Humans vs. Zombies invades campus

April 22nd, 2010

John Carroll’s first ever Humans vs. Zombies game played out last week across campus. Students plunged into the game, sporting bright orange bandanas on their heads and arms, signifying their roles as zombies or humans, respectively.

Organized by sophomores Chris Sarris and George Banaszak, Humans vs. Zombies is essentially a giant game of tag, pitting the original zombie against the humans.

“This original zombie must tag humans and build his army,” Sarris said. “Humans can defend themselves using Nerf weapons or balled up socks, which will ‘stun’ the zombie, meaning the player must remain inactive for 15 minutes.”

If humans are tagged, however, they become zombies and are banned from using Nerf guns or socks. Their new object is to tag humans to convert them to zombies. Overall, the key for both groups is survival.

“The object of the game is ultimately to stay alive,” Sarris said. “Every player tries their best to remain human for the duration of the week, but if they happened to be turned into a zombie, their focus changes as well. The zombie goal is to ‘bite’ every member of the human army, thereby eliminating humanity.”

According to the Humans vs. Zombies Web site (, the game was invented in 2005 at Goucher College in Baltimore, Md. The game became a success on Goucher’s campus, with students posting photos and videos to spread the game to other universities across the country.

Goucher is the only college in the country to require a study abroad experience for graduation. Due to this, students organized games at other schools around the world. Games are currently played at over 200 universities in the U.S., and also in Brazil, Canada, England, Denmark and Australia.

Junior Leslie Bissell, a participant in the game, got the idea to play from her friends.

“I have friends at [the University of Florida] who played the game, and they said it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I saw pictures of them playing it, so I decided to try it just to see what it was like.”

Banaszak wanted to bring something fun and different to campus.

“[Sarris] and I knew that there were other students like us who wanted an alternative event on campus and that is why we brought the phenomenon to JCU,” he said.

Even though the game was time-consuming, Bissell said she had a lot of fun.

“We are all on the brink of having final projects and papers, so it was nice to relax and be a kid again,” she said.

Both game moderators found Humans vs. Zombies to be extremely successful, not only because the participants donated $116 of their game fees to the American Red Cross, but because of the reaction of students on campus.

“Everybody kept talking about it all week,” Sarris said. “People wanted to know what was going on – students and faculty alike. I got such a kick out of hearing people tell me what they had heard in the hallways.”

Banaszak said he felt the players learned an important concept throughout the course of Humans vs. Zombies.

“I think the game was successful because of the importance of teamwork,” he said. “No matter who was playing, they all worked as one team, even if they didn’t know anyone else on their respective teams.”

Sarris said the participants of Humans vs. Zombies made the game interesting, not only through their teamworkm, but also with their enthusiasm.

“I’ve heard so many stories of players who didn’t even know each other, but would walk from building to building together because they saw an orange armband,” he said. “It was unlike anything I’d heard before and because of it, so many players made a lot of new friends. It was an amazing connection that was made between players.”

The game included members of each class and ran 24 hours a day. Even as students walked to and from class, they had to watch their backs.

“Even though we had missions between 7 and 8 p.m. [each night], we heard players that roamed campus all night looking for the other team and devising plans for the next day,” Banaszak said.

Due to the inaugural game’s success, two Humans vs. Zombies games, one in each semester, are already in the works for next year. During the times the game is not running, activities will be planned for the players.

“We will also be doing a lot of late night programming during our off-season so that people can participate all year,” Banaszak said.

Bissell is eagerly anticipating the return of Humans vs. Zombies next year.

“The people who were involved with the game were really great,” she said. “Chris and George have learned a lot from this first game at John Carroll and they have many things in the works for the next year. I’m excited to see what changes will be made and how the game will progress.”

Even though this year’s game was successful, both moderators anticipate that improvements will make next year’s battle even better.

“George and I are so happy with the results of this year, but we know we can make it even better,” Sarris said. “We’re thrilled to keep making the game bigger and better and we hope that everybody gets excited for the next game.”