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Armed with purple bandannas and pockets full of socks, hordes of participants in the unusual Humans vs Zombies game at Rhodes University invaded the campus on Monday morning. “Humans vs Zombies is a campus-wide game of tag,” explained William Walters, vice chairperson of GameSoc, the university society that is hosting the apocalyptic event.
It began at an American school in 2005, he said, and has since gained an international fan base, with brains now being coveted on all six continents. All registered participants begin as humans, donning purple bandannas around their arms and vigilant facial expressions, and then two original zombies are set on the prowl for brains.
As soon as a human is touched by a zombie, they are instantly transformed. Once converted to a zombie, the person must wear the bandanna around their head and the player has 48 hours to feed on a human brain, otherwise they die.
This task is complicated for zombies by a human's only safeguard: folded pairs of socks that they can throw at their attackers. If a threatened human hits a zombie with a pair of socks, then the zombie is stunned, and unable to eat for 15 minutes.
With all participants registered online, each human and zombie convert can be monitored and everyone can keep track of who's who in the living dead zoo. The aim of the game is to stay human for as long as possible.
“What happens from [Monday] until Friday, or whenever there are no more humans left, is survival,” Walters said. “The humans have to survive and the zombies have to get as many humans as they can.” Once tagged, the Humans vs Zombies participant's status will change from human to zombie, and any zombies who do not feed within the specified time will be obliterated. But there’s more to the game than just “Tag, you’re it!” said Stephen Mina, a participant who was still a registered human on Wednesday afternoon.
“In order to win bonuses for a particular side, humans and zombies compete against each other in missions,” he explained. One such mission challenged humans to dart around campus in an attempt to assemble a prototype flashlight. “They couldn’t use socks [to protect themselves], but the humans won and so our socks now have a special ability,” Mina said. Although, I’m yet to find out what it is.
After the success of last year’s zombie apocalypse game in the third term, the dean of students encouraged another round to be organised in the first term this year as part of the university's Live Smart Week, an initiative aimed at improving student wellness and a healthy lifestyle. “Because we proved last year that you can have fun without alcohol,” Walters said.