Hunt or be hunted

Students fight to against the onslaught of "undead" in Spartans vs. Zombies


Students fight to against the onslaught of “undead” in Spartans vs. Zombies

Determined, Murray made use of a CATA bus which was coming down the road in a stroke of luck. He ran along the sidewalk in tandem with the speed of the bus, closing in on the human.

As the bus disappeared, the human turned, giving Murray the opportunity he had been waiting for. He dashed toward her and tagged her, infecting her with the zombie virus.

It’s not an episode of “The Walking Dead,” but rather a battle found at MSU.

Starting at 7 a.m. on Monday , students began participating in Spartans vs. Zombies, MSU’s version of the popular role-playing game Humans vs. Zombies. The game has been around for many years, inviting participants to play as humans or zombies.

Spartans vs. Zombies has ravaged MSU since March of 2011.

The first infection

The game begins on a tense note.

Students interested in taking part in the mock apocalypse register online to play the game. Most students start the game as members of the human resistance, who complete missions with the hope of developing an anti-virus vaccine or cure to the strain of zombie virus introduced into the population.

Members of the human resistance are identified by an orange bandana tied around one arm, whereas members of the zombie horde adorn their heads with the trademark.

Other members of the game, such as administrators and moderators, are identified by purple and blue bandanas.

But the first bite needs to happen somehow.

“The first day, you don’t trust anyone,” said Anthony Garvert , a zombie and electrical engineering sophomore.

During the registration process, students can select the option to be an original zombie, or OZ.

About four or five original zombies are selected to begin the attack. They are hidden among the human ranks, keeping their bandanas on their arms until the opportune moment arises.

On the first night, the mission is to protect five so-called people of value from the zombies, who have not been revealed at this point in the game.

The original zombies must try to infect humans without raising a commotion and can choose to expose themselves at any time.

The people of value give out the names of the original zombies at a given time that night.

Spanish junior Jake Mell , who has played the game since it started at MSU three years ago, was an original zombie last year.

“It’s pretty nerve-racking the first day,” Mell said. “It’s a unique experience to be the wolf among sheep.”

This year, Mell decided to enter the game as a member of the human resistance. He has yet to be infected.

Mell said the game has benefited him in a number of ways, including sharpening his mental and physical skills.

Banding together

Many students who take part agree the game has led them to new people with similar interests.

“I don’t know too many people who don’t like to play tag or shoot someone with a Nerf gun,” Mell said.

Members of the horde rely on stealth and the element of surprise, as the only way to infect a human is to tag them with their hands.

Humans, however, are armed with Nerf guns of varying styles and sizes, and clean socks balled up to act as grenades.

Criminal justice sophomore Nick Toepfer said he stores socks in his pockets in the event that he runs into a zombie while exiting a building and doesn’t have time to access his gun before falling prey to the virus.

“You can pretend it’s like ‘The Walking Dead,’” he said. “It’s funny when you see someone from class and you’re like, ‘Hey, I shot you!’”

Garvert enjoys the fear the game incites.

“As a zombie, it’s great to mess with the humans any way that you can,” Garvert said. “It’s like a giant game of tag.”

When tagged, humans move their bandanas to their necks for one hour until they are officially a zombie.

Strategy carries a heavy role in gameplay. Members of the zombie horde keep each other updated on the whereabouts and numbers of humans around campus.

Constant vigilance

One of the challenges to infecting humans is how vigilant they stay throughout the game.

The nerves can become a problem, Garvert said. He lived next door to an original zombie once.

Garvert said last year he remained human until the last day of the game, but it wasn’t without extreme paranoia, smart moves and luck.

He said groups of his zombie friends organized ambushes for him. They even went as far as to post his class schedule on a zombie Facebook group.

The goals of the zombies are to bolster their numbers and prevent humans from completing missions.

Humans employ strategies as well. Some members of the human resistance will contact each other for mutual escorting if they are hiding inside a building, Toepfer said.

The game can become fiercely intense and exciting. Toepfer said he survived as a human for the duration of the game last year, but was forced into a standoff with his identical twin brother, sociology and criminal justice sophomore Spencer Toepfer, who was a zombie. The two brothers faced off, each with a posse of humans and zombies behind them and charged.

Nick Toepfer survived.

The twins have played the game together for two years. Spencer Toepfer said he enjoyed being a zombie more because of the group mentality it fosters.

The brothers have remained human so far this year.

"(As a zombie), you didn’t have to look over your shoulder,” Spencer Toepfer said. “I’m glad I have my brother to watch my back.”

Nick Toepfer said the game helps him escape the pressures of looming final exams.

The thrill of the hunt is what drives Murray to play the game year after year.

“The game could sneak up on you on the way to class,” he said.

Gameplay continues until 11:00 p.m. Saturday, and the zombie horde continues to grow in the meantime.

Stay vigilant.

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