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Video games have inspired a number of new forms of entertainment, some of which are things very few people ever imagined – like collecting video games that sell for thousands of dollars. And competitive online games have created an entire industry around eSports. But those competitions are still in the virtual world. It’s not like gaming has become so popular that it’s making its way into real-world events, right?

Well, actually…

If you’ve ever played a Zombie game, you know it’s important to watch your back for as long as you have the game turned on. But, if things get too intense, you can always pause the game, sip some coffee and relax until you’re ready to take on another wave of hungry monstrosities.

Beware! Zombie Hands

Now imagine this. You’re driving into work. After parking, you step out of your car. Something seems off, almost as though a disaster wiped out all of humanity and you’re the last person on Earth. But you shrug that feeling off because that would be silly – certainly, there would have been one of those emergency alerts on TV or a news broadcast. With a slight shiver, you open the door to your building.

As you walk into the office, the lights flicker ominously. You hear a noise and turn around. Too late. Robert from accounting tagged you. Now you’re a zombie!

That may sound like a pipedream designed to turn casual Friday into even-more-casual Friday, but that’s the basic idea behind Humans vs. Zombies. Although the original creators designed HvZ for a college campus, the rules of been adapted to fit workplaces and the game’s popularity has spread throughout the world.

“Many players report that Humans vs. Zombies is one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives,” the HvZ website explains. “The game creates deep bonds between players, instantly removing social boundaries by forcing players to engage as equals and cooperate for their survival.”

Of course, there are some basic rules to keep everyone safe. Gamers just want to have fun, but they shouldn’t be reckless about it. The rules of the original version of the game, which was created by Brad Sappington and Chris Weed in 2005, include guidelines for safe areas – and situations in which it is off limits to play. For example, players are not allowed to tag each other in the middle of traffic.

As far as gameplay goes, it works a little like tag. When the game starts, all players start off as humans, except for one designed zombie. The zombie players must “feed” every 48 hours, which they can do by firmly touching one of the human players. Humans don’t have to sit idle while the apocalypse happens, as they can use nerf dart guns (brightly colored and as unrealistic looking as possible) to “stun” zombie players for 15 minutes.

When a game starts, human players wear a bandana around their arm or leg to designate they are participants. Zombies wear bandanas on their heads. According to the game’s creators, HvZ is about bringing people together, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality or political views. After all, zombies don’t discriminate, they just want your brains. The game is currently played across 650 colleges and universities across the world, and has even shown up at a few military bases!

Don’t just take our word for it, though. You can check out this HvZ documentary if you want to learn more or find out how to get in on the action.

Humans vs Zombies teamwork - Photo by Nony Dutton

Let the games begin

It won’t be too long before the holidays are here. Amongst the hustle, bustle, final exams and HR reports, there will also be an influx of zombie apocalypses. But it isn’t just college students with senioritis that are getting in on the action. As Gidget Fuentes from Military Times reported, Brad Barker, president of the security firm HALO Corp, plans to incorporate elements of zombie preparedness as part of a light-hearted training exercise. Although Barker has been light on details, he hinted that zombies would be able to harass troops and first aid teams during his organization’s Counter-Terrorism Summit in San Diego.

“HALO will take over the 44-acre Paradise Point resort in the city’s popular Mission Bay and create a series of terrorist scenarios, with immersive Hollywood sets including a Middle Eastern village and a pirates’ haven,” Fuentes wrote.

HvZ changes how people interact
The HvZ game has its share of critics – particularly those that fear it may glamorize gun violence. Employers and educators have also expressed frustration over the potential for disruptions. However, HvZ is like any other activity: It’s important to respect other players as well as non-participants while enjoying some good, clean fun. And that includes abiding by the ordinances and laws in your area. Despite some concerns, the benefits of the game may greatly outweigh the risk of potentially disrupting day-to-day operations.

“Even though a few more humans were hiding in their dorm rooms, the game felt effectively finished: The zombies won. Emotions had run high and low,” wrote Washington Post columnist Laura Wexler, describing the aftermath of a 2008 HvZ at Groucher college in Maryland. “Alliances had been made and broken. People had revealed themselves to one another more fully in the previous few days than in a semester or year of sitting next to one another in a class.”

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