It happens every year. The last required meeting before for a new game of Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) on campus is on a Tuesday. Then Wednesday rolls around, and students who hadn’t heard of the game before see students running around and throwing socks, and they ask to join.
Wesley Pate has seen it during every game since he has been a moderator for the club at USF. Now the president of USF HvZ, he wishes people would find out about the game before it started in order to save the moderators time.
Pate said much of the challenge of being a moderator is expecting the unexpected from players and keeping the games balanced.
“You’re going to have some days when the humans are steamrolling, and they’re doing really well, so you’re like, ‘OK, we’ll throw a little benefit to the zombies so that it evens out a little bit,’” he said. “Then, next thing you know, the zombies totally piled on the humans, and the game totally flips on its head.”
But he said that plays perfectly into the best part of the role: watching players enjoy the game.
One of the best parts of the game, though, he said, is the camaraderie.
“It gets me out there, and it gets everyone else out there,” Pate said. “You can see people having fun with your game — and everyone’s getting together and making friends.”
Calum Brice, another moderator for this semester’s game, said he got started playing when his sister introduced it to him. Since then, he said he has enjoyed the game as a player, and now a moderator for four sessions. Having made friends throughout his time playing, he said the moderator role will be very different.
“I can’t do the same thing that I’m used to doing,” Brice said. “It’s also a lot of (my) friends playing this game. So if arguments start up, I have to make sure I’m not being too friend, like, ‘Oh, I’m your friend.’ I’ve got to choose to be firm.”
But he said that watching those friends enjoy the game will be very rewarding.
The moderators have to come up with a series of missions the players run through each night of the 6-day-long challenge. After the Original Zombie — who is chosen by the moderators from a pool of decidedly interested applicants to the game — begins his or her campaign to increase the legions of undead on campus, the humans are tasked with protecting or rescuing various tokens or individuals.
These missions, Brice said, differ greatly from year to year, but each is designed to be fun and manageable for the players, humans and zombies, alike.
Additionally, Brice said, the moderators are in charge of a running plotline, which players are able to follow on the organization’s website, usfhvz.org. The plot provides a theme for each year.
This year, Pate said, the plot revolves around a kingdom. The game will open with the King’s daughter’s 18th birthday party. Players will get treats at the outset of the mission, and chaos will ensue, Pate said.
One of the perks of the game, Pate said, is the sense of community. Humans, hugely paranoid of the headband-clad zombies on their way to class, get to feel a sense of solidarity with one another while they remain alive. Meanwhile, zombies develop strong group bonds while hunting for humans.
But the friendships are not exclusive to each group. Once a human is tagged and becomes one of the zombie ranks, similar bonds develop.
“You feel really devoted to your side,” Pate said. “And then, one of those days, something goes wrong, … and at first, it’s really disappointing. But for me, it’s a huge change of game.”
To join the game, one must sign up for and attend a town hall-style meeting held by the moderators of the game. The last of these meetings before this semester’s game begins is Tuesday.
To play, one must provide a bandana that must be worn around the head by zombies and the upper arm by humans. Socks and Nerf darts can be used as projectiles to stun zombies. All rules can be found on the organization’s website.
The game begins Wednesday, so humans beware.