HvZ: Throwing socks at the undead

Every semester students get into groups donning yellow bandanas on either their upper or lower torso in what is known as “Humans vs. Zombies.”

“HvZ,” as it is commonly known, started in 2005 and is played on college campuses, libraries and other public places, according to humansvszombies.org, the game’s official website. The game is a kind of tag where students are divided up into two teams: Humans or Zombies. A yellow bandana is worn on certain parts of a student’s body to let one know which side the student belongs to. For example, players wearing a bandana around their head are zombies. Those wearing headbands around their arms or legs are humans.

The goal is survival. Zombies must tag or ‘eat’ a human every 48 hours or they starve, according to the national website. The game ends when either all the humans have been tagged or when the zombies starve.

Humans can stun zombies by throwing socks at them, though the stun only lasts for 15 minutes. Certain places are deemed as safe zones, where no tagging can occur. These include, but are not limited to, academic buildings, bathrooms, health centers et cetera.

The game was first brought on Western Carolina University’s campus by student Duy Nguyen in 2010 as an intramural sport. The first group started out with around 60 members but has since then grown.

Intramurals picked up the game because it fits both categories of being a recreational and social sport opportunity for students, said Director of Campus Recreation and Wellness Shauna Sage.

Intramurals provides T-shirts to winners and bandanas to the players. They have also worked with the university police to regulate the use of socks in stunning versus Nerf guns for safety considerations. They also provide training to staff on how to handle emergencies, said Sage.

Those interested in playing are to sign a waiver and are explained that risks are involved with playing any campus sport.

Safety was an area of concern during the first couple of games, said Feaster. A few people were reported to have gained injuries when the game first came to Western. Some students were also reported to have skipped classes to play the game with others following students around to catch them. Both practices have been banned. Students found skipping classes or stalking other students will be banned from playing.

Though the game took a break in 2011, it is back up to two games per semester said original player Cameron Feaster. Feaster began as an ordinary player but moved up to a moderator.

“I play mostly to keep myself active. Playing around on campus keeps me a little more active than I would ordinarily be,” said Feaster.

Associate Professor of English Nate Kreuter even joined in on the game at one point.

“Though I was initially a reluctant player, my participation in the game made me, in an admittedly strange way, feel welcomed by my students, and in a way that I can’t quite explain, made me feel more a part of the university community,” said Kreuter in his article “Professors vs. Zombies.”

In his article, Kreuter outlines some of the basic strategies his students would use to try and catch him along with his change of heart toward the game itself. For example, he explained students would call his office to see whether or not he was still in an academic building as part of a safe zone. He also described being chased by zombies trying to tag him. When he was finally tagged, he was hugged by the student who “ate” him.

Kreuter proves that no one is too old to play in his tale of going from a reluctant player to a competitive human in the course of one week. Kreuter also admitted to feeling a sort of common bond with the students from his experiences.

Student David Thrasher played the game for two years before quitting because of a shoulder injury unrelated to the game.

“I made a lot of new friends, which I still have today,” said Thrasher.

For more information, contact intramurals at 828-227-7069 or view the official Humans vs. Zombies website at humansvszombies.org.