Popular live-action zombie game accidentally summons ghosts of school-shootings past

The idea of playing zombies is a popular one. But did a group at NCSU (not pictured) take it too far? Photo by Flickr user rodolpho.reis.

Last week, officials at North Carolina State University went on alert after two students reported seeing someone with a gun on campus.

The sightings happened during a game of Humans vs. Zombies, which took place on campus grounds. The campus did not go on lockdown. Also, nobody located the “gunman” or the item witnesses thought was a gun. Was it a toy weapon? Or did they mistake some other object for a gun? In a slideshow of HVZ games at the New York Times, some players are wearing and carrying toy weapons, so it’s possible.

According to the Humans vs. Zombies web site, the game was founded at Goucher College in 2005. It spread quickly, and is now played at more than 650 colleges and universities, high schools, military bases, summer camps, and public libraries worldwide.

The NCSU game was probably planned weeks in advance, but it had the misfortune to come off the day after nearby Wake Technical Community college went on lockdown after a man threatened a student there.

Still, the game’s leaders are sensitive to the fears surrounding school shootings. This Washington Post piece details some of HVZ’s groundrules in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings:

Weed and the other game organizers, who are known as moderators, or “mods,” turned serious. They’d called this meeting to make sure each player had signed two legal forms instituted in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, and to emphasize the most important rules of the game: Don’t shoot nonplayers [and] don’t use or carry guns visibly in academic buildings.

Of course, some will wonder why kids would want to play such a horrific game. Like any roleplaying game, HVZ lets people try on new roles and personalities — and band together to become heroes for a little while. From the HVZ web site, again:

Many players report that Humans vs. Zombies is one of the most meaningful experiences of their lives. The game creates deep bonds between players, instantly removing social boundaries by forcing players to engage as equals and cooperate for their survival.

The whole situation raises some interesting questions, and I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on them:

Given the frightening gunman-involved massacres on college and high-school campuses, are students today right to be vigilant and report problems to authorities?

Should students playing games like “Humans vs. Zombies” forego using toy weapons in order to avoid frightening their peers?

Should students be able to tell the difference between a real gun and a Nerf weapon?


3 responses to “Popular live-action zombie game accidentally summons ghosts of school-shootings past

  1. Seriously, they were running around with fake guns? Idiots. That’s a good way to get shot by police. I don’t think other people should magically be able to tell you’re kidding when you point a weapon in their direction– it’s incumbent on you to not go around threatening people. A weapon is a threat until proven otherwise.

  2. In my opinion, i think kids should be vigilant. However, they should use common sense. Assuming that everyone has a glock and is out to get you is how accidents happen.

    I think the only error that these students caused is whether or not they failed to notify school officials. Whenever you’re playing HvZ on campus, you must have authorization and notification to the school in order to let them know what you’re doing. Playing without notifying is an easy way of getting the game banned and yourself punished.

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