9 a.m. class, his head in constant shift, looking this way and that. After all, a zombie could be lurking just around the corner waiting to swoop by to tag him. The zombie horde grows by one. Minus one for the humans.

“I just love how intense it is,” Fortune said. “The fact that it could happen at any moment, it really freaks you out. That’s what really gets you in the game. It’s exciting.”

The game is Humans vs. Zombies. The weeklong college campus phenomenon is a moderated mammoth-sized game of tag that pits the “mortal” against the “undead.” According to the Humans vs. Zombies organization website, Missouri is one of more than 650 schools playing the game.

As it has been for six semesters, since MU organized the group in 2009, “human” students have equipped themselves with Nerf guns and bundles of socks. A foam dart or a sock temporarily stuns an incoming zombie for a full 10 minutes.

About 670 students registered to take part this week and roughly 500 attended the start of the games at the orientation midnight Wednesday. As of Thursday afternoon, the plague has spread 249 zombies, 225 humans according to the Mizzou Humans vs. Zombies website.

Senior Andrew Wallace walked with caution to his morning class, his head swiveling for signs of zombie presence. He’s carrying socks, no Nerf gun.

“It’s just a huge, nerdy game of tag,” he said while moving closer and quicker to his building destination, a “safe zone” thanks to a new rule implemented this semester. “I can understand why people think it’s childish. But you just play. It’s lots of fun playing.”

He ducks when he sees a bandana-headed passerby. “Oh, there goes one.”

Across campus a “human” ally is headed toward Speakers Circle.

“Hey,” calls one of his comrades. “Careful over there. There’s a bunch.”

And sure enough, there’s Sam Reed, a straight-faced sophomore searching the area for “human” prey with two others. He always has been a Nerf gun enthusiast, collected the plastic weaponry as a kid. As a freshman last year, he didn’t hesitate to sign up.

“When I came here and found out there was a huge Nerf gun war going on for a week, I figured, 'Why the heck not?'”

Sophomore Ryan Willis is one of the organization’s moderators, someone who oversees gameplay fairness. Part of his job is to promote safety as well. He plans missions for players with the moderating team as well, frequent objectives that players are encouraged to take on in order to gain notoriety.

“But the biggest part of it is that I’ve met a bunch of friends,” he said. “It helps me socialize. The official guideline is that it’s a team-building exercise to encourage social growth.”

Willis said he enjoys seeing players like Fortune who, after his morning classes returned to his apartment to grab his Nerf sniper along with an extra bandana for a friend. He already racked up three “zombie” kills on the day.

“This is like what we always wanted when we were kids,” he said.

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