Ellie Stevens ’25 (She/Her), Staff Writer
An important announcement was posted to the Union Board Instagram on March 30, 2022. Scientist Dr. Van Nostrand explained that an experiment intended to make Davidson students more productive had gone wrong and had turned them into zombies. Starting at that moment, students ran around for days with multi-colored bandanas and participated in antics such as hiding in trash cans, sprinting across campus, and riding around on bikes.
After a three-year hiatus, Davidson’s Humans vs Zombies game is back.
The organizer of the game, Jared Herr ‘22, explained it as “a multi-day, giant game of tag that is played 24/7 across the campus.” While donning a fake mustache and glasses in his Dr. Van Nostrand costume, Herr shared fond memories of playing the game as a first-year. Herr was very impressed with the 355 students who signed up this year, as there were only 150 people playing his freshman year. The game originally was founded in 2011 with the title “Davidson Zombie Apocalypse.” As it has evolved, different organizers have put their own spin on the event. This particular iteration of Humans vs. Zombies involved four teams of humans each represented by a different bandana color: purple, blue, orange, and pink. Meanwhile, the zombies sported a yellow bandana. Groups of humans could protect themselves against the zombies by holding hands. If the humans outnumbered the zombies, they were safe. However, if there are more zombies, the humans could be tagged.
The first zombie, or patient zero, was Peter Rock ‘23. Herr explained he chose Rock as the first zombie because “Peter […] he’s got that ambition and that drive that I knew he would be able to get it done. Also, he’s got a bike so that helps.” Bikes have been key this year for zombies to increase their efficiency in tagging tactics. The game began on Sunday, April 10 at 5 p.m., and Herr said on Monday afternoon, 55 humans had already been tagged. Rock loved his role as patient zero, saying, “Being patient zero is great. It’s such a treat to play tag in a better form than when we were kids.”
Throughout the week, as more zombies were tagged, the stakes for the human teams grew. Each team had its own GroupMe chat to communicate and strategize against the zombies. Herr said one of the most difficult parts of organizing the game was keeping up with all the kills. He had to remove each human and add them to the zombie group chat every time someone was tagged. “It’s not a very big operation…just me and my phone,” Herr says. He also devised different tasks throughout the week as the number of humans decreased to create opportunities for immunity. For example, on Monday Herr said “Today I’ll be at Summit at 10:30. If anyone comes and answers three questions correctly, the first one from each team will get an immunity band.” Another student found his immunity band from underneath a Borat DVD in the library after Herr texted the clue “Borat” to the human group chats. There was also an immunity period from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesday so that the humans could safely attend the Oops! Improv Comedy basketball game, as Herr is a member of the troupe. Immunity opportunities continued throughout the week, as well as opportunities for the zombie team to advance. One of the rules of the game is that humans cannot be tagged in buildings. Herr would then occasionally announce a “purge”— buildings were no longer safe and zombies had free reign.
Human teams also had to complete specific tasks to safely advance to the next day of the game. One of the tasks involved pushing giant beach balls from the tennis courts to the Cunningham Theatre Center. Unfortunately, foul play was in the air; a few members of the zombie team found one of the beach balls and deflated it with car keys. Both sides utilized their creativity attempting and avoiding being tagged.
The game concluded Thursday at midnight. 43 humans won by collecting the “zombie antidotes” and delivering them to Dr. Van Nostrand. Ultimately, Herr says he loves how the student body has embraced the game. As Herr put away his Dr. Van Nostrand glasses and mustache, he ended on a hopeful note.
“People want to have reasons to be fun and silly with their friends in the midst of all of this stress,” he said. “I love the unification this game has created and that all of these people have come together. It gives me hope for humanity.”