By Marty Russell
Another zombie apocalypse is coming to the Ole Miss campus this semester, and that’s a good thing.
A couple of semesters ago I was walking across campus and couldn’t help but notice students with bandanas tied around their arms and heads carrying colorful plastic Nerf guns, crouching behind bushes and throwing rolled-up socks at each other.
“What now?” I thought.
Then someone explained it to me. It’s the latest fad to hit college campuses around the world: Humans vs. Zombies. Started at Goucher College, a private, liberal arts school in Baltimore (yes, I had to look it up too) in 2005, it’s essentially a game of tag where one student is designated the original zombie (I thought that was Al Gore) and sets out to infect the human players until either everyone is turned into a zombie, or the humans defeat the zombie hordes (I think that’s the official collective noun for zombies – hordes).
Humans wear bandanas around their arms or legs while zombies must wear them on their head. If a zombie touches a human, the human becomes a zombie. If a human hits a zombie with a Nerf dart or rolled-up sock, the zombie is immobilized for a short period of time. If a zombie goes for 48 hours without converting (and eating, according to the official rules) a human, they starve to death and are out of the game.
Given what happened this week on a school campus in Ohio, students running around with guns might not seem like such a good idea. That’s why only the colorful, plastic Nerf guns are allowed, realistic-looking weapons are prohibited. And given the nature of what so often sparks incidents such as the one in Ohio, social outcasts taking out their frustrations on society, games like Humans vs. Zombies are actually a breath of fresh air and may be a sign that there’s hope for us yet.
That’s because it requires students (about 200 participated at Ole Miss last semester), many meeting each other for the first time, to put down their phones and mobile devices and actually interact with others for the week-long, 24-hour-a-day competition. Instead of becoming real zombies by spending hours playing video games at home alone or staring at the wasteland that is television (except possibly AMC’s “The Walking Dead”) they actually get out and meet new people, get some fresh air and exercise and (gasp) actually to talk to one another in more than 140 characters.
The Ole Miss games have actually attracted paying sponsors, and Toys ‘R Us now sells an official Humans vs. Zombies Nerf gun.
According to the Daily Mississippian, this semester’s Humans vs. Zombies competition here at Ole Miss will kick off in late March or early April. Anyone can join in, according to the organizers. I wonder if that includes faculty?
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.