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(Nerf) zombie apocalypse comes to Grinnell

Nerf @ Noyce will be hosting a campus-wide Humans vs. Zombies game. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
Nerf @ Noyce will be hosting a campus-wide Humans vs. Zombies game. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.

Before they get their Monday morning coffee, some Grinnell College students could be mistaken for zombies. This Sunday, however, a hoard of (somewhat) real zombies will descend on campus. At that time, the student group Nerf @ Noyce will be hosting a week-long, campus-wide game of Humans vs. Zombies.

Organizer Jonathan Sadun ’20 described it as “essentially a giant game of tag where the humans go about their week trying to not be tagged by zombies.” Almost all players begin as humans, except for a randomly chosen few who are assigned as original zombies. These original zombies tag humans, who then leave the game for 30 minutes and reenter as zombies. However, the humans in the game have a way to fight back — they are equipped with Nerf blasters and sock balls, which they use to hit zombies.

When hit by a Nerf dart or a sock ball, the zombies are stunned for ten minutes. Players are identified by bandanas worn on the arm for humans or on the head or neck for zombies. For the humans to win, at least one human must finish the final mission. If not, the zombies win. The event promises a week of fun and entertainment for all. And the winners’ reward?

“Nothing?” was Sadun’s answer. “Fun, you get fun.”

The game is campus-wide, but some areas are off-limits. These areas, according to Sadun, are “various locations that we’ve determined are dangerous or problematic in some way to play in,” including but not limited to, classrooms, health services and bathrooms. These are considered no-play zones, and are completely removed from the game. Similar to these areas, safe zones also exist, where players cannot be tagged nor shot, but the game is still in play.

To keep things interesting, organizers have also scheduled daily missions along with regular gameplay, which take a few hours at most. Moderators of the game will play characters, who the players in the mission must protect, escort or kill. These missions are not mandatory, but offer rewards and advantages if players complete them.

Humans vs. Zombies began at Goucher College in 2005 and is now played across the world, at “schools, camps, neighborhoods, libraries and conventions,” according to the game’s website. Organizers use the HvZ Source software to register players and track the progress of the game. Players are assigned an ID number from the website, which they print out and carry on them. If tagged, the human will hand over their ID card to the zombie who tagged them, who will then enter in the ID number into the website, which marks that person as a zombie.

The event, which will run from Sunday, April 29 to Saturday, May 5, has a six year history at Grinnell College.

“The idea of doing humans vs. zombies games in Nerf style is something that happens all across the country,” Sadun said, though the organizers don’t “coordinate in particular with any other groups.”

The organizers are hoping the event runs smoothly. In particular, they hope to improve on the experience of previous years by making the process more efficient and inclusive.
“Compared to previous years, we’re hoping to get things started faster, get missions more organized [so] that people can essentially get started more easily and make sure that we have better mechanisms to see who’s playing so that no one gets accidentally left out,” Sadun said.

Those interested in playing should visit to sign up, or email [nerf] for more information.

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