For the past seven years, Keene State College students have fought back zombie attacks, running from the rapidly-spreading virus all over campus. This semester, however, the week-long Humans Vs. Zombies game did not proceed as planned.
This semester’s game was supposed to begin April 10 and run until April 17, but, due to a lack of participation, it had to be cancelled. Humans Vs. Zombies club president Savannah Hobbs, who has been involved with the games all four years of her college career, said they usually have between 40 and 60 players participate.
This year, only 15 people showed up. Although the number of participants usually fluctuates, Hobbs said this semester was “extremely unordinary.”
The game is a version of tag which incorporates a Nerf blaster. Everyone starts out as a human, depicted by a colored head/arm band, and one “Original Zombie” runs around tagging humans with Nerf blaster to turn them into zombies as well.
KSC senior William Poling began playing Humans Vs. Zombies his first semester at KSC. Poling said, “I always liked playing with Nerf guns when I was younger so it’s like, ‘Hey I get to play Nerf guns with a ton of people on a college campus, sounds kind of fun, honestly.’”
To Hobbs, Humans Vs. Zombies is less about playing tag and shooting Nerf blasters and more about community. Hobbs said, “You could walk up to anyone and say, ‘I need to get from Point A to Point B and there’s a lot of zombies out, can I walk with you?’ You could just do that.”
Poling originally heard about Humans Vs. Zombies at the Involvement Fair, which Hobbs said is one of the main ways the club advertises the games, in addition to posters, events and even emailing people who have expressed interest in the past.
Poling had seen someone dressed up in a military-style outfit, covered in Nerf guns, and it drew his attention to the club.
He said he thinks visual representation is important to drawing a crowd. People often dressed in costumes for the games, and Poling himself wore a cowboy hat and carried six-shooters when he was a human.
To get more people involved with the club, Poling said, “The game needs to find a way to draw people who are more enthusiastic.”
Although Poling thinks that having more people visibly excited and into the game will help attract new players, he also recognizes the issue of KSC’s overall enrollment numbers. “I think there’s less people coming into Keene now so the numbers get smaller each year.”
First-year Sam Clough has not participated in Humans Vs. Zombies, and said, “I think the chances of me doing it would be higher if a lot of other people were doing it as well.” He added that although he is interested in it, he hasn’t seen enough people participating in community-based games to make him, or other members of his class, want to join. “I think activities like that are dying out,” said Clough. “We’re literally becoming zombies.”
Although Poling participated in the game every semester up until he studied abroad in the spring semester of his junior year, he did not return to the game his senior year. “I just felt like I was getting a little old for it, honestly. I know that sounds really lame… I felt like I was kind of growing out of it and I just didn’t feel like, you know, running around on campus with a gun… Maybe in the back of my head I was thinking, with mass shootings happening nowadays, ‘Is this a little awkward?’”
Poling also said, with so much work to be done in his senior year, including his involvement with the Global Culture Club, he didn’t have enough time for it.
A similar issue was also faced by the Humans Vs. Zombies’ eboard. Hobbs said they didn’t have time to do as much campaigning as they have in the past because “all of our eboard was seniors.” However, not being able to advertise as much was not the only issue the all-senior eboard faced this semester. Hobbs said that there were no underclassmen this year to take the places of the graduating eboard members. Because of this, Hobbs said the game won’t be returning next year “unless we get a miracle.”
Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org