Shenandoah University builds a strong and vibrant community through the interactions of diverse individuals who respect each other’s differences, seek common ground, and practice understanding and compassion. In October 2011, that energetic community became the setting for an apocalyptic yet playful battle, as students across the university banded together to play the strategic game of tag known as Humans vs. Zombies (HVZ). Organized by Assistant Maines and Recreation Sports interns Joe Mechem and Bryce Donald, this complex game of strategy engaged students (and some faculty and staff members) from varied backgrounds, majors and interests in a week-long game of tag—complete with colored bandanas and Nerf blasters—in a struggle to survive a fictitious “zombie invasion.” HVZ represents just one of numerous programs that united students as a strong community of individuals.
All HVZ participants received a unique identification number and used a web-based database to keep track of their teams’ profiles. With one student designated as the original zombie (OZ), 171 participants banded together to form the human team. To signify their participation in the game, members of the human faction wore bandanas around their arms. Players tagged by the OZ became “infected” and joined the growing zombie horde. “Infected” humans removed their bandanas from their arms and wore them around their heads to signify their zombie status. Humans defended themselves with Nerf Blasters, stunning the relentless zombies for five minutes, giving humans time to escape. The game also featured strategic maneuvers for humans trying to avoid zombie infection, such as rescue missions, Capture the Flag or scavenger hunts. Both humans and zombie teams created separate Facebook pages and set up various forms of communication.
Once humans became zombies, the organizers activated a timer within the database. Zombies were allotted one day to “feed” (tag) a human, or they would starve to death (i.e., be removed from the game). Ultimately, only 10-12 students “survived” as humans, so the zombies were officially declared the winners.
“Strategic games like Humans vs. Zombies help to build teamwork and leadership skills,” said Maines. “Diverse populations of students come together, communicate and work as a team. It’s fascinating to see those types of relationships [develop].”