Ladies and gentlemen, this reporter has engaged himself in precarious situations large and small, short and long, sticky and chewy. Bad stuff. I’ve done interviews with a drug dealer in the middle of the woods, I’ve done videography in the middle of a paintball battle, and I’ve even interviewed an Australian.
However, never before have I been able to ride shotgun on a full-fledged front line fight. That’s why, when I had the opportunity to shadow a squad of tough-as-nails individuals as they fended off waves of zombies in the dark of night, I pounced on them shits like a cougar to a jackalope.
I am, of course, referring to the campus-wide, week-long strategic battle simulation, Humans vs Zombies (oft referred to as “HvZ.”). If you’ve had the fortune of strolling down Court Street one evening and bumping into a squadron of umbrageous people, equipped with heavily-modified, heavily-intensified Nerf guns, you’ve already been a part of the experience.
Game moderator, Olivia Bullock, said that HvZ is “a game of social tag . . . an opportunity to be silly,” essentially recreating the days of “Nerf wars” played in primary and secondary school, while adding a whole new level of intricacy to the equation.
The game is, at it’s core, an immersive, thoroughly planned-out series of missions that the humans have to attempt to carry out. These missions, according to moderator, Kyle Moyer, are planned “months in advance,” ensuring that the experience runs smoothly. Meanwhile, mothafuckas got zombies on their behinds, which adds the definitively frantic layer of play that participants have learned to know and love.
Speaking of frantic, grab a cup of
sewer water Starbucks coffee and curl up with a nice Japanese body pillow, because it’s time for Uncle Hakes-Rodriguez to tell you his tale of danger and fear . . . in the zombies’ den.
Saturday, October 19, 2013, 8:10 p.m. – I was told that the HvZ “Human” team would be meeting for their midweek mission – the second largest mission, next to Tuesday’s Final Mission – in Morton 201 (if you haven’t been in Morton, by the way, don’t. Because the floor plan was designed by bonobos). After about 10 long minutes of searching, I discovered the meeting room for the HvZ moderators, who were discussing the night’s objective. They looked into my soul with the kind of look that says, “please fucking leave.” I promptly told them I was a reporter for Speakeasy Magazine looking for people to interview, and, graciously, two beautiful people, Kyle Moyer and Olivia Bullock, agreed to humor me with their fabulous, beautiful faces.
8:35 p.m. – The interview with Olivia and Kyle went swimmingly. We chatted it up on a musty couch in an echoey corridor of Morton for about 15 minutes. They’re passionate people. Kyle used to be a part of a “strike team,” as he called it, which is basically a group of gents who tenaciously cover each others’ asses. I had been hoping to be inserted into one of those to do my reporting spiel. He also said that people apparently get pretty intense. “Lots of National Guard and ROTC kids play,” he said, “They like to throw some tactics in.” That meant a lot of heavy footwork on my part, but I wasn’t a novice to field reporting, so I assumed it would be easy to keep up.
8:45 p.m. – Did some more walking around before the meeting started. I went outside for a breath of crisp, Autumn night air. Bump into a trifecta of high schoolers dicking about, waiting for the meeting to start as well. Honestly, before that night, I had no idea people other than college kids played the game. I mean, I saw really small people toting Nerf blasters walking around campus, but I thought they had birth defects or something. Apparently, the inclusion of underage (as well as overage) people in HvZ is encouraged. According to Olivia, “[HvZ] loves to have the town of Athens participate in [their] game . . . [Athens has] supported [them] for a long time.” Damn, that’s heart-felt. But I digress. I interviewed the kids, or at least tried to; high schoolers have an aptitude for finding sufficiency in the most insufficient of responses. I asked one of them, “Paul,” if he had encountered any particularly dangerous situations. He claimed that he had been “on the Green . . . surrounded by at least 200 zombies.” Jesus. If that’s a run-of-the-mill kind of thing for these guys, what kind of a night was I in for?
9:10 p.m. – People began to meander in to the main meeting room. I noticed a group on the left side of the lecture hall outfitted in surplus gear. Interest was piqued. I strolled on over and introduced myself to who I assumed to be the leader of the pack, Christian “Rico” Sagardia. His decked-out military uniform said “RICO,” so best believe motherfuckers called him Rico. I noticed his Nerf gun, which was, for all intents and purposes, pimped to shit. In fact, every one of the roughneck gentlemen had some form of mod on their gun. Rico took notice to my noticing of his noticeable Nerfs and kindly addressed my curiosity. You see, Rico is an entrepreneur. He takes plans for new, improved gun modifications and puts them to the test in the field. These mods increase speed, distance, power, and “wow, that sure is neat.” By using these heavily modified, intensified, and scrutinized magnum opuses of fuckshituppery, Rico and his team are the top-tier justiciars of HvZ.
9:30 p.m. – A menagerie of moderators called attention to the crowd in the lecture hall. It was time to explain the mission. On the dual projector screens behind them was a blueprint, the layout of the combat zone. Our mission was to utilize the protection of various “buildings,” or safe zones marked by LED lights, to defend the TNT boxes in our proximity from exploding. If the bombs were to explode, they would destroy our buildings, rendering us asscheeks-up defenseless from the zombie hordes. Whilst defending the TNT, we also had to keep some key individuals who had vital information or abilities safe from zambambo teeth. This included a sexy, sultry nurse, who could revive felled important characters, and Captain Yo-Yo, an ironically dexterity-inept man with some very helpful secrets. Seemed simple enough.
9:45 p.m. – We reached the main battlefield. Rico and the team is designated to take point at the furthermost building, a small, triangular box in the corner of the map. Our team, comprised of eight fully-grown men, was a tight squeeze, Nerf gun barrels poking out of the safe zone. To our right, the bomb. We were the explosive’s sole defenders. However, I was confident that our crack squad could defend the point from the nebulous, collective rage that seethed from the zombie hordes across the glen.
10:08 p.m. – The mob of undead emerged from the darkness. “Get your buttholes ready,” warned Rico as the squad cocked their weapons in preparation. Out from the fog of war, the trail of zambambos did not end. A decent 200 raging, sprinting undead flanked us from the left. In a split second, the damned had surrounded us. The pewpewpew of eight Nerf guns firing at once ricocheted in the tight, grimy stairwell. We were holding off the zombies fairly well. Bodies hit the ground. Cries of “BRAINS” turned into screams of anguish. Shit was, to say the least, totes cray cray. We had this in the bag.
10:15 p.m. – A stray zombie detonated the bomb. We had ten seconds to leave before the TNT exploded. Move, move move. The group burst through the tape securing off the area and sprinted in a mad dash to the center building, where many other survivors were located. Our high-speed line of soldiers crossed the field. We were exposed. Even so, the team was fast and very effective. I turned around to see what was left of our previous encampment as I was sprinting at the tail end of the group. Bad idea. The zombies were chasing us now. 50, maybe 60 screaming necrosis-addled S.O.B.s were right behind me. I started to sweat harder than before. I was pretty sure zombies didn’t care if I was a journalist. They cared if I was meat. Much ass was hauled on my part.
10:12 p.m. – We rendezvoused with a larger group of survivors in the center building. I felt more comfortable among the swell of humans equipped with such badass munitions. Amidst the group were two important people: Madeline Chevalier, a 1920s speakeasy owner, and The Nurse. Chevalier’s a very mission-critical individual. Losing her to the horde would be a major blow to the humans. Luckily, The Nurse had the ability to revive felled special individuals. Good thing, too. Because, unbeknownst to us at the time, the old Mistress, Bad Luck, had been sharpening her knife for us.
10:20 p.m. – A zombie comes out from the bushes and strikes down Chevalier. The Nurse bursts through the crowd of humans to revive her. The new goal was to protect the Nurse while she worked her magic. Unfortunately, this left the TNT wide open. Zombies surrounded the group, thankful of the new chink in our already tattered armor. More zombies started popping out from behind the bushes. Two hordes circled around our group. We dashed back into the safe zone by the hair of our butts. The humans took their time to reload. Silence, chachik-chachik-chachik. Flashlights had turned on, many soldiers trying to find and reclaim the ammo lost on protecting Chevalier and The Nurse.
10:30 p.m. – Everything had gone wrong. The zambambaroonies had detonated the TNT. Off went the nurse to a building at the far end of the field. Rico and the gang followed her, as did the majority of everyone else in the previous building. We sprinted across the field and headlights from cars on the street flashed at us. Screaming in the background. Felt like some We Were Soldiers bullshit. At any rate, this new base was much smaller, but it would have to do. The undead promptly took notice of our relocation. Decided to pay us a little visit. Actually, scratch that. They decided to pay the bomb in our vicinity a visit. We were just collateral damage.
10:35 p.m. – “Boomer,” someone screamed! Everyone in the group swung their guns up into firing position. Rico yelled, “all blowguns on me!” Boomer, they said. I distinctly remembered Olivia saying something about “special zombies [that] only appear during missions.” Ah, right. A boomer was essentially a mobile spawn point for the brain-munchers. That means, it could bring dead zombies back to life. Needless to say, our safety was being compromised as the thoughts farted out of my head. The boomer was rather belligerent, if not then highly imprudent. He kept yelling at people, saying that he was going to get them, at the same time, giving away his location to the blowgunners. What a mysterious game. If all the “special” zombies acted like that, we’d have the entire mission in the bag.
10:36 p.m. – Spoke too soon. Zombies totally blew up our building. Only one building remained. We sprinted to the opposite side of the field. Mostly all of the humans were in one concentrated area. We had two TNT boxes here. I assumed the other building decided to piss off and take their bomb with them. Things were looking deliciously grim. Perhaps this crack team of operators was not so crack? Or maybe the sheer magnitude of the undead had taken us by surprise? Was it the moderators’ doing? Did they skew the mission in the zombies’ favor? Whatever the case, we had started from the bottom, and now we’re even bottomer. Humans were the anti-Drake.
10:40 p.m. – I was not entirely sure if this mission was even worth fighting for anymore. The zombies began to swarm around the bombs like undead turds circling the drain. In the distance, a deafening scream. “Oh, fuck,” I heard. “It’s . . . the tank!” The tank is a slow moving, virtually indestructible special zombie. They are the ubermensch, the supreme beings spawned by zombie lore. In this situation, they were the game-enders.
10:46 p.m. – I knew the humans had already lost when the sound of hungry zombies overpowered that of firing weaponry. Rico saw that there was no way to win, but there was one way to fight another day. “We’re bugging out,” he said. On his move, the entire group of surviving humans made a serpentine formation the fuck out of there. I followed promptly, not wanting to be in the middle of a necrophilic gang-bang very much. We went on full tilt, sprinting into a parking lot, weaving through buildings. I could hear screams behind us. I didn’t have to look back. They were already hot on our trail. You know the paranoia that sets in when you’re going a smidgen over the speed limit and you see a cop? Magnify that by the number of zombies who were snapping their teeth at our behinds. We ran past Jefferson Hall, making our way through East Green. By that point, the massive centipede of humans had broken up, but much of Rico’s squad was still intact. We didn’t stop running until we hit Shively. I exhaled. We were safe.
10:50 p.m. – We were totally not safe. A zombie jumped out from behind the ATM in front of Morton. It wore a twisted grin beneath a charred Napoleon Dynamite ‘do and emitted a scream that nearly ripped me in two. Luckily, we scared the little bastard off with our munitions. We were finally, finally safe. I was rather confused as to what the objective was at that point. Members of the squad were using the ATM to get some cash. They all kind of just, sat there, like, yeah. Idle chit-chat, whatnot. After a few minutes of confusion on my end, Rico made the defining statement on our next mission:
“Alright, let’s go get drunk!”
And with that, Rico’s Roughnecks retreated with a hurrah, up the hill and down to The Union – gear and all – where many more tales of zombie killin’ would be woven.
This is Lucas Hakes-Rodriguez, signing off.
For any questions about the game, HvZ Athens’ Website is here: http://hvzathens.com/